My STEP project consisted of 3 months of vocal lessons with Daniel Gardner in Atlanta, Georgia throughout May, June, and July 2017. My expectation of what ‘done’ looked like at the end of my lessons was to have a basic knowledge of vocal mechanics, tone, and rendition of a song of choice.
During my vocal lessons, there were many times where my original expectations for the process of learning how to sing was different from what I actually experienced. My instructor and I started off by aligning on what I wanted to get out of my lessons, specifically regarding where I wanted to be at the very end. I mentioned that I just wanted to learn something new, that I have been interested in learning how to sing since I began playing the guitar at an early age, and would possibly want to be comfortable singing in front of a select few people in my life. As we began working through exercises, practicing at home, and developing the mechanics, we began to look at other songs. We started with “Imagine” by John Lennon. As one of the world’s most well-known artists and songs, I figured I knew exactly what the song was about after my instructor asked me to give my interpretation of it. We went through what each line of the song meant to me personally. Line by line, I felt myself struggling to understand what this song meant to me at an emotional level.
My STEP project really helped me with understanding the value of emotion and being conscious about them. I had never been forced to really think about how something made me feel, and use that to my advantage as a musician. The fact that I was lacking the ability to understand my own emotions was holding me back from executing the rendition of the song that I ultimately wanted to come up with as my end goal for the vocal lessons. Each lesson, we would repeat this exercise, and I would work to think about how the song were studying related to my own life experience, and how I could express that life experience in my own version of the song.
My professor stopped me in the middle of me stuttering through a sentence, and told to just sit back and listen. He turned on the instrumental track of Imagine, and began singing a rendition of the song on the spot. My instructor was singing the same lyrics, but melodically, changed the entire song completely. When he finished, he explained that he didn’t practice that, but was able to perfectly match his version of the melody with his own interpretation and meaning of the song. That day I learned two things, that almost every song that I have listened to is something much deeper than the melody, and that understanding this deeper meaning would help me tremendously as a musician.
In order for me to compose a true rendition of a song, I needed to put myself in it. To put myself in the song, I needed to know myself, my experiences, my emotions, and relate these to the lyrics. Understanding myself is something I feel like I hadn’t consciously done before, and after that exercise with my instructor, I felt that I needed to do a bit of searching. I started researching books on the topics of mindset and growth and came across the title “Awaken the Giant Within” by Anthony Robbins. The book had an ambitious, yet intriguing subtitle that read “learn to take full control of your emotions”. I wouldn’t say that specific moments define our lives, (and this book hits hard on this point) but I would say that my decision to take voice lessons changed everything. It inspired me to look within and get to know myself better, and because of this, I bought a book that grew my mindset into a state that seeks to understand my actions, what motivates me, and how I can use this knowledge to understand and be a positive influence on the people around me.
Because of my voice lessons, I was not only introduced to a new hobby that brings me great joy when I share it with others, but I was able to learn about myself and grow in the process. I have emphasized reading and self-growth/growth mindset as a direct result of my voice lessons. The opportunity to think intuitively and connect with a song on an emotional level got me interested in my own emotions and how they influence my everyday life. The big takeaway I have from maintaining a growth mindset and reading books about controlling and leveraging emotions, is that I have full control over what to focus on in a given experience. The only way for me to keep growing is to push myself away from a disempowering state, and be pulled towards an empowering state. The major driver for an empowering state has been to do things that align with my own life values, and fortunately, my added skill of learning how to sing has continued to compliment an empowering state and fueling growth.
I don’t plan on becoming a musician. I plan to continue to practice and get better so I can continue to enjoy music as a hobby, but it will only be a hobby. The real value I got from this experience was doing something that aligned with a core value I developed throughout my step project, which is growth. I feel that I have momentum now, and although I don’t exactly know what I want to do for a career after I graduate, I know that I will continue to keep my conviction that growth is the central value of my life. I strongly believe that if I sustain and nurture this value, I will be pulled towards a career that aligns with what I truly value.