If you don’t know already, I sing. I don’t sing original content or anything because I’m not a songwriter, but given the opportunity, I sing pretty much everywhere I can. If you’ve mucked around on this site at all, you may have even come across some samples of my singing.
I won’t say that I love the sound going on there, but it’s a great snapshot of the singing I was doing in 2003 while living in Shanghai.
When people ask me about music and singing, I think of it as something I’ve done forever, but come to find out from my parents, who I lived with, even they didn’t really know about it until later in the game.
My elementary school didn’t offer music past the 4th grade, but I managed to procure a few solos, and even to sing for 8th grade graduation at one point. I went to Catholic school, so until 4th grade I sang for the morning Mass with 2 other students and Sr. Bertilla on the first Friday of every month. Think of Sr. Bert as a real-live version of the Sound of Music. She was absolutely adorable and fun to be around, she played the guitar, and managed to get the very best out of everyone.
I sung with the folk group at St. Bernadette’s church as a kid because it was something to do, though the music was often cringe worthy.
These instances of singing were really few and far between, and always in a big group that wasn’t much to commend, so no one ever really thought of me as a singer-type person.
Back in elementary school I roped my mother into letting me take off from school to audition for the first Boston cast of Les Miz. I saw the cast call in the newspaper and begged her to let me go, even though I had no headshot and no resume and I was too tall to play Cosette. I didn’t care, I wanted the experience. She really didn’t want to do it because she didn’t want me to be let down, and she didn’t really think I could sing, so she figured it would be a waste of time. I made some young bold comment of “I won’t know if I don’t try,” which inspired her to help me type something up, and I took one of those big pictures from school pictures and stapled the whole thing together. It was all a bit crazy, but we made it to the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston for the audition, and I had a great time singing for the directing crew. They asked me if I knew I was too tall, and I said yes, but they let me sing anyway, suggested that I don’t drop it, and sent me on my way. The Channel 7 news crew somehow got wind of me and ended up interviewing me and my mom about the whole experience.
Nothing else really happened with music after that for a long time, aside from the church choir and little school things.
When I got to high school, I was excited about the improvement in music program. Notre Dame actually managed to do things with music, and Paul Kelly, the music director at the time, ran some highly competetive events. I’ll never forget his skepticism when I asserted I was a soprano at the first day of class. He ran me through the paces at the fall musical audition, and I made it with a solo, which wasn’t common for freshman, and had a blast. It was a review show, and I got to sing a piece from Les Miz.
That’s around when people other than me started to realize that I sing. It wasn’t news to me, but I guess it was a bit of a shocker. At the performance my brother turned around and said to my mother, “Where did this come from?” It wasn’t so much a secret, but I didn’t walk around saying “I sing.” It’s just something I did.
I did most of the choir stuff high school had to offer, along with musicals, and eventually made my way down the street to Company Theater to work on some really fun stuff there, though once I went off to college I only did 2 more shows, and Tommy was my last musical on stage back in 1996.
I never really sang at college, aside from occasionally having a good time jamming with my friend Morgan. I wasn’t particularly drawn to any of the chorus related extracurriculars, and the various jam groups didn’t usually want or need vocalists, and I didn’t write anything, so there was no real outlet.
That changed a bit when I went to China and met Liu Xing, who went from thinking women couldn’t have anything to do with rock and roll, to getting me to sing anywhere possible. Through him I met Benjamin and Safiah, and with some other folks we had a bit of a band in Hefei doing some rock, jazz, blues, and reggae at a hotel. Later when I moved to Shanghai Liu Xing and I did some stuff around town there, which was a lot of fun.
After moving back here I got plugged into singing again at St. Bernadette’s with the adult choir, and moved into cantoring, and that’s where I’m at now. It’s a bit of a love/dislike activity wrought with traditions and frustrations. Some of the music is really interesting to me, but I miss the ability to screw around with music and figure out new stuff which was part of the gigging experience. In a sense, now I get to practice and keep the vocal chords working all the time, and I even get to work on the upper end of my range and really stretch out, but I don’t get to be creative in the same kind of way.
It’s still interesting to think of myself as a singer, in the sense that I can be contracted to perform at a wedding service. In the same way I found it bizarre that I was hired to sing in a bar. I don’t depend on this as my sole income, so I have never crossed the line from loving an art to performing and art to feed myself. It’s the fact that I haven’t ever crossed that line that makes it hard for me to think of myself as a singer, but even so, I suppose I am.