Like most little girls, I wanted to be a ballerina. In front of as large an audience as I could muster, my tiny slippers skipped, leaped, and swirled around my living-room stage while I hummed what little I could remember of The Dance of the Sugar Plum Faerie. I used my body to tell a story– my story. And when the applause started– oh God that applause– I was filled with inexplicable pride. I progressed slowly through the various levels at my local studio until one day my teacher asked me to move my feet into third position. I did as she said, or so I thought, and was surprised to find her aggravated. She told me my footing was wrong and, as once again I tried to satisfy, I realized that I simply could not. This was the moment that I felt the weight of my disability. Despite my bilateral-clubbed feet, I hadn’t thought myself different from any other aspiring ballerina in my class until this point. Disillusioned and depressed but still committed to my adoring fans, I needed to find another way on stage.
Then, like most preteens, I had to play guitar. I rented a nice three-quarter Yamaha Acoustic and strummed away twice a week, every week for four months. Having hands the size of a six-year-old, I often found myself putting my guitar down so that I could concentrate on singing. And that’s when it hit me. I needed to sing– I had always needed to sing.
I believe the human voice is the most beautiful instrument that exists. It’s an instrument that goes everywhere with everyone. An audience connects to a singer not as a musician playing, but as a human telling her story with nothing to separate her from her organic humanity. The beauty of the voice lies within unfathomably tiny imperfections which create variation so extreme that no two voices are the same. The tongue, the teeth, the lips, the throat, the breath, all work in unison to create music; each person is a chorus of parts working toward a goal of sound. And words painted by pitches resonate out of the body, bounce off hard surfaces and enter back in, deflecting warmth, color, and buzz.
Singing didn’t appear; I had no sudden appreciation for song. It was just something that was always with me– always mine. Whether I’m singing Bach or Britney, I am filled with crescendoing emotion. Song brings me solace and sorrow, tension and peace. I sing when I’m stressed and I sing to relax. I sing to collect my thoughts and I sing to forget. In retrospect, I am grateful for that painful day in ballet class and those never-ending guitar lessons. Each person needs her own voice– she needs a way to tell her story. Song is mine.
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