From Discordant Dis-harmony to Joy

Ever since I can remember I’ve loved to sing.  As a child I would sit at the piano, open our hymnal to one particular song and belt out the tune at the top of my voice all the while pounding on the piano keys.  Only problem was that I could neither hold a tune nor could I play the piano.  I’m sure my mother groaned in pain at the incredible amount of discordant dis-harmony coming from where I was sitting, but to to her credit, she never showed it.

She was a stay-at-home mom and on those days, I have absolutely no doubt she would call my dad and tell him that I was driving her crazy and something HAD to be done.  Shortly after that, we moved to another state and I started piano lessons.

Voice lessons, though, never materialized but I was fine with it.  As a matter of fact, I never knew there could be such a thing as voice lessons so the thought to ask for them did not occur to me.  But I kept singing.  I would sing with my family in church and I would sing to the radio.  The only lesson I ever had as a child was during elementary school.  I was part of a choir taking part in a musical and the instruction I remember to this day is that when you sing, you have to open your mouth.  Wide.

SingingIt was when I was in high school that my love of singing was squelched, stomped upon and nearly destroyed.  I was with a couple of friends and told them I love to sing and that I thought I was pretty good.  They said the same thing about themselves so we decided tape ourselves and see what we sounded like.  I should never have done that.  When we replayed the tape, I sounded horrible.  Absolutely horrible.  It was so bad that they told me that I probably should stop singing.  In one swift stroke, something I loved to do was relegated to the realm of embarrassment and shame.

From this point on I only sang when I was by myself and there absolutely was no chance that anyone could hear me.

Fast forward about ten years.  I was married and had two children.  I had been attending a new church for a couple of years and when I sang the hymns, the thought that I sounded pretty good crept up on me and took me by surprise.  I pushed it away remembering that scene all those years ago.  But the thought persisted and then I started hearing a whisper deep inside me telling me that I should join the choir. I pushed that away too giving the excuse that because of my work schedule I could not even attend church on a regular basis.

The whisper did not care.  It persisted and as the weeks went by it became louder and louder until it was nearly shouting at me.  Finally one Sunday after I came home from church, I crumpled to my knees and finally gave in.  Ok.  Fine.  I’ll do it.

It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Today, many years later, and after a bit of informal and on-the-job ear and voice training, I can sing well. I have participated in numerous choral cantatas and concerts, taken part in a couple of theatrical musicals and even sung a solo at a wedding.  My singing repertoire spans the entire history of music all the way from early Gregorian chants to a very modern and weird sounding electronic piece that at some point in time I did not consider to be music and to be honest I still have my doubts.  I have sung in Latin, German, Spanish and numerous African languages.  I have sung pieces by John Rutter, a modern composer whose writing is in the classical style and extremely difficult.  (He is actually my favorite composer and I love to sing his work more than any other composer.)  I have also sung the entire Messiah masterpiece by Handel.

The best part about all this is that it has brought me such an incredible amount of joy that there are no words for it.  It is more joyous and satisfying than I ever imagined it would be and I am now at the point where I can’t not do it.

So what did I learn from all this?  Never ever ever give up on something you love.  Never.  Ever.  Give.  Up.  No matter what anyone says or does.  I may have clamped a lid on my singing in public but I never really stopped, thank goodness.  We are who we are and what we love is part of that.  So follow your love.  We tend to do that with the people we love so why not do that with other things we love.  Find a way to make it happen and if you have to start small, that is ok because baby steps are better than no steps at all.  Be bold.  Be brave.  Do not give up on yourself and above all, do not stop believing in yourself.

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9 Responses to From Discordant Dis-harmony to Joy

  1. I always wanted piano lessons…instead my parents convinced me to take guitar lessons. Guitars, you see, were less expensive than pianos. It’s like the baby dolls I always wanted for Christmas, but “Santa” brought me Madame Alexander “Little Women” dolls for 5 Christmases in a row!! Ironically, I heard on the radio this a.m. about a woman recounting how she wanted Madame Alexander dolls and she kept getting baby dolls! But as for you singing, it’s a great thing you never gave up on that.


    • Karen W says:

      Guitars are definitely less expensive than pianos! I feel lucky that my parents had one I could pound on. And to this day, I still marvel that I just sent my desire underground instead of trying to weed it out altogether. I suspect there was a tad bit of stubbornness at play there…


  2. Diana Beebe says:

    I love the new look, Karen! This is a great post–such a good reminder not to give up.


  3. layponders says:

    And I still wonder why I was never given piano lessons. You know I would watch you and Kristi practicing and felt left out…


    • Karen W says:

      I don’t know why you didn’t get lessons either. Is that how you developed your ability to play by ear?


      • layponders says:

        It could be.

        It could also be that I was too young, but one is never too young to learn music.

        I remember Mom telling me once that you were always miffed after practicing a piece over and over and then I’d come up and spit it out without much work. 😉


  4. lynettemburrows says:

    Lovely, Lovely post, Karen. Don’t Stop Believing. A great motto and logline and a terrific lesson. Never give up. Never surrender. Do what you love.



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