Friday, April 27, 2012

Speak your mind, even if your voice squeaks


  Well, it's almost time for the student recital, and my students have been working hard to get their songs ready for prime time.   I teach guitar in Waldorf, Maryland.  I'm always yelling about overthrowing things, so we are going to be renaming the town WalGRAD, in honor of the Revolution.  And one of my students thought the recital would be boring...

  I had a great lesson yesterday that I'd like to share with you.

Sam stopped by for his lesson yesterday.  Sam is about nine years old, and has been taking guitar for about two years.  He is naturally verbose, something that he says is discouraged by his teachers and cousins.  "You've got some cool stuff to say, man!"  I reply, then encourage him to express himself.

  Well, it's crunch time with the recital less than  24 hours away.  He sits down in the chair, and just as I'm about to ask him what he's been up to, he holds up his hand with a very sincere look on his face, and says most intently "We shouldn't talk this week, we've got to practice for tomorrow's show."  He dives into his practice, pauses where he would normally mention something cool, and says "I went to my aunt's work today!", then remembers his goal, and dives back in.  Surfacing again, he says "I made a castle!...but I'll tell you about that next week!"

  We're working on the George Thorogood tune "Bad to the Bone", and we've decided to play a duet.  I'm singing and playing guitar, and he's playing guitar with the occasional "YEAH!" thrown in, as instructed, blues-style.

"B-b-b-baaad"  "Yeah!"

  "Wow, my voice sounded really high there"  Sam says with dismay.

"Nah man, it's fine."

He doesn't seem convinced.  So, I tell him about falsettos, have him listen to the end part of "Stairway to Heaven", and tell him that since he's "like nine, dude, your voice is gonna be a little higher, no worries!"

  "But wait - your teenage cousin teases you about it, right?"  I ask.  "All the time."

I told him that his voice will be lower in a few years, but in the meantime, never, ever be ashamed of how it sounds.  I told him that while we as a culture always seem to be striving towards the lower voices, certain styles of music like the higher sounds, and that his voice was always something to be proud of, no matter what anyone says.  I should have told him there's always a "cousin" around to tell us what's what, and how we might not want to pay them any attention.

  I wonder how many of us are going around, literally or metaphorically, "singing" through life with a false voice because someone, somewhere, told us it wasn't right.

  I'm not just talking about vocals - our song doesn't even have to deal with words or speaking.  It is the act of living.

  I wonder how many of us are striving for uniqueness.  Many of us artistic folks are.  But doesn't this just lead to false notes and sung lies, too?

  What if, instead, we strove for authenticity, and sang how we really sound?

At the gym the other night, given the choice between lifting weights or watching Christina Aguilera on TV, I found myself watching The Voice.   Man, what a lousy show, though!  What the heck is wrong with us?  Who can judge musical merit, or any merit, for that case?  Sure, sure, notes can be hit or missed, skill can be practiced - but man, what a shame that we would take anyone's opinion serious enough to put them in...way cool red chairs!  (Man, so Revolutionary - I want one!)

  But seriously, folks...

What people in your life are sitting in those red chairs, saying "Ehhh.......your voice squeaked."?

More importantly, how long will we continue to say "Yes, cousin?"

Now, I'm off to go set up the stage for this overthrowing of Waldorf.

I think the night sky is going to be filled with stars.  Red ones.

- Josh  


JoyZAChoice said...

Hey Josh ~ Long time, eh? Listen...I came by to visit your blog today after a very long sabbatical (why is not important...) and also at the urging of your gorgeous Mamasita. Anyway, I just LOVE this story. And your timing (on the topic) is uncanny! I'll spare you the gory details; let's just say that YOU, sir, are as inspiring a Being as I have ever 'known'. Thanks for all you do! Cheers, Comrade. Keep on keepin' on! Hugs ~ Cams

JoyZAChoice said...

uh-oh. now I don't know if that last comment went through or not. SHEESH!just in case it didn't...I just wanted to say thanks for the awesome story and for all you do. you, sir, are SENSATIONAL! hugs ~ cams