Thursday, February 13, 2014

Vocalized embarrassment

I would not say it is a tendency of mine to avoid things that make me feel uncomfortable. I've jumped two feet in when it comes to my fear of heights, extreme sports, and just about anything that forces me to face my fears. I don't believe in continuing to live in fear; there's so much life to explore.

However when it comes to singing in public, even in the form of karaoke, I'm at a loss.

Singing in public is not something I enjoy. In fact, I don't enjoy it so much that the few times my friends have requested I sing outside of a private group (many Korean karaoke places allow you to rent rooms for just you and your friends) or even in a private group...I have felt the need to rely on liquid courage in order to get myself through.

This, naturally, concludes in me throwing away my inhibitions but not usually remembering what happened after a certain point. Let's just say one of the two times I've actually been blackout drunk has been caused by karaoke nervousness.

Clearly something I would need to work on, especially as Rhinda has required all the members in the wedding party to sing karaoke at her wedding. Yes, required. Apparently she is from the type of Asian family that loves karaoke, unlike mine. Hence, karaoke at the wedding, and karaoke for the wedding party.

During the bachelorette festivities in Boston I discussed with the wider group their opinion on such a requirement. Apparently I am not alone in my fear of public singing. In fact, many girls were not looking forward to this particular part of our duties. So Rhinda has allowed that we sing as a group, specifically Katy Perry's "TGIF."

While the song is one that I enjoy, this didn't do much to dampen my fears. Ugh to public singing, especially in front of an audience that actually enjoys karaoke. We're supposed to warm up the floor for her Asian relatives so everyone will get into the party mood. At least she's offering an open bar. Good combination.

I figured though, after some thought, this should be my opportunity to face another fear. Two had been taking singing classes for the past several months and even German K was getting on the bandwagon all the way in Helsinki. Clearly this was my time to strike.

So as 2013 ended I vowed to myself that I would investigate singing lessons once back in London, and take it from there.

Naturally as soon as I was back it was a whirlwind of activity - getting back into work, finishing my still-not-done grad school application (on the final versions of my personal statement, damned thing), shopping for food that I was replete of, and oddly, investigating gyms so I can cut down on costs and become more streamlined for the new year.

So when a deal for singing classes popped up on Amazon Local (Amazon's version of groupon), I jumped on it. They offered Wednesday night classes for adults and the deal guaranteed me a sweet deal on the normal class price. Plus it wasn't even far from my office - about a half an hour bus ride. I also, being super conscious, mapped what my journey back home would be - though it's close to an hour the class ends early enough for me to still make last trains to my train station. Yes.

So I purchased it and immediately contacted them to get myself registered for that Wednesday (I bought the deal on Monday). Yes; I was going to go all the way with this if I was going to have to do it. 

Two assured me that if I didn't like it I could always leave after the first few classes and just consider it an experience worth having. I reassured her that I'm too Asian for that - if I'm going to spend money on something, I am going to damn well do it all the way. No wasting money; especially when I was trying to get more efficient with monthly costs in preparation for my hopefully-soon graduate student life.

I got my class confirmed on Wednesday (and the seven other dates I was allowed because of the deal I bought) and set my sights ahead. Here we go.

The bus route was surprisingly hard to find, making me super glad I left early in order to allow time for getting lost. I will know next time how to get there (and back again after class, which I also botched). But I did make it there just in time, and the academy was surprisingly cute and small:


Naturally I did not take pictures of the place; it was my first time there and I was already nervous enough without thinking about documenting things. Apologies; I will try to take pictures next time I am there.

Anyway, before I knew it it was time for me to start lessons. With 12 other people.

Yes, this was an adult group singing class, much to my dismay but also my excitement (oh good, I can blend into the crowd of better singers, while also getting used to singing in front of people I don't know).

We went around the semi circle introducing ourselves and our reasons for going. Everyone laughed heartily at my reason but they all agreed it was the best reason they'd heard. Yes, I am here because my best friend is getting married and is forcing everyone to sing karaoke at her wedding. I hate singing in front of people, so this is why I am here.

After that we did some warm up lessons - massaging our heads, faces, shoulders, ribs. Getting our bodies warmed up and relaxed for the singing ahead. It surprised me that we did this but it also makes sense - singing could be seen as a sport, something you need to train for like an athlete. It only makes sense that you would want your body warm and comfortable for the exercises ahead.

We then did some vocal lessons - singing various words to the melody of a well-known march (I am blanking on the name at the moment but it reminded me of Flight of the Bumblebee, which it surely wasn't...it's what they play whenever you're trying to express that someone is in a rush and chasing after someone else...I'll figure it out). We sang words like Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck, etc repetitively to this tune. It was a way to warm up our vocal chords and mouths while also trying different notes as a group. It was interesting and not so bad.

Then we moved onto something far more challenging - learning a new jazz song and singing it in a group. Our group had problems with this because the words were somewhat difficult to remember sometimes:

Savoy, the home of sweet romance,
Savoy, will win you at a glance,
Savoy, gives a happy feet a chance, 
to dance.

Your form, just like a clinging vine,
Your lips, so warm and sweet as wine,
Your cheek, so soft and close to mine,
divine.

Oh my heart is singing,
while the band is swinging.
Never tiring of romping,
and stomping with you,
at the Savoy.

What joy, a perfect holiday,
Savoy, where we can glide and sway,
Savoy, let me stomp away,
with you.

Apparently a popular 1930's or 1940's American jazz song. I've not heard of it but I haven't heard a lot of music from that era. It is also difficult and yet not difficult to sing because of it's swinging rhythm and range of notes and emphases.

We had to repeat a lot of the sections repetitively to get the words right. And the melody. It's an interesting song. The teacher was right though - it's not hard to remember song lyrics after you've heard them enough times. I still remembered almost the entire thing after a night and some.

It was a good experience - where at first I was so nervous and out of breath that I started to lose my sight (this happens when I do other similar things, like sprinting...which is why I'm much more into the long haul of exercises with prolonged, steady movement instead of quick sprints), I was able to calm myself down enough to sing in front of the others. Maybe not with the most confidence, but at least audible. I concentrated on memorizing the lyrics and getting the intonation right, so it didn't seem as bad as it was before.

After the class I thanked the teacher and thought to myself that this will be significantly easier when I'm singing a song I really know. Confidence was already building, which makes me supremely happy.

It'll be another three weeks before my next class, as next Wednesday is Nerd Nite then the following one I'm in Iceland. But I look forward to it already, and wish that the classes were more than once a week.

What a turnaround, after just one lesson. Really happy about this - facing another fear, and squashing it down.

Whoo whoo!

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