I have a confession to make. I can sing. Yes. I can sing fairly well. No, I won’t sing anything for you to prove it. Well, maybe I might. You pick the song and pay for the karaoke. The truth is I don’t do it much at all anymore. But there was a day…
A long time ago in a world far, far away, there was a day that time that I sang a lot. I mean, all the time. Incessantly. Sometimes the singing was good. Other times it resembled Will Farrell’s character in the movie “Elf” (I am in a store and I am singing…). I enjoyed singing before high school, but I really started to focus in on it in about the 10th grade. I got some funny looks when I gave up most sports for choir, but that is what I wanted to do.
I still remember a comical phone call from an army recruiter my senior year:
“Hello Young Man,” a gruff, but friendly voices said on the other end of the phone.
“Hello, sir. How can I help you?” I replied respectfully.
“Son, have you ever considered a career in the armed forces? The Army could just be the place for you.”
“Thank you sir,” I replied politely. No, I hadn’t through of going into the Army. I had no interest in it either, but it is nice to be wanted to so I continued the phone conversation
“Tell me something boy,” the recruiter said sizing me up. “How big a boy are you?”
“Six foot and 190 pounds.”
“Really?” I could hear that he was pleased. He thought he had a good sized fish on the line. He decided to try to reel it in. “What do you like to do?”
Upon hearing this question, I smiled. “I sing bass in the choir.”
There was a slight pause. “I am sorry young man. I don’t believe we have a spot for you.”
I sang in the school mixed choir, men’s choir and show choir. I also sang in the church choir and performed solos for services. I just loved to sing. It became my identity. So much so that I became extremely competitive and a tad bit arrogant. I thought I could sing really well. Turns out, I was partly right. I could sing. The quality of the signing from those days is still in question. Some was very good. Some never needs to be heard by human ears ever again.
I tried out for many honor choirs while I was in high school. I was in the All District Choir 3 times. I made the All State Choir twice. I even made a Regional National Honor Choir as well. I went to every summer music camp that I could find. I loved those days. I got to sing and I enjoyed it.
After high school, I got a full scholarship to go to college to sing. So, my freshman year of college I attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University where I majored in Vocal Music Education. I knew I loved singing and I had no idea how I would make a career out of it, so getting my degree to teach it seemed like the thing to do. I figured that I could also lead music at a church somewhere while teaching music at school. It would be the best of both worlds. While there I was in the choirs, show choir, and even a barbershop quartet. I enjoyed it for a time, but I began to get restless.
I thought the restlessness was just that I needed to get out of the small town where I went to high school. So, I auditioned at the University of Central Oklahoma and I received a full scholarship to sing. I was on my way again, on an exciting adventure doing something that I loved. While at UCO I changed my major from Vocal Music Education to Vocal Performance. I can’t say I put a lot of thought into it, but it has been interesting over the years telling people that I majored in Opera at school.
By the end of my sophomore year, I knew that I did not enjoy the choir environment as much as I once had. It may have been the fact that I was singing more than I ever had at that point, but I am not sure that is why my passion was slipping away. I was beginning to understand that I wasn’t as good as I had always thought I was. There were singers around me that were a lot better than me. Some that weren’t as good. But, everyone had their own very strong opinions of what they thought good and bad singing was. I got told more than once by an upperclassmen that I was not matching pitch. I wanted to punch him.
My junior year of college was starting and I knew that I needed to make a change. So, I walked into the counsellor’s office and I asked what the shortest route to victory was. I was almost 80 hours into my college journey and I changed majors. Funny thing was though, six months later I took my first (mostly) full time position at an area church as a…you guessed it…music minister. Maybe I just wanted to use my singing to serve God. In another 2 years I was burned out on that as well.
I finally realized that I love music, because I love music. I don’t need a degree to love it. I don’t have to sing in a choir. I don’t have to sing professionally. If I choose to write a song, I write a song. If I want to learn a new song on my guitar or piano, I do that. A couple of days ago I had my guitar out and I was making up silly songs about my son’s socks and how I didn’t want him to touch me with his stinky feet. I loved every minute of that. He did too.
Music has taught me a lot of things though. One lesson I remember very clearly happened my senior year of high school in the music teacher’s office. Mrs. Wilkins was my favorite teacher at the school and I worked very hard for her, when I chose not to rest of my talent and actually try to get better. She had called me in because there was something important she wanted to discuss with me.
“David, I don’t know how to say this…not many people really like you right now. You have been very arrogant of late.” She was being very honest and transparent with me. I don’t know if I was quick enough to pick it up at the time, but that conversation is burned in my memory and was extremely impactful.
“I am not arrogant,” I replied with a hint of arrogance. “I am confident. They are jealous.”
How I fit in her office with my head the size it was, I will never know. After a few more moments of conversation, she asked me to think about the way that I had been presenting myself to other people. Even though it was not welcome news, I did my best to do as she asked. It was hard though, I could sing so well…
I consider that conversation one of the most pivotal that I had in high school. I didn’t know it at the time, but Mrs. Wilkins was unpacking truth for me with more kindness that I deserved. I can see the conversation much more clearly now that 20 years has gone by.