The Lament of the Artist – a 4-part series of personal stories…
Part IV – Mentored by a Bird
That night at the piano, that melancholic New Year’s Eve, I sang my newly composed song in the quietest undertones, whispering, even though there was no one home to overhear. It was my reflex, to tiptoe as if an imposter, hoping the ghosts of my childhood and their guardians of talent wouldn’t detect my trespass. Maybe just this once I would get away with trying to be someone better than I believed.
It was not that I couldn’t hear the song I had written clearly in my head. This was not the problem. But as I took a breath to sing, the gatekeeper appeared, drawing her line in the sand once again. Just as in 10th grade, the roadblock was an emotional one – a sandbag of doubt. Who was I to sing a song? I grew up believing if you weren’t told you had talent, you didn’t. You only sang if someone tapped you as genetically wired with such God-given gifts.
Eight years have passed and I have written more than 30 songs and released 15. Today, I am writing a musical in development. And still, I hope for a magic elixir to cure the tongue tied child within. I’ve tried everything.
That first year after the piano spoke to me, I took lessons with the incomparable voice instructor, Jane Askins, who taught me to sing in Italian: Te Tay Ta To Tu and other traditional vocal techniques. Soon after, I added on a private yoga instructor, Verred Rose. I thought that singing after a session of meditating in my garden would be a way to coax my soul into releasing my voice from the tight grip.
In the third year, I went to a dance therapist who helped me act out my fears, where I believed talk therapy had failed. She would say things like, “talk to me through your elbow.”
In one session, I had a vision that the ceiling above me was made of lead and my voice was a fist banging on the ceiling trying to escape into the world. With guidance I dissolved the ceiling into clouds and allowed my voice to float like a balloon up and around them. Another breakthrough!
I kept going in my exploration. The next summer, I attempted a mystical course on reading signs and this happened…
At the piano one afternoon, I asked the universe to send me a sign to help free me. For an entire week, rain or shine, a bird came to my window and sang along every time I started to play. I marvelled at how naturally beautiful the bird’s singing was and felt that this tiny creature was communicating with me, reaching out in secret solidarity as a fellow singer, nudging me to sing along.
My next mentor fortuitously showed up in my life a few short months later.
Sally Morgan from “Sing Like You Speak”, became the next incarnation of the bird. She gave me untraditional lessons in dropping my jaw, breathwork, and innate power. With Sally I was able to again find new ways to temporarily release the blocks and freely express my voice.
Today, I have stopped expecting a solution to end all solutions. There will always be a line in the sand to cross and a detour to find around my demons. This is the lament of the artist.
And since I am always seeking, the famous proverb, “when the student is ready the teacher will appear,” comes true quite a lot.
Perhaps tomorrow, I’ll find new power when I follow the bird who sings at my window, who flies without limits. For it is only I who sees ceilings in the sky. They are merely dark clouds of fears. All I have to do is breathe and keep going and eventually they disappear and again, I create.