I've always loved to sing. According to my parents, I was attempting to sing Schubert's "Ave Maria" before I could walk. This may or may not be true, but that song feels to me like a extended family member that has always been there. It helped raise me, along with a handful of other songs.
In my own memory, I can recall singing, in the backseat of the car, any song that came to mind as soon as it came to mind, never mind that I had not finished the song (or even the line of the song) that I had been previously singing. My parents, as you can imagine, were incredibly supportive and indulgent in this endeavor. I can't remember a single circumstance of being told to "quiet down", although I'm certain that there were times that they wanted yell it from the front seat.
Once, on the night before my birthday, I remember having the brilliant idea of singing every song I knew before the clock struck midnight. I happily set about the task, even quietly singing to myself in bed until I dozed off. The next morning, I awoke and to my horror, realized that it was very likely that I had not in fact, completed my task and now had to face the prospect of a whole year before I could correct my egregiously misspent Birthday Eve. (Spoiler: I have never reached this goal. It's far less possible now.)
Not long after, puberty hit and with it came a crisis of confidence. The truth is that, for years, I struggled to sing.
I started playing in different bands. Somehow, I was voted in as the defacto vocalist. But I was never happy with how it came across. My pitch was shaky. My breath wasn't on point. My confidence faltered. Everybody was being nice (that dirty little word when it comes to art). The fact was that there was a MOUSE at the microphone, not a MAN!
To me though, it wasn't a mouse. I felt like there was an eternally present elephant in the room, towering over every rehearsal and live performance. His apocalyptic message? I couldn't REALLY sing.
I could just sing a tiny bit better than the other kids in the band. Which wasn't good at all.
One day, I was talking to a record producer who mentioned that nearly all professional vocalists had a voice coach, not just while learning the craft, but continually throughout their careers. I'm not sure why, but it hadn't occurred to me yet that I should seek out professional help in becoming a better singer. You were expected to just have that spirit already in you, weren't you? Wasn't that how it worked? Didn't the Rock Gods endow you with the gift of song at birth? You mean my favorite singers, MY ROCK GODS, TOOK VOICE LESSONS???
Weren't those just for little old ladies and for people who wanted to sing Broadway songs?
Later that day, haunted by this guy's statement, I searched for vocal teachers in my area. Looking through several (this was in the days before Google had the answer for everything), I found a man named Jerald Lepinski, with only a phone number listed. I figured that a male teacher would be more likely to be able to understand the male voice than a female teacher (which is not true, which I'll cover another time).
A masculine and refined voice answered and paused patiently while I breathlessly explained how I had been singing for a long time, but that my pitch was screwed up, that I felt like I was running out of breath all of the time...that I WAS SCREWED UP. HELP!
After my rant finished, Mr. Lepinski suggested that we meet for a lesson in a few hours. I agreed.
His house was in the foothills outside of Denver. It was on the edge of a large foothill, with large walking decks majestically stretching out over the precipice. As it was December, small flurries of snow spun and twisted in the air. Something here felt magical and profound, as if I had found exactly the place I was supposed to me. This was a moment of destiny.
Suddenly, there he was. An older man, with a dignified air, flanked by a Giant Schnauzer named Gypsy. He was warm, but just warm enough. His front room was constructed to be a small concert hall, complete with a acoustically designed high ceiling and walls lined with tall bookshelves, filled with music and old books.
In that first lesson, I remember feeling very self conscious. I was embarrassed. But I knew that this was what I needed. Lepinski had me singing in a language I have never spoken before, singing melodies that I was completely unaware of up until that point. It was challenging and more than a little frustrating. I realized how little I actually could sing in the light of his expertise. However, something began that day. I began to start feeling the inkling progress, like the first sprouts in the Spring. I began to get a glimpse of what it was to understand my voice and see what might be possible.
Fast forward a few months and the difference was absolutely noticeable. I was becoming more and more "on pitch". My voice was stronger, my confidence was growing. My knowledge of my voice was expanding quickly, as was my perception of music. My exposure to new songs, new melodies, and new ways to use my voice was thrilling and fun.
Within a year, I was beginning to be known for my abilities as a singer. It was becoming more and more common to be able to out sing the others in the room. There were more and more requests from groups to sing with them. The elephant in the room seemed to have begun to vanish, a mere outline in the corner now.
What Lepinski did for me then and over the next eight years was to help me find the way to unlock my own inner voice. My real voice. He helped me finally connect my abilities to the songs that had always resided within my heart. He taught me how to use my body, my heart, and my soul to communicate what lives inside of me. I will always be grateful to him.
If you are finding yourself wanting to learn or improve upon any part of your musical life, I encourage you to reach out to us here at Amidei School Of Music. We teach voice, guitar, piano, ukulele, mandolin, music theory, and more. While we are primarily based in the Ken Caryl area, we do offer online lessons in most of our instruments. We'd love to meet you!
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