40 LETTERS . 4 Debbie
As I journey through my fortieth year I want to take time to thank people who have had an impact on me and my life. Each person to whom I write has shaped me and is partly to ‘blame’ for the person I am becoming!!! Letter four is to my high school singing teacher.
You helped me find confidence in my voice. That tiny music room at Robert Smyth School was a place of real joy for me. It was a place of escape from lessons where I learned to breathe and learned to sing. I’d always loved singing. I had joined Leicester Philharmonic Youth Choir and there, although I felt hidden, I felt joy. I remember watching other people sing under some incredible direction, with some amazing musicians and at some fantastic venues.
It was shortly after joining that choir that I thought, ‘I should really learn how to sing.’ The foundations you helped to lay in my voice have helped me sing (a lot) over that last 25 years. I wanted to write to you particularly to say, “thank you for your encouragement”.
We would breath in for the count 4, hold our breaths for 4. Then carefully and consciously exhale for 8. Then we’d do 5, 5, 10. Then 6, 6, 12. We’d do all kinds of crazy face and vocal warm ups. And then we’d sing! You on the slightly honky-tonk piano and me standing thinking I was some kind of superstar! You helped take my range and ability in singing further and further. I loved the way you helped me to think about the lyrical flow and lines in songs. When to breath, when to pause, when to hold a note to crescendo or to let it fade away.
My relationship with God is super important and I spend a huge chunk of my time telling stories and communicating truth to people. Sometimes with spoken words sometimes with song. Beyond just a simple confidence in myself which has ebbed and flowed over the years I don’t think the confidence in my voice has ever waned. Sure I worry whether I’m in tune, whether I sound any good, whether I’m doing all I can with my voice. Your training has helped me to never doubt that I have something to say and a way to say it.
I remember your simple encouragement to open my mouth. And I thank you for that; your encouragement that I have a great smile (and I know that was probably because I was pitchy) but it resounded with me. I have sought to smile and to open my mouth and tell stories of truth with control and lyricism. So thank you. You taught me to breathe and to sing and to believe that I have something worth hearing.
It was in one of your lessons that the school drama teacher heard me sing and gave me a part in the school production of the Forbidden Planet. I would never have gone for that part. I would never have sung a solo in front of my whole school. And there are many vocal things I would never have done since without your encouragement and training.
I wonder how many hundreds of people you have helped to find their voice. How many hundreds to whom you have extended the joy of song. How many people have learned to breathe and smile (at the same time!!!) because of you.
Thank you for being a part of my life I trust that you are also still singing and still smiling!