Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Sugartime

I took singing lessons with the same teacher for almost three years. I stayed with that teacher because, slowly but surely, I overcame my stage fright. But something else was going on that wasn't so healthy. I won't begin to speculate about the reasons, but I was told I had pitch issues, that I couldn't sing harmony, and other critical, negative things that kept me down. I was allowed to participate when we went to perform at retirement communities (which had been my idea), but at every performance, I was criticized for singing a wrong note. I began to be afraid to sing at all, for fear I would sing the wrong note.

This post would be way too long if I went into all the details of what went into my decision to leave the teacher, but suffice it to say, it wasn't an easy decision and the relationship didn't end well. But two other singers from that center and I got together one day and decided to form a group. After much deliberation, we named ourselves Sugartime, after a McGuire Sisters hit of the same name from the 1950s. It is a popular, well-known song and most of the seniors we sing for just love it.

Two of the original members of that trio remain. One left and we've replaced her with a phenomenal soprano singer who is just great at figuring out harmonies. I am so lucky. I am not a great singer, by any stretch of the imagination. It is just something that brings me joy. And with Sugartime, now that I am not being criticized every time I open my mouth, lo and behold, my pitch issues have disappeared. It was fear. Sometimes I sing the wrong note, but it's because I thought it was the right note. Once I'm shown the correct one, I have no problem hitting it. Also, with live performances, you are always going to have a glitch or two happen with your voice. We are not professionals who are practicing six or seven hours a day. We rehearse 2-3 times a week, two hours at a time.

Music has the power to heal. It moves people. It can bring, joy, laughter, sadness, depending on the notes and the lyrics. Sugartime tries to be upbeat. Folks in the places we visit don't get out much any more. They are locked into a boring routine. We cheer them up.

The blessing is, we cheer ourselves up at the same time.


Jules said...

I'm sure your community is a better place for you leaving that teacher. I know the elderly are grateful. Music the soul healer :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

AlexOngNYC said...

There are only two emotions in this world: Fear & Love. Once the love was able to shine, so were you!

Breakfast Every Hour

Joanne said...

I just love music, and am so glad you have it in your life. Rock on, Karen :)

Sharon Lippincott said...

I love what Alex says about Fear & Love. Fear is so crippling and so pervasive. Thanks for a message spreading the word that love is more powerful.

Karen Walker said...

Jules, yes, music is one of soul's great healers.
Alex, so true. Love is so much more powerful than fear.
Joanne, I'll keep on keepin' on as long as possible.
Sharon, yes fear is so paralyzing - learning that more than ever just now.

Ella said...

I love the idea of joy being passed, by sharing your soul~ It is lovely; I'm sorry you had to go through the ugly door to get to the healing one.
Seems life is like that...Glad you moved on!


The Old Silly said...

Music is, I agree a blessing. It is the universal language, the mathematical poetry in motion, the sound waves that bind us together with The One. And we cheer each other up with it, yes?

Fine post, as usual! :-)

Karen Walker said...

Ella, I'm finding that sharing who we are is one of the most wonderful things we can do for one another, whether it's thru music, art, poetry, books...
Old Silly, yes yes yes. Thanks.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

He didn't realize you weren't singing for perfection - you were singing for joy.

Jemi Fraser said...

Music is truly magic. It does heal and help and encourage and soothe. I'm so glad you and your friends are bringing such joy to others! You really are marvelous Karen!

Karen Walker said...

Alex, that is so true - I wish I'd realized it at the time.
Jemi, music is magic - and thanks so much.

Jarlin Paul said...

Yes, Criticism kills our energy. We should learn how to overcome the critics to succeed in our Life :)

Thanks for sharing wonderful thoughts. Inviting you to my page for comments/views.

Helen Ginger said...

In my book, you're a great singer. If you can be told the correct note, then actually sing it, you're a great singer. I could sing in high school (not actually in high school, but during that time period). I sang at church in the choir. I now sound like a squeaky door.

I really am in awe of you singing with a group.

Jules said...

To answer your question. Ms. Twister has been my best friend since grade school and is my housemate when she is in town. I really did not want to answer here but I have no other way to contact you :(

Have great one Karen! :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Karen Walker said...

Jardin, welcome and hello. thanks for the comment.
Helen, you would be in awe if you heard my two singing partners. And I guess the three of us together sound pretty darn good. It's my solos that give me fits.
Jules, sorry - you could always email me at karen@followingthewhispers.com - thanks for the answer, though

Arlee Bird said...

The job of a teacher is not to critcize you and run you down, but to provide constuctive help that shows you how to compensate for weaknesses and become better at what you're trying to do. I don't blame you for leaving a negative energy situation like that.

Some of the most entertaining and endearing singers were technically not that good at the art of singing. I think of singers like Jimmy Durante, Neil Young, or Bob Dylan. People love their singing because of the personality of the style and not the skill. If the audience enjoys what you do, then that's the important thing.

Tossing It Out

Alexis Grant said...

Yes -- and the power of music is infectious! I love that everyone can "get" it, even if you don't study music or sing well. It's an energy you can just FEEL. You're reminding me that I need more music in my life :)

Karen Walker said...

Arlee, so true. Jennifer Lopez on American Idol keeps saying this over and over. The pitchiness doesn't matter as much as connecting with the song and the audience.
Alexis, you're right - it's an energy and one I can't seem to do without.

Anonymous said...

Teachers are to encourage and develop strengths. I am happy that you found your strength to let your old teacher go, and creating a group that supports your strengths. Even the name of your group, Sugartime, brings a smile to my face. I'm sure your a blessing to many.

Karen Walker said...

Lynn, that is my belief about teachers as well. It was a hard lesson to learn, but one I won't forget any time soon.