I’ve been singing since I was young. I sang as a part of the chorus in Hello, Dolly! in the seventh grade and participated in other pieces and productions since then. Mostly as a part of a chorus or in choirs.
But since high school, I’ve had a dream — one I don’t really talk about — of singing on a bigger stage, playing a larger role, and on a greater scale. Being a part of musical theater on Broadway or something like that had crossed my mind. Perhaps my interest in Sarah Brightman that was born out of a high school crush’s interest in The Phantom of the Opera and my subsequent passion for the musical had an influence.
The dream didn’t float off and disappear.
Even as I have pursued a more responsible and lucrative (HA!) career in philosophy and become a mom, that passion didn’t die.
So, as a birthday gift to myself a few years ago, I started taking private voice lessons.
My voice teacher has been nothing short of amazing. I knew ahead of time this teacher’s style of teaching involved classically training the students. That sounded great to me.
What I didn’t know was the sort of huge challenges I’d face. All sorts of factors, like five million of them, I would have to keep in mind while singing. Of course, there was the usual: learning the notes, the dynamics, the mood of the piece.
But then there was the not-so-expected. I was supposed to somehow simultaneously juggle lots of things that I had trouble and still struggle with doing.
Making the air come up in the right place, before I started singing.
Having enough air intake to sustain a long phrase.
Correct pronunciation of a variety of foreign languages.
I was feeling like I was barely hanging on sometimes.
Not only is my voice teacher an excellent musician and a wonderful teacher, but also, she’s a master at striking a fine balance between expecting nothing short of perfection (or working toward it) and encouraging me.
The most recent piece she assigned me was “Quando m’en vo” from Puccini’s La Bohème.
That’s a challenging piece in so many ways. I’m still trying to learn the Italian. The piece takes me toward the upper part of my soprano register. And, we’re squishing several syllables into one little eighth note in several places!
The week leading up to yesterday’s lesson, I had been pretty nervous.
Anxious that she’d think I hadn’t really bothered to work on it, when I had.
I practiced singing almost every day, but I didn’t think I had made that much progress.
I felt really good after yesterday’s voice lesson.
We had only gone over half the piece in the previous lesson. And, we flew through the second half of the piece yesterday. We didn’t spend all that much time on pronunciation (of the Italian), and she spent much less time singing along with me to help me learn the piece.
I felt like I had to carry my own weight, and that was okay.
I didn’t totally screw up the sight-singing. And, I hit the higher notes without really struggling.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t sing it to perfection. There’s much work to do.
But, she believed in me, and she let me do my thing.
I felt like I was doing art, expressing art, when I was singing. It was a win.
Lily Chang © 2019
Last night, I got to see Sarah Brightman perform live for the first time ever.
Especially in the last few pieces she sang after the intermission and in her encore performances, her voice, her presentation, her everything captivated me. She was dazzling, and I left feeling encouraged, excited, and exuberant.
There it is.
My dream is anything but dead.
Through my voice teacher’s tutelage, I have felt that it is reachable.
And, experiencing Sarah Brightman’s performance… makes me want to pull that dream in even closer and work hard to make it a someday reality.
I really would have liked to meet her and talk to her, but paying for that opportunity wasn’t within the realm of possibility this time around.