When I was younger, I was really scared to sing in public. I still remember my 5th-grade musical, where there was a solo in one of the songs that I really loved to sing. I was too nervous to audition and remember regretting it as the girl who got the solo sang her lame rendition of it. I wish I could have been the one behind the mic. Growing up, everyone was nervous that participating in something could change your reputation. It is half of the reason that I started playing football (although it never did do anything to make me more popular). It was a bit like the show Glee, in that I felt like I would get called names if I did something girly like singing. I told my friend, who was an active acapella participant in college, why I never sang when I was younger and it broke his heart. Peer pressure kept me from something that I loved.
Continuing into high school, I still loved music, but never got the courage to sing. I joined guitar class instead, which took place in the music room. My teacher would often “quiz” us on the songs we learned by having us play for him one-on-one during practice time. One rule he added was that you got bumped up a full letter grade every time you sang the song along with playing. For the first time, I was incentivized to sing. With a small class, I was less nervous and always sang to get better grades. My teacher wondered why I was not in the choir because I had a good voice, but I always just blew him off, saying I was not interested. One day, he really wanted me to consider, so he had me sit with the choir coach. If they told me I would be accepted, I might have considered, but they told me that I had to audition and I was too afraid to risk it at that point, thinking that singing had come and gone for me.
It was shows like The Voice and The Sing-Off that encouraged me to change my mind about everything and seek the help of private voice tutors. I would see my friends join acapella groups and I knew that I could sing just as well or better than them. I just wanted to be heard. My best friend was in the music department and provided more encouragement. He helped me find some confidence and showed me just how easy it was to get better. We even started going to performances together, so I did not have to be in it alone.
My teacher was great. We started with warmups to test and expand my range and we discovered some strengths and weaknesses in my voice. I wanted to sing alt-rock songs because that is what people that look like me tend to listen to, but we worked on more operatic stuff that was not exactly my cup of tea. But still, he started to open me up to the songs, showing where the difficult changes tested my vocal limits. It was a fun way of looking at the thing that I had reserved for the car for so many years.
By the end of our work together, my tutor assigned me with one last project to show my progress. He opened a window in the studio and told me to stand in front of it. He started playing our best song together and told me to belt it out the window. It would not be like singing in front of a crowd, but it was a close approximation. I worked up the nerve and sang the song pretty well. I was focusing on a point in the sky the whole time because we were up a couple of floors, but, when I finally looked down to the street, I saw a man who had stopped and was clapping up toward me. Without searching for voice tutors near me, I never would have found confidence in my voice and I never would have given singing the chance in my life that it deserved.