Don’t fake it. Make it.

Categories:  Effectiveness, Goals, Inspiration, Life, Music, Public Performance

I’m slightly afraid to go public with this. If I say it out loud, it sort of obligates me to follow through….

For possible inclusion in our Mobtown Moon recording, I’ve been practicing singing “The Great Gig in the Sky,” Clare Torry’s magnificent wordless rock-aria that, to me, represents the emotional high point of DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. It’s a beast of a song, full of juicy high notes and theatrical intensity. I’ve even been getting some vocal coaching for it. Here’s the thing. Many years ago, I was headed in the direction of being a truly skilled and able vocalist. I sang all the time, studied with good teachers, worked on technique and interpretation. After a while, I got complacent and just started doing whatever I did, without much thought or planning or improvement. By the time I came around to recording my first CD at the age of 41, I’d fallen into a number of bad habits, poor breathing, weak note placement, and so forth. I still sounded pretty good much of the time, but I was not consistent and not entirely in control of my instrument.

Recently it dawned on me that allowing myself to sing with poor technique was a form of hedging. It allowed me to think, “Hey, I’m not really a singer, I’m just a pianist who sings.” (Of course, my piano could have used improvement, too, but that’s another story….)

It was my little sister who inspired me to do better, via equal parts sibling pride and sisterly competition. Having hidden her beautiful singing voice in the shadows for years (while becoming an expert in classical literature and a fully tenured professor at Montclair State University), Sulo recently started studying voice and performing publicly for the first time in her life. Back in high school we used to sing GODSPELL duets for morning assembly and such, but it wasn’t until last year, at a cabaret performance at City Winery in NYC, that I first heard her gorgeous adult voice. Listening to Sulo float and trill over beautiful high notes without breaking a sweat, I was moved to tears. So much talent! Probably much more than I ever had! And now she was finally bringing that talent to fruition by hard work and practice and intention. I heard her again last weekend, doing a tribute to Joni Mitchell at The Metropolitan Room in Chelsea. As they say in comedian circles–she killed. She delivered those Joni songs so comfortably and naturally, it was as if she’d written them herself.

It was another object lesson in the power of direct effort (as opposed to complacency). “Don’t dream it, be it,” goes the song from Rocky Horror Picture Show. I still don’t know if I’ll be able to sing the Floyd aria as well as I dream. But I am Working On It. Thank you, sis, for the inspiration!