I didn't write this music, but that is my voice . . . singing it.
I'm fortunate to have a few friends who write music - all of it different from what I write, all of it beautiful and interesting and intelligent. And I have the even greater fortune of their trust, which allows me to sometimes sing these beautiful new songs in concerts and for recordings.
Tomorrow (Sunday) I'll be singing in a composition recital for Ethan McGrath over at SAU - I do believe it'll be an evening of sacred music.
I love the text of the song "Sing On," which hopefully you listened to, at least briefly. Ethan wrote this beautiful music and chose this lovely text.
I recorded it with Ethan during my first full year as a public school teacher. I'd had bronchitis once a month all year - more steroid shots and rounds of antibiotics than a person should ever take. It was probably a miracle that I was able to sing at all by the time we started working on getting the recordings done. I remember praying in the car as I drove over to the university one afternoon as I left the school, "Please, God, let actual singing happen when I open my mouth." When I listen back to these recordings I still love the songs and am pleased to have done them, but I can hear the places where the register wasn't so unified . . . and the botched high notes . . . and some of the sliding, which I probably was using to try and cover something I thought wouldn't actually come out right. That humbles me, but not necessarily in a bad way. Because I also hear the clear, silver sound of a mature soprano voice. And I hear the breath support. And because I know the back story, I know how fortunate I was to be singing classically at all by the time that first teaching year was over!
I've been proud before.
Proud of my accomplishments. Proud of my degrees and what they stand for. Proud of my professionalism. Proud of my technical skill and my pedagogical practice.
Proud seems good when you first feel it, but isn't so good later.
There's a subtle difference between healthy appreciation for what we've been through and done . . . and hubris.
When we're too proud, even by a little, we fall a long way. We get broken. It takes a while to get back up and find the healthy appreciation we had before we had our hubris.
Recently, getting ready for tomorrow's concert, I came face to face with the realization that sometime over the past year I must've suffered a bigger fall than I thought I had. Because my healthy appreciation is not so healthy. And I know that pride probably came before whatever I tripped over. In my practice I felt fear I haven't really felt in years . . . and as I have considered lately what to write about or what to do with the new music I've been singing, I've come up against this brick wall that says, "If you're not getting X, Y, and Z out of this music, you're not doing it right. So just quit."
So just quit?
That's not anywhere near what the dream was 6 years ago.
The dream was to write music that was honest and just to . . . be honest. Just to tell the truth. Just to love God and love other people. Just to use music to accomplish that better. Not to make money. Not to impress anyone. Not to have a job in a church or to have a "fan base." But here I am. And the junk mail folder of my email is full of "artist PR" messages from some ridiculous free trial I signed up for when I was fearful of being irrelevant and forgotten. Fearful of not being a real artist. Fearful of not being. Oh . . . there it is. The pride. The fall. I see it now.
Sing on, Sarah. It's ok to make mistakes and be a human when you sing. Sing because it makes you happy. Sing because it's fulfilling. Sing because God gave you lungs.
Sing on, people. If I sit by you in church and you mess up on something, I promise not to judge you. I have not room to do so. And if you want to write a song and you ever feel like sharing it with me, I'll listen, and I'll be respectful toward you because I know how hard it is to share creativity.
Sing on, kids in my classroom. I won't badger you or embarrass you. I will never emphasize perfection. I will encourage you and stick with you as you try to figure it all out. I will set the best example I can and I will not send you out into the world believing that fame is the only way to have musical success. I will show you different. I will live it out. I will show you how to be happy for those people who "make it" while also being happy for the folks singing on their back porches in the evening air.
Sing on, God. Keep on pointing it out when I've walked off in the wrong direction. Keep on bringing me back to square one. I am in need of your grace and your mercy. Show me how to give other folks the encouragement you've given me through the kindness of friends and mentors along the way.