Well, not really. Besides the fact that’s a rather loaded thing to say these days (since it’s not the early 90s anymore, and she’s no longer America’s sweetheart), I am not a true alto. I can, however, hit that high E over C from “Run to You” (also sung by Christina Aguilera on “Reflection” from Disney’s Mulan). Before all you music people rush to correct me in my lofty comparisons, and tell me I stated the wrong note, the point of this post.
When I was in high school choir at my private high school (Junior year), I did something I hadn’t done since 1998: I sang in front of people. I was good in ’98, but I had incurable stage fright. Today, I…have incurable stage fright, which is why people like Nicki Minaj can say thing “sing,” or people like Britney Spears “blow-uptuate” (always liked that clearly not a real word, lol). But, for a couple semesters in 2001-2002, I was a performer again.
I was in Theatrical Musical Troupe in middle school, where I acted & sang (I can NOT dance…no rhythm, unfortunately…see, all Black girls do not have rhythm…nor do all girls with a big butt). I acted and sang so much that folks kind of got tired of me (in their middle school way) and booed me the last few times I came onstage (kids are mean little demons). I hadn’t thought of singing in front of anyone but my stepdad (who snuck up on me while I sang into large spoons in the afternoons…I was supposed to be washing dishes, lol).
But then I thought, why not? Who could pick out my voice from the crowd? So I joined choir. I sang middle C, mostly, when it was necessary; otherwise, I sang alto (the “upper” register alto…I was thisclose to being a soprano, and was sometimes moved over to sing soprano to make up numbers). I had no solos on purpose.
My singer friend went the first day and told the teacher she wanted to be a Madrigal singer or she wasn’t going to be in choir. Madrigals were the girl’s choir, the best of the best choir students, who were asked to sing at just about everything. There were never more than 10 girls, in my recollection. You had to be able to sight read (I never could do that, technically) and sing. Of course, after hearing just a few bars from my singing friend, our teacher made her a Madrigal.
I didn’t want to be a Madrigal, but when Spring Festival came up, I found myself wanted to try out for the chorus. I wanted to perform again (imagine that), really perform, being noticed for my voice off the page as well as on it. So I tried out–and I got chosen! I was elated! Until I found out what going to Spring Festival actually meant. There was the grading scale, the sight reading, the judging.
I couldn’t do it, not again. I couldn’t put myself out there. Granted, judges at spring festival weren’t going to boo me, but what if I messed up and cost us a “superior” rating? (Yes, I messed up in Junior High…and no, I’m not telling even you lovelies how…just that I ended up crying while cleaning out dressing rooms…I was president that year). I kept going to practice, practicing in my room, but I knew I wouldn’t go.
But I woke up the morning of the festival knowing I had to. If I didn’t, I would never know if I was as good as I thought, if maybe I should continue to act & sing more, rather than solely pursue writing and just sing on long walks by myself or washing dishes in my mom’s kitchen. I had the trophies to prove I was great at singing. And I was part of a chorus. I couldn’t let everyone else down.
After this pep talk, I rushed across a snowy campus, sliding this way and that, blowing big puffs of air behind me. The campus was completely silent except the crunch of my feet on the snow. I made it to the circle…and the bus wasn’t there. I’d missed it. I haven’t sang outside my car, my living room, or on the treadmill since.
And I still can’t sight-read.