Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Voice Lessons

Being Alive

It was an exhilaration for which I wasn’t entirely prepared, but when I’d convinced myself it was time, I put one foot forward, opened my mouth and let it all out:

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I'll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being ali—

“Very good. Next?” a voice called before I could test how long I could hold that last note.

You did it, I told myself. Auditions and sharing my voice had terrified me for as long as I could remember. The seating deliberations for band hacked away at my nerves from middle school on as well as the fear of saying something so outlandish or obvious in class that I’d draw everyone’s attention and ridicule.

Recently, however, I was finding strength. My sexuality that I didn’t think existed was slowly demystifying itself. I was finding greater success than ever at work and in school as a result of vocal encouragement from professors and peers. My identity was taking shape and the idea of being someone “special” (cliché as it might sound) and talented seemed like something that was finally possible, though not necessarily a reality.

I needed to test these discoveries and try something completely new. I also needed a break from dating following the breakup with Andre. (A breakup so bad, I often half-joked with Cole, he had to move a few states away—half-joked because it was completely true. Utah just didn’t agree with him). For that reason, I went out on the proverbial limb and decided to audition for a Broadway review. Months earlier, my parents had given me the very original gift of voice lessons.

It was one of the best surprise gifts I could have received. In an instant, I took my parents up on their offer and started up lessons with a family friend, and over the course of a couple of months, this Mormon housewife inadvertently provided me with the form of therapy I needed.


“Let’s do that again,” she said one day in a lesson. “It doesn’t take much for you to sing the words and get them on pitch, but going to the next level is what sounds the simplest. Paying attention to the words is actually the hardest part. It’s the greatest act of empathy to put yourself in the shoes of another person, and the characters singing these songs really are thinking and feeling people.”

I stared, listening with an expression of awe.

“You know literature better than me, so you can get to the soul of these words better than me or a lot of my students, so the only thing we’ll have to work on is pushing those feelings you share with the characters out onto your canvas.”

“And I’m sure, Beverly, I’ll learn a lot about feeling along the way,” I added.

“I think you’re ready for some Sondheim. Wait a sec while I find my Company book” she said as I flashed a delighted grin. My thoughts trailed off to characters and the idea of feeling: Characters should be easy—I wish I understood what was going on in real-life guys’ minds. Are we all broken in different ways?

A couple of weeks later, we found ourselves in the same studio. She at the piano I standing next to her waiting for the room to cool into silence following a long, sustained high G#. Those seconds of silence and the feeling of empty, burning lungs ready for a gasp of air seemed to say, You did it.


“GMB, I’m so proud of you. You’ve been practicing,” she said as her auburn hair whipped around to reveal her trademark horn-rimmed glasses.

“I did slack a bit this week,” I admitted, not explaining that the breakup with Andre pulled me away for a few days.

“Either way, your understanding of the character really came through in every way imaginable. It was as if you were him for a few brief moments. You seem to understand the ambiguities here—a desire and a terror of being in love, the sadness of not wanting to feel and the joy of feeling even if it’s not what we want to feel.”

It was as if she understood what was going on with me without mentioning a word about my dating life or the overall process of coming out to myself. That said, she would often turn to the story of a gay friend of hers from her days at BYU and say how happy she was for him despite their lives going in two distinct directions. I tend to think that, even in those earliest lessons, she was trying to show me the type of unconditional love we’re all taught about at some point in our lives.

“I want you to keep working on this piece. I think it’ll be good for you, and you can use it for an audition piece for the show,” she coaxed.

I knew that there was an undercurrent in her words “it’ll be good for you.” She wanted me to ponder those words like she pondered scripture. I heeded her words, preparing myself for that fateful audition and some time pondering those words as I put my dating life on hold, taking a boy-fast of sorts.

End, Part 1.


Cole said...

There is nothing quite as thrilling or cosmically filling as pondering the notes (and words) on a page and digging into one's own feelings and mixing the two into a successful creation.

I never know who derives more joy and release and beautiful voyage, my audience or myself.

I was so happy for you! I still am. :D

Always your bestie--


A Gay Mormon Boy said...

@Cole: It really is incredible. You take in as much as you put out. You take and you share. You make and partake. And you do all of this simultaneously.

Popular Posts