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The Terrified Singer

Before you can be an Enlightened Singer you must overcome any fears you might have about singing. I remember the first time sang in public. I was 9 and I joined the Brighouse Light Opera Juniors back in, I think, 1984. The first performance I took part in was a review of wartime songs and I remember being given "You Made Me Love You" to sing as part of a trio. Although I have one of the worst memories in the world, I do remember that this was a turning point in my life. Had I not joined BLOJ I may never have realised that singing was what I was supposed to do with my life. The following year I auditioned for Peter Pan and was cast as Peter Pan. That was the moment I realised I could sing.

Until I reached my 40s I never really suffered from stage fright or doubted my ability to sing but I know from my more recent experience as a singing teacher and choir director that others do. I have taught many people who have stood up to their fears and come for a singing lesson or joined one of my choirs.

I had no idea until I started teaching that so many people have had such traumatic experiences of being told they couldn't sing when they were children. Having said that I did have one woman who came for a few lessons when she was in her 60s. She had enjoyed singing in school but her husband was always telling her she couldn't sing and that she shouldn't sing as it embarrassed him. All she wanted to do was sing at church but she had been so put off by her husband that she didn't dare sing when others were around. She came for a few lessons and we had definitely made some progress by the time she stopped coming but there was so much more to unpack than just her singing voice.

I like to think that one of my specialities as a teacher is helping the scaredy cats find the voice they have been supressing. Most of the time the students who think they can't sing or were told they couldn't sing when they were at school just need to be given permission to sing. They may start off very quietly but if I can encourage someone to make a noise we are halfway there. It is important to marry up our breathing with our voice to start with. Once we can connect our breath to our voice we can start working on making noises we can be proud of.

Singing is a lot more physical than people think. This doesn't mean we have to have a body like a supermodel but we have to be prepared to put a bit of work in when we sing. Singing is a very personal thing but if you want to sing, sing! Don't let the mind monkeys stop you. Our voices are designed to be heard so if you have that irresistible urge to let it out who are you to stop it. There is a place for everyone's voice. It could be in the shower or the car or it might be in singing lessons or joining a choir. The possibilities are endless really, you just have to take that first step.

I would recommend starting off with, at least, a couple of singing lessons. Find a teacher who enjoys working with terrified singers, they will put you at ease. The reason I suggest at least two singing lessons is that much of the first lesson you will feel quite nervous and very much out of your comfort zone so coming back a second time means you will have more of an idea of what is going to happen. We constantly find ourselves in a state of fight or flight and the scaredy cats amongst us have to start fighting rather than fleeing!

Join us and find more tips and ideas at The Enlightened Singer Facebook group. Until next time sing out loud and sing out proud.

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