I was teaching a guitar lesson to a 14-year-old girl last night, she’s also taking voice lessons from another teacher. I told her that I’m going to the Celine Dion concert tonight at the AT & T Center, her blank look and response of “Who?” threw me for a loop.
I asked her how she can study voice without knowing the greats? Then took it upon myself to put on some Celine Dion, we both listened, her eyes widening, mine tearing. It’s the response I have when listening to pure magic.
I asked her whom she considers a great singer, her first response was Beyoncé, to which I nodded, sure, she’s good. When I asked her about Barbara Streisand, I was met with yet another blank stare, so then I began listing off some of the greats like: Whitney, Aretha, Maria Carey, Tina Turner, Billie Holiday, Linda Ronstadt, the list goes on and she just looked at me with glazed eyes.
We finally hit upon some females singers, she knows like Adele, Christine Aguilera, and Lady Gaga. “Cool”, I thought, some middle ground. Needless to say, we didn’t do a lot of guitar work on her song “Welcome To The Black Parade” by Chemical Romance, instead I gave her a homework assignment, go home and listen to great singers, strive for their mastery of vocal performance, watch, learn, listen, repeat.
I remember singing into a hairbrush in my childhood bedroom to the likes of Streisand, Karen Carpenter, Helen Reddy, Judy Garland, Phoebe Snow, Bonnie Raitt, Aretha, Janis, Joni, Cher, Ronstadt, always trying to match them note for note, nuance for nuance. There’s meat on the bones for me with these singers, depth, authenticity, heart and soul. I remember a Barbara Walters’ interview with K.D. Lang, where Lang sang and Barbara listened as if mesmerized in adoration.
I call it “being hit by the talent stick”, some people just have “it” and thankfully climbed their way to the stage to share it. It amazed me that the voice is simply the striking of vocal chords, some are magic, others not so much.
Then I did a stupid thing and asked my student if she thinks I’m a good singer, she looked at her shoes in silence. My ego thumped its mighty chest, my self esteem bowed its head and my eyebrows reached for my hairline. “Curses!” I thought, as an awkward moment froze us for a snapshot in time. I laughed, and said, “well, good thing I’m just your guitar teacher, yeah?” she laughed and we moved onto her guitar lesson.
This morning, I find myself struggling with her 14-year-old opinion of my singing, it’s taken me back to listening to some great singers, reminding myself of what I admire and strive for.
Funny, how if she would have responded with a complement, then it would have passed, but lack thereof filled a spot of self doubt. It just goes to show no matter our achievements, successes and rewards, we’re all like Humpty Dumpy, inches from a fall.
Today’s Musing: “A complement is like water thru a colander, criticism finds a hook on the coat rack of life” ~ Katrina Curtiss