Dr. I. G. Palacios
ENC 1101 English Composition
4 September 2018
Learning to Sing
I thought he was a maniac. Stand with your back against the wall and let the air fill your stomach not your lungs. What did that even mean? Your stomach can’t breathe, I thought. I was taking voice lessons for the first time, and my teacher was doing his best to expand my knowledge of what goes into making music sound professional.
I’ve had a passion for music since I was very young, but up until that point I had always thought of music very simply. I just heard it. I didn’t see notes, time measures, and rests. I had always sung the tunes as I heard them. That teacher challenged me to take a deeper look at music.
The first part of my voice lesson would always entail warmups, series of scale progressions to stretch my range. More times than I can count I stood in front of him singing my heart out, reaching to higher notes than I thought were possible for my voice to hit, and praying I was living up to his expectations. He would listen intently, while occasionally mentioning that I should open my throat and make my voice clearer.
Then, it was time. Time for the part of the lesson I came to dread: singing the songs he had selected for me to learn. That teacher loved unique songs, and I sang everything from “Liza Jane” to “The Old Rugged Cross”. This time in the lesson showed my teacher just how much time I had spent practicing outside of class. Which, in that pre-teen stage of my life, wasn’t very much.
I would open my book, leaf through the pages until I found the correct one, and wait for the music to begin. The hundreds of things he had told me to do racing through my mind faster than I could keep up with them would put my stomach in knots. Stand up straight. Breathe with your diaphragm. Sing with expression. Don’t forget to smile. Keep your voice clear, don’t let it sound airy. Look ahead so you can get ready for the notes that are coming.
I would sing the song through, while trying to be mindful of my music. Then I would end the song, close my book, and wait for the scrutiny I always knew was about to come. He would critique me honestly and tell me although I may have done good enough, there was always room for improvement. We would repeat that process with three to four songs every lesson.
Because the teacher was a Christian, he would always choose to focus on the songs that had spiritual meaning. I remember countless times I would drudge through the worship songs, halfheartedly and with a face as straight as a ruler. He would pause and from a heart that desired to please God, he would tell me how important it was to sing my very best for the Lord. He would explain in depth that if God had given me a talent I should give it back to Him.
As I look back on them now, I’m so grateful for those voice lessons I once dreaded. That teacher and his passion for making me learn music is the main reason I still sing today. Looking at a piece of music and knowing that all those squiggly lines have a meaning is a satisfying feeling. I’m thankful that the man I once thought was a maniac, became a trusted teacher and friend. And, I’m thankful for the investment he made in teaching me how to sing.