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Saturday, October 18, 2014

On Being A Vocalist

This is an aggregation of blog posts about a work program I am participating in.

I am not a Singer, I am a Vocalist

I am not a singer, especially a lead singer.  Labeling myself as a singer has heavy demands.  A singer (lead especially) is the centerpiece of the band.  To me, a singer is someone who has that extra drive, passion and will to sing and affect peoples lives some how.  A singer is someone who wants to sing and wants to be in front of people doing it.  They love to do it.

I am a vocalist.  That is the kick-back, chilled out version of a singer.  To me, a vocalist is someone who likes to sing but does not have the passion and drive to want to be in front of the band entertaining large audiences.  As a vocalist, the pressure is off me to be good at singing.  I can just do it as well as I can and that is good enough.

A vocalist is another instrument in a band.  A puzzle piece that help complete the picture.  A singer is the subject of the band where I, as a vocalist, am just part of the story.  We all need to find our place in what we do.

This is a work program that takes people out of their comfort zone.  It give people an opportunity to explore their artistic musical side.  It is a safe world full of non-judgmental, friendly peers and coworkers.  There is no pressure to be great or even good.  Of course, there is pressure on ourselves to learn what we set out to do and rise to a level we start to think "I can do this and I don't totally suck".

There is pressure though.  We are in a band and the band is now relying on us to not suck.  We each need to be good enough at what we have chosen to to to not let the band down so we all don't suck.  At first, all I wanted was to sound better with my microphone On rather than Off.  Now, I don't want to let my band mates down.

Columbus Day, October 12, 2014

This day is national the day chosen to recognize Christopher Columbus and an explorer who popularized North America ad a time when it was a bit of a burden to explore the oceans and find exotic places with lucrative new goods that can be exploited to bring oneself massive wealth.

More importantly, October 12th is my parents Anniversary.  Or would have been if they were still with us. It would be 57 years for them.

Significant to me is this is the day, 23 years ago, I proposed to my wife. It was a romantic dinner with my parents house.  The main course was chili dogs with all the fixins'.  Most years, we still have chili dogs on this day.

But my main concern is that this is the day I will, for the first time every, have a vocals recital in front of other people.  I will stand up in front of some number of people, many whom I do not know and have never seen before, and sing a song.  Alone. On a stage. No band. No shield.  Just me, a microphone and some recorded instrumental music.

Performing in front of people is not like presenting in front of a group.  It is not like speaking to a subject in an auditorium.  Performing carries some baggage that compels you to be good at it.  An uncontrollable pressure to not make your vocals teacher look bad. If I suck, it is partially a reflection on her, right?

I was calm.  A slight bit nervous but pretty calm.  The strange thing that happens is that you can't control how your body freaks out.  The moment I started singing, I started to lose control of my body. As though I was suffering from hypoxia, It is like your visual world shrinks around a small tunnel of vision.  What you do see, is fragmented and kind of blurry.  Your movements are slow to respond to the signals. Your hearing is muddled and you hear just a few of the millions of sounds around you. At times, it was is if whatever was happening as automatic. I could not tell you if I was singing or not singing. What was happening was out of my direct control.  I think breathing is really important to a singer for a number for reasons.  Oxygen is one of them.  I think I wasn't breathing too swell.

My body was in kind of a panic, anxiety adrenaline rush where normally you flee from danger but I was kind of stuck there, vice grip on the microphone stand singing.  A stone statue whose insides were fleeing but outside was immobile.

There were moments of clarity and eventually the song ended and I was aware of that and I left the stage.  I immediately became ravenous.  I needed calories. After the calories, I was so sleepy.

At some point, I decided that this was not for me. I don't need to torture myself this way. A simple recital among students of varying ability where some are far less developed than I and some are remarkable, caused a traumatic reaction to my entire system. Why would I want to escalate this to resuscitation by paramedic and a brief hospital stay and an few lines in a newspaper describing my death as a "brief illness"?  

Cellphone footage of my recital

I Quit

I was envious of my band mates.  They all had something to hide behind.  For me, it was  all out there.  Right in front.  EVERYONE will be waiting for me to start singing after the band starts playing.  This is how it goes.

1. Band starts playing.  People listen closely to recognize the song.
2. Singer starts singing.  Everyone listens to see how much they suck. Oh, they want the singer to suck too.  I really believe this. I think this where they say to themselves "This is why I didn't join the program".
3A. The audience rejoices the singer met their low expectations
3B. The Audience is shocked the singer doesn't suck and listens closely for any flaw then decided the singer is just OK and they rejoice in their decision not join  the program.
3C. the singer is pretty good and they revert to being indignant and call them a  ringer. "See, this is why I didn't join the program. I had nto chance against a ringer".

I could only see a no win scenario for me, a vocalist.  So, that was it. Time for me to bow out. Better to leave no and let the band work it out rather than completely ruin it for them.  After all, when I suck, the audience thinks the BAND sucks.  Life will return to normal and I am free to write my own obituary that may be about my corpse left somewhere in the Himalayas for eternity.

Then, I got over it.  Next time, I will have that tequila much closer to me going onstage. If I suck or we suck, it is still better than being a scared weenie who was too afraid of failing in the eyes of others than to fan an artistic spark flickering inside them.

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