Sing Out, Louise!

And there goes another voice recital. Months upon months of preparation; hours of singing Italian arias in the shower, hoping no one is listening nearby; endless nail biting out from pre-performance nerves until a manicure is finally necessary to repair your seriously mangled nails. And in a flash all that work disappears. You hit the note or went flat. You came in at the right entrance or forgot to enter until your accompanist played the same chord six times in a row. You counted a whole note as seventeen beats. It happens. It drives me crazy.

So why do it all? I’m constantly asked this—why work so hard, stress so much, complain all the time, for something that appears totally agonizing, excruciatingly unbearable, worse than getting bit by a jellyfish? Because I love it.

It seems simple and rather hard to explain, but I do it out of a true self-satisfaction. As I relax back into my seat after finishing my program, a sense of pride overwhelms me, and I literally feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. I know that most people could not stand in front of their friends, teachers, the mayor, etc. and sing. Sing anything; three classical pieces in three different languages is no easy feat. I know that my work pays off, no matter how many times my voice cracks, I skip a verse, or I sound utterly miserable, I always leave the stage with a smile on my face, ready to go up there and do it again.

A voice recital is like a good massage. After years of performing, I can hide my nerves well. I’ve been told that I don’t look nervous. That is a blatant lie. In the hours prior to each recital I think of ways to get out of it—“accidentally” falling down the stairs, “unintentionally” cutting my finger while slicing a potato, “fainting”… But I never do. While I’m singing I focus on nothing more than the music- the words, the melody, the rhythm- I cannot feel my fingers or my toes; I’m barely aware of my surroundings except for the blank spot on the wall to which my eyes are glues. (Bad choice, always make eye contact or else you look like a singing fool. I am a singing fool.) But after the singing, no matter how horrendous it sounds or how much I butchered a Mozart masterpiece, all the feeling returns to my body and I truly feel the heavy burden taken off of my body and replaced by a sense of pride and accomplishment. The thumbs-up from the audience help too.

Every recital I tell myself that it will be the last one. This is it. I’m never putting myself through this torture again. And yet, I continue to learn my songs and perform them with (somewhat) confidence. I have been fighting with myself to resist the urge to challenge myself yet again, to let myself off the hook, and not do the spring recital. But how could I not? I feel I owe it to myself to perform in my last honors recital, to push myself one more time, see how much I’ve grown over the years. And if I get nothing else from this last challenge, I always look super cool with German lyrics written in Sharpie across the back of my hand in the days leading up to each recital.