By Andrea Lynn Cianflone
“I don’t sing,” said the gentleman as he delicately placed his glass of wine on the red and white checkered tablecloth when I had posed the question, “What’s your favorite song you enjoy singing?” I was a young singer working my fourth job at an Italian restaurant, hired to grace tables with opera arias so I could pay for my college tuition. The “I don’t sing” response was a mantra I heard time and time again by the hundreds of customers I had the pleasure to meet. To my surprise, these three words were frequently heard years beyond the restaurant in day-to-day casual conversations or after performances when I would meet and greet with audience members. I was intrigued by the responses to my one repetitive question. One such example was an impromptu exchange I had with a woman at a grocery store. We talked about the impact of isolation on health and how nice it was to just have random conversations with strangers. I told her about my career and Sing4Wellness and she courageously shared her testimony and subsequent trauma therapy she was currently receiving. It was a beautiful duet. I could feel my restaurant-singer persona emerge as I asked:
“What’s your favorite song?”
She laughed at first, then a big smile formed as she tried to remember the song. Her head was tilting up as her wide eyes began to squint trying to remember her favorite tune.
“It’s a Beatles song…umm...” She was smiling now as if she was singing it in her head.
I nudged on, “Can you sing the first line? I’d love to hear it.”
Her big smile turned to fear, ”Oh. No, no, no, I don’t sing.”
I believed she wanted to sing. I believe we all have a voice that wants to sing, whether that song is expressed in an actual melodic song or some other form of speech. I believe we all have that inner desire to be heard or for that ‘inner child’ to play! Like DNA, every human voice on this planet is distinctly unique. The human voice is our very first instrument. I am convinced that some of my best jazz scatting came from listening to a baby’s first words. Just think of all the vast ways our voices function. We babble. We sigh. We laugh and cry. We moan. We hum and buzz. We scream and groan!
As I reflect on the hundreds of “I don’t sing” responses, I’m led to wonder what would convince a person to ever believe in refraining from these vocalizations. These remarks seem to hold a deeper meaning about the circumstances, hardship, and trials of life that impact us enough to accept this deceiving notion: “I don’t deserve to sing.” You CAN sing! Bring all your strengths, weaknesses, character imperfections and express that in the voice that is uniquely you.
This is what I love about singing. Our instrument is the culmination of all the raw moments of our life, bringing about a sound bath of raspy, clear, loud, soft, mellow, bright, and dark, tones. It is so vulnerable and exposes the very essence of who we are. It is a practice, tool, activity, art, and therapy, that allows the subconscious to be free from the stains of life. In this way, we are magical! You can be magical too by singing a short mantra of kindness to yourself. It does not matter what the notes are, how in tune or out of tune they may be, or the level of quality or texture. Extend that magic outward to something or someone other than yourself: a flower, a bird, a tree, a dog, a cat, or a person. Our voices spark magic in ourselves and the people we embrace. You can sing! Unleash the music that is you. . . unleash your voice!
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