I Am Not a Soprano

I Am Not a Soprano

I went to a Catholic grade school where the nuns ruled. When I was in 4th grade, I wanted to join the choir. At that time, I had no clue about my abilities as a singer or otherwise and was totally dependent on the nuns for guidance because that’s how we’d been taught. Tryouts for choir were right after school and when I walked into the classroom Sister told me to stand next to her desk — a heart-pounding experience in itself — and to sing, “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” a tough song for anyone who is not a soprano. It’s taken decades to figure out that while I’m a terrible soprano, I’m also a halfway decent tenor, but at that time my musical experience and vernacular were extremely limited — I had no idea what soprano and tenor even meant — so I did what I’d been taught to do and that was listen to the nuns.

I’m standing next to Sister, squeaking out a verse of My Country ’Tis of Thee, warbling and cracking the whole time, and when I finished she said, “Fine, you’re in.”

Wait, what?

Did she even hear how I’d botched the song as I strained to reach those notes? Might she have suggested something more in keeping with my limited range? Or was it because church dirges, I mean hymns, were written one way and there was no messing with that way? Shouldn’t she have realized that I was not a soprano? She was the music teacher after all. Or was she, like everyone else, just doing her job and looking to get the day over with as soon as possible so she could have gone home and watched TV.

In 4th grade, I was very much in the mindset of a lemming, playing follow the leader. Decades later, I know better, but I can’t help but wonder, “What if anyone had been paying attention to my desires instead of their own? What would my life have looked like? How might it have changed if someone would have seen my gifts instead of trying to fit me inside their gift bag along with everyone else? Would I be New York Times bestselling author by now? A rocket scientist? A musician?

We’re a species that thinks linearly and in duality. Perhaps it’s the nature of the planet — black and white, night and day, summer and winter, minute follows minute, year follows year. Or maybe our brains are the cause, the Corpus Callosum which separates the right and left hemispheres of the brain, much like Pangea, the supercontinent that the world might have been before the receding flood waters, or earthquakes, or meteors, or God himself split Her apart. Is it possible that our two hemispheres were in the past one whole unit, that somewhere along the way we were severed into two mirror images? Could this explain why our very nature is divisive?

We strive to overcome our differences with an ever-present hope of reconciling the two sides of everything, wanting to bring ourselves back into harmony and alignment, but why? What if we just made ourselves happy and left everyone else alone? What then? When you’re happy you tend to let the little things go, tend to overlook someone else’s negative or selfish behavior, tend to accentuate the positive. When you’re happy, that happiness spreads exponentially to your friends, your neighbors, the people with whom you come into contact. Could our overall happiness make room for more peace in the world? More harmony? More joy, without any of the hard work of trying to make it so? What if, instead of following everyone else’s guidance we followed our own? What if we allowed everyone to be exactly who and what they intended themselves to be?

What then?

pjlazos 4.2.17

About pjlazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
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18 Responses to I Am Not a Soprano

  1. Mary P says:

    Their aim was to ‘break’ us I think, like horses … to do the will of the teachers in the upper school, who would then be able to ‘train’ us to be useful young women …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Aquileana says:

    I think Sister gave you a great lesson. I like those little acts of empowerment and personally I think that Education should be also about highlighting possibilities and not just achievements… Maybe with some work, rehearsals and so on, you could be a great singer. In short: she believed in you!… This is a very moving post, full of little gems!… You are so right when you say: “When you’re happy, that happiness spreads exponentially to your friends, your neighbors, the people with whom you come into contact”. I firmly second your thoughts over there.
    Sending much love 😀

    Like

  3. Robyn Haynes says:

    You raise some interesting questions: ‘What if, instead of following everyone else’s guidance we followed our own? What if we allowed everyone to be exactly who and what they intended themselves to be?’ But are we wired to allow this? We are social creatures, forming a society, whose sum of parts is greater than the whole.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Well, she wasn’t much of a music teacher I have to say if she didn’t let you be yourself, or see you for what and who you were. End of. And I think you’re right that if people are happy within themselves they do let the little things go. x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ken Dowell says:

    Not sure I can answer the larger questions but I’m quite certain the nunnery wouldn’t be my first stop for musical advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. MariHoward says:

    Ha! I know this one – but, forget it about the teachers were nuns! My school at that age was NOT a religious school, the teachers were far from being Nuns …it was just teachers, and they were a miserable lot of control-freaks. I am certain they all drove ambulances in the War (1939-45) …! Their aim was to ‘break’ us I think, like horses … to do the will of the teachers in the upper school, who would then be able to ‘train’ us to be useful young women …

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m surprised the music teacher didn’t know you weren’t a soprano, too! Tenors are usually in great demand. Most tenors are men or boys, though, so she might have thought a girl can’t be a tenor. I didn’t even know there was a such thing as a female tenor until I was an adult in church choir. Now I’ve known several.

    I’m sort of a soprano–a second soprano, with a limited range. I’m not a great singer. I’d prefer to play whatever it is on the violin 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • pjlazos says:

      I’m not a great singer, either, at least not compared to some of the talent out there, but I have a strong voice and can hold a tune so could have been put to use somewhere if anyone had noticed. :0)

      Liked by 1 person

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