As far back as I can remember I was a shy child. In elementary school I was smaller than my classmates, partly because I started kindergarten at four and a half, and partly because I was just naturally of a slight build. At any rate I felt out of place and had much difficulty expressing myself verbally to others. I remember, I think it was in third grade, I was reprimanded by Mrs. Stickler (yes, that was really her name!) for looking out the window “daydreaming.” Another formative experience, might have been in fourth grade, was in the preparation for giving a choral performance at the local college (of which my elementary school was a laboratory). I remember I was standing next to Wayne Richenderfer in a rehearsal and the student teacher told him just to mouth the words because he wasn’t singing in tune. I was so sensitive and shy, that I took that comment to heart as if it were directed to me! I can’t sing, so I’ll just pretend.
Many of us have had some kind of experience like this that causes us to clam up, to stop expressing, to think we are not creative. On the other hand, many are nurtured in their creativity from an early age and never lose it. Which camp are you in?
The result of these experiences in my life was that as a young adult I began a life-long quest to find my “voice,” quite literally as well as figuratively. I began singing with and married a woman who was a trained singer (her parents were opera singers), which was somewhat intimidating. Later, I took voice lessons as was told that I would never have a “great” voice. For some reason––rather than completely shut me down––these experiences motivated me even further to find my voice. I’m a human being goddammit; I was given a voice like any one else; why can’t I learn to sing?
I discovered that there are two parallel paths: learning to sing, and discovering one’s true self, or life purpose. It’s sort of a chicken and egg thing. As I worked on my voice––either with vocal coaches or through forcing myself to sing in public––I would feel more whole as a human being. As I read, meditated, and grew in self discovery, my voice would get stronger and more resonant. It has been an interesting journey. I am by no means a great singer (yet!), but there has been steady improvement, particularly evident when I look at how far I’ve come over the decades.
The other part of this life story that is interesting (in hindsight) is the very fact that I ended up becoming a public figure––singer/songwriter, radio host, public speaker––perhaps as a way of dealing with and overcoming my fear of people. I won’t say that I was motivated by fear so much as the desire to overcome my fears, and I think there is a difference. But there is indeed a thread running through my life of a strong desire to find and express my creative voice