Ever since I could remember, I have always loved to sing. I would sing every song during mass. Or belt out “Anak ng Pasig” playing on our old karaoke radio. My first public performance was during a family reunion where I sang Jose Mari Chan’s “Christmas in Our Hearts”. Discovering videoke channels on cable TV, I would sing when I was alone on lazy summer afternoons. I even asked my parents to buy me a Walkman with a recorder (for the youths reading: it’s a portable music player; like an iPhone but without all of the features save for listening to music).
I love to sing but… I wasn’t great, even good, at it. I learned the hard truth when I was a freshman in high school. The day that made me stop singing. Actually no, I still did sing but it was the day I believed I couldn’t sing and could not be better at it ever.
The day I believed my voice shouldn’t be heard.
I was a freshman finding my place in the not-a-child-not-yet-an-adult (hey Britney!) world. High school was a new start for me, and I thought it was time for me to break out of my shell. I wanted to stop being shy and timid and start joining clubs. Many of my friends joined the Math club. I first thought of joining a Filipino writing club. I changed my mind: wanting to take a risk, I joined my high school choir club. Something I had always wanted to do.
Together with a classmate, we were just two club members, not yet officially part of the choir. The rest of the members from the upper batches were singing in the choir already. Naturally, we were expected to audition in order to join in that exclusive group. Long story short, my audition sucked. My classmate got in. I did not. No formal announcement. No Glee moment of the disappointment of not seeing your name posted on the bulletin board. Those who got in knew they were in. But I, and the rest of those who failed, just assumed we were cut.
Not passing the audition wasn’t a problem for the others; they weren’t part of the high school choir club. But not for me: I was part of the choir, the club that is, but I couldn’t sing with the choir. Being shy and quiet then, I didn’t even bother to ask what my status was in the club or what the point of my sitting their every week was. The club moderator didn’t teach us to sing. We just wrote essays about music the whole effin‘ school year.
Found love in a hopeless place
Fast forward to 2014, I was already in my twenties and I just got a second-hand iPad. One of the popular apps then was this singing app. I forgot what it’s called. Anyway, the more frequently and the better you sing, the more coins you collect to unlock songs. You needed to record your voice to get the coins BTW. And so, I did.
One day, I let a friend borrow it. When he returned it to me, he started teasing me. Mockingly singing Rihanna’s “We Found Love”. I immediately realized that he listened to my private recordings. Of all people. I was so embarrassed and angry at the same time. I was vulnerable at that time for so many reasons reserved for another post. And so he pushed my buttons and really hurt my feelings. Little things like this. Unsolicited comments coming especially from people you care for hurt the most.
Wandering around SM Megamall, I’ve always seen The Academy of Rock. Many times I would pass by it and pause for a second to think if I should enroll for voice lessons or not. But the following weekend, I really felt that the Academy was calling to me. So I heeded its call: I took one big breath and went inside to inquire. Knowing voice lessons were expensive, I didn’t want to be hasty with my decision. I stepped out of the shop. But it only took five minutes for me to return and finally enroll.
Slowly but surely, note by note
My lessons started immediately that week. I was initially nervous but what the heck. It’s the voice teacher’s job not to judge me, right? I dove right in knowing that voice lessons, however expensive it was, would make me happy. Slowly but surely, I was improving. My family even acknowledged my improvement after the first four sessions during one family gathering. I was so not used to getting papuri that didn’t know how to react. Regardless, I did feel and hear I was getting better.
Yes, there were times when I would get frustrated and feel inadequate when I couldn’t get the timing or pitch right. Or when my voice got tired pretty easily. Or when I would record my voice, cringe and hit delete. There were times when I felt that I had plateaued. That my improvement could only get me so far. That was when my motivation was to impress other people. Family and relatives during reunions, officemates during Christmas parties and friends during videoke sessions. The turning point was my very first recital.
After my recital, my mom said to me “Ang galing ng kasama mo.“
My first recital was a bit of a disaster but it went way better than expected. Even if I was thinking twice to invite my parents (because I was shy and all that shiz), I still did (kasi walang magpipicture and video). They were in the audience with my baby niece. After the recital, my mom remarked “Ang galing ng kasama mo.” Again, this hit me like a truck. I shouldn’t have invited them, I thought. It’s like I created this whole other happy place for just me, invite people in and have them destroy it. This happens all the time. My niece on the other hand was elated. I almost cried when she congratulated me and said “Ang galing-galing mo.“
I was learning for myself.
Right there, I remembered that I wasn’t taking voice lessons for my parents, my friends or my high school choir moderator. I was learning for myself. Not because I wanted to be a recording artist or a member of a rock band. Singing just makes me happy. It was one of the few decisions I made in my life where I didn’t consult anyone. It wasn’t an easy decision but I chose to be happy.
Now, I don’t mind unsolicited comments. They just go in to one ear and out in the other. Some people would say I got better at singing. I appreciate them but their opinions don’t really matter. I learned to focus on myself and be aware of my mind and body. As my teacher always says, as long as it feels good, I must be doing something right.