Thursday, February 13, 2014

Honestly, I want to see you be brave...

I love to sing. In some shape or form, I've done it my whole life. In the car, in the shower, in the kitchen. Occasionally in the supermarket. Sometimes in choirs, and a few times, when I was younger, in musicals. 

I sing with a choir now, a beautiful, eclectic, diverse group of lovely, talented, supportive people who have become a second family to me. It's a community choir, with no audition to get in, and I just have to go along and sing.

And somehow that isn't quite enough. I have an urge to sing on my own, or more accurately, to sing in a small group with occasional short solos. This would probably be less of a problem if I could sing well enough to do that, but I can't. 

I think that's more likely to be an "I can't, yet", rather than an "I can't, full stop", but the truth is that I have a serious problem with nerves (I don't generally feel very nervous before I sing, but as soon as I start, the nerves steal more than half of my notes, particularly in my upper register) and there are technical issues as well that would need to be worked on. 

I should go and have lessons, I know that. So far I've resisted that a bit because of the time and financial committment, but also due to a host of other reasons - the last time I had lessons (when I was 15), my teacher and I had wildly different ideas about what types of songs were fun to sing (her: Opera and Lieder, me: Broadway and Pop) and the experience was tedious; how do I find a good teacher?; is this a ridiculous thing to do at my age?; and the real kicker, what if I get in front of a teacher and they listen to me sing and say "Ouch! Your voice is so awful that it's not worth even trying!"

Of course, like most such fears, this last one is completely irrational. The opera-loving teacher I had at 15 didn't cover her ears and send me away. But logic is no match for irrational fear. 

I've put my name down to participate in an audition tonight for the small corporate vocal group comprised of members of the choir I currently sing in.  I don't expect to have any chance of being selected, which is actually fine with me. My main personal goal is to actually get up and sing in front of people and hopefully do it a little bit better than the last time I tried. 

But I am concerned about being a train wreck, like those people they always include on " Idol" audition shows so that people can laugh at them - the ones we're encouraged to look at and think "How did they ever think they would be good enough for us to want to listen to them?"

And it all makes me wonder. When does putting yourself out there and trying to improve at something cross over from brave to stupid and cringeworthy?

And if the "Idol" example says that we laugh at people who show themselves being less than perfect at something in public rather than praising their courage, what does that tell our kids? It feels a hell of a lot like "Don't let anyone see you try anything unless you're good at it.", which is only a stone's throw from "Don't ever try anything in case you're not perfect." And that makes me sad. 

So when I get up and try to sing in front of people tonight, I'm going to keep telling myself how brave I am. And I'm going to try not to worry about whether anyone else agrees with me.