Loud and Ugly

Several springs ago I decided to enroll in an 8 week voice class at Old Town School of Folk Music. I hadn’t much singing experience beyond childhood phone calls with my grandmother, and family sing-alongs to accompany my mother’s piano playing. There was also my starring role as Aladdin’s mother in our second grade class play, of which several chorus songs were involved, including the unforgettable A Whole New World. Anyway, I wasn’t hoping to launch a music career as much as I wanted to find my voice. According to the energy healer I had been seeing, there was a block in my throat chakra, which can be caused by unexpressed feelings and an inability to effectively communicate one’s needs. Or, according to the guy I was ambiguously seeing at the time, “You just don’t know your own power.”

Class was held in a tiny room on the second floor with an old piano and the kind of wooden classroom chairs we had in underfunded public schools back in the early nineties. My instructor was a boisterous woman with long blond hair who sat at the piano hitting keys and yelling instructions. She started our first class debunking myths about singing. “I can’t teach you how to sing because you already know how to sing. If you can talk, you can sing. Everybody has a singing voice, most people just don’t sing loud enough to know it.” She immediately passed out the sheet music to Blue Moon, assuring us at the very least we’d have a go-to karaoke song by the end of the course. Then, she directed each of us to begin singing the song solo, before informing us we sounded like “little girls.”

She spent the next part of class introducing us to the two registers we’d be using in class: loud and ugly, and light and airy. We stood in that tiny room with our tongues hanging out of our mouths forcing sound from the depths of our bellies to produce the powerful loud and ugly sound. I’m sure it was a rather ridiculous sight to see. Eventually, she deemed us strong enough to switch between the two registers, and by the end of the first class, the “little girls” of forty-five minutes prior were belting out Blue Moon with Sinatra-like swagger.

The thing about the whole “ugly” part of loud and ugly is it really isn’t ugly. It may be new, or unfamiliar, and it’s likely to be scary, but it isn’t ugly. At times we diminish ourselves to child-like status, thinking what we want isn’t important, or we don’t deserve to have it, or we’re too afraid to see our own power. Maybe a long time ago someone told you your dream was unrealistic and you believed them. We have to challenge negative talk, both internal and external, and be willing to sacrifice for the sake of our own happiness. If you want to see results, you can’t be afraid to scream at the top of your lungs. You have to get out there, tongue hanging out and all, and be willing to make a fool of yourself, because that’s the only way to really get to know the power of your own voice.

Stop telling yourself you can’t, and start singing “I CAN,” in the loudest, ugliest voice possible; you’ll be amazed at how quickly you will start to believe yourself.


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