It’s All French to Me

I guess it’s time that you know: I was a voice major dropout in college.

It all started in high school when I had a nasty run-in with the nasty drama teachers who had replaced the really not-nasty drama teacher the year previous. Replaced is the wrong word. They certainly didn’t fill his shoes. They were just hired when he quit.

So I turned to choir. I loved singing, I was coming to realize I was nothing if not a really terrible actor, and if you’ve ever seen me Jazz dance, well. Enough said. 

An embarrassing moment: After a particularly inspiring season of “So You Think You Can Dance,” I decided to sign up for a Broadway style dance class, only to discover I was literally twice the age of my fellow classmates. I stuck through it till the teacher choreographed this move that required me and a 4 foot tall, 11 year old partner to put our hands together and touch cheeks.


Anyhow, I fell in love with singing. And as it turned out, my first year participating in a school choir was also the year a charismatic student teacher, decked out with gauged ears and a septum ring that made him look like a bull and a belly button piercing (he went on to teach grade school in a really conservative town in my home state and that makes me remarkably happy), joined musical forces with our director.

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I know. I’m tasteless.

It was really he who made me realize I wanted to be him someday. Sans body piercings because I am a wimp when it comes to metal things being shot through my body, and I cried for a solid 20 minutes after getting one ear pierced.


So if you’re out there, Mr. Noyse, still teaching impressionable children and/or teenagers how to come together right now via music, well, keep doing it.

I had the blinders on from age 15 to 20, focusing entirely on becoming the most chorally proficient version of myself I possibly could. To say that I lived music is actually an understatement. I found myself coaching middle school students during solo & ensemble, directing the Century Singers at concerts, and mapping out my life so I could retire from a prestigious university as head of the choral department but potentially continue on as an adjunct vocal instructor till I dropped dead.

Which is actually an enormous life plan because Asians live forever.

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This guy lived to be 120 years old.

But college does something to you. It either amplifies everything you love about a certain subject, pushing you to move forward, onward and upward, or it kills your love dead.

And after four semesters fraught with drama with my voice teacher and the extremely close-minded voice department (seriously I think we were the only university on earth that didn’t have some sort of a cappella group or show choir because we didn’t sing music like that), I decided it was time for me to squander my potential and graduate with a degree in American Studies.

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Still don’t know what it’s good for.

It’s taken about eight years to get over the trauma that is a university vocal department (you know those people on “American Idol” who walk around and do vocal warm-ups, unabashedly, to kind of show off how awesome they are? Vocal departments are chock full of these people.) But in my time of healing, I realized that, regardless of how much distaste I had for choral conducting every day of my life (I’m currently choir director at my church, and that is just FUN I tell you), I still can’t get over how much I love singing.

So I took up voice lessons. Yesterday the new (old?) accompanist asked me if I was singing for classes or my major, and I said, “No, just for fun.” And that’s entirely true. It’s absolutely fun to me. It was not fun when people were saying things like, “Stop using your vocal belt mix” or “You have the worst French pronunciation I’ve ever heard.”

Ah, French.

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In my stupidity, I decided it only made sense that I practice two French songs so I might wow the judges at a competition that’s taking place about ten years from now next March. And while my voice teacher does mince her words, I was still met yesterday with an, “I’ve never heard an American sing with an accent like that.” Translation: I will eternally butcher the French language. She even offered to read all the lyrics, very slowly, on my recorder so I could master it this week. That would be a great idea if she hadn’t already done so. Schwa vowels. They’ll get you every time.


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