I’m standing across from a heart centered human, her hands on the keyboard and her face smiling at me. I’ve come to my voice lesson despite the headache I’ve had all day. My throat feels tight and sounds raspy as I speak. Unable to think of a song I want to sing, she offers The Rose as a good option for new students. She wonders if I know the song and I quickly flash back to middle school, when singing was the way I walked myself home. The Rose was a song I loved to sing and I’m certain I wrote down the lyrics in a notebook of songs I loved, pressing pause on my tape deck as scribed what I heard, line by line. I tell her how I used to sing freely, unconcerned with who was listening. I sang in choir and was told I had a beautiful voice. Singing was my second language, or maybe my first.
“What happened, what changed?” she asks. Comparison happened. I shifted from singing openly to only singing when alone. Somewhere along the way I decided I didn’t like my singing voice. So, here I am.
“Let’s make some sounds” she invites as her fingers play chords on the keyboard and she begins the first line of The Rose.
I close my eyes and join in, moving through the initial fear of hearing my own voice try to reach the higher notes. But I’m breathing the way she taught me, moving the air from my emptying diaphragm up through my throat and imagining it traveling up and out a unicorn horn from my forehead. I am learning to feel the difference between clenched and relaxed vocal cords. I am learning how to bypass the fear and access an open space, allowing the soft folds of my voice anatomy to move like butterfly wings. I hear the difference. As my throat relaxes, the sounds open up and soften. When I anticipate not hitting a note, my throat seizes and the sounds feels stuck and scratchy.
Moving the lyrics through my voice, I realize how perfect The Rose is for this moment. I am taking the chance to reclaim something I have always loved.
Thirty minutes later, I say goodbye and walk to my car. My headache is gone and my throat feels clear. I am realizing that voice lessons are more than learning how to use my voice. I am unraveling an old story about what it means to sing, one lesson and one note at a time. I am nurturing the seed of my long-held dream, allowing it to unfurl so that it can bloom. I am learning to bypass my critic in favor of a soulful drag queen and a unicorn horn. I get in my car and hit play on The Rose, once again singing myself home.