Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Voice

Even as I write this, I’m singing.

My mother said that when I awoke from sleeping as a baby, she would find me singing softly to myself. My sister Elena would cry and want to be stroked and soothed, but I awoke singing and kept myself comforted through my baby songs.

I was a speech pathologist in Utah when American Idol went on the air. My students constantly told me I ought to audition. Alas, I was already chronologically too old to audition—past the age slated for the super-young feel of the show and its contestants, but I watched and wondered and cheered my young friends on to glory.

The Voice… should I audition? I see the audition date. It’s in Southern California, where my parents live. It’s in summer, when I won’t need to be working with my students in Washington Heights here in New York. New York, ‘singer central,’ as my friend Laura calls it. I’m now in New York, where my love of singing has led me after years of adoring Broadway music and fascination with places like Lincoln Center and the great white way.

I’m in a car with Mom. We’re driving to Los Angeles. I’ve warmed up. I’ve watched a couple of episodes and seen how Christina Aguilera encourages her ladies and how the other judges hone their teams. I’ve studied the singers, I’ve checked out the website, I’ve analyzed the technique of the winner and finalists of season one. I’ve prepared with my New York teacher—something simple, something sweet, something that I hope I can honestly share with the judges and audience…

Something is different about my technique. My New York teachers have taken me beyond the idea of just making a beautiful sound—I need to really communicate when I sing. I need to share. I need to move past vocal gymnastics and technical glory to communicating something really real.

When I practice singing to my parents, getting ready to audition, I cry. It’s so very real. I look into their eyes and sing. I communicate. It’s startlingly real. It’s not a show, not an act, not a display. It’s a real soul to soul communication of a pleading cry.

In Los Angeles, I must leave Mom behind to enter the enormous arena where thousands of people swarm, each of us kindly herded through an efficient waiting and warming up process by friendly Voice workers. A young, artsy, suited man listens to my group of ten, encourages us to clap for each other, and makes notes on an apple computer at a clean desk. I listen to my new compadres as they each take their moments of soulful singing.

I get up to share. I sing it out—my fellow singers listen and hope for me. I share.

When I’m finished, I find Mom—the song was for her. And Dad. I wonder if they could hear me from the depths of the Los Angeles arena. I sing it for them again just in case they couldn’t.

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