STEP Signature Project – Music Exploration

For my STEP Signature project, I wanted to creative expression through music. I have always wanted to take guitar and singing lessons, but have never been able to do so due to financial restraints. With STEP funding, I took vocal and guitar lessons at Musicologie in Columbus and challenged myself to learn the fundamentals of music theory. I took lessons weekly and saw significant progress in both singing and playing guitar.

Heading into singing lessons, I realized just how much I am uncomfortable with expressing myself and putting myself truly outside of my comfort zone. It’s one thing to play guitar by myself and sing in the shower, it’s a completely different experience singing in front of a teacher and trying to improve intentionally. I assumed that talent in playing music and singing is natural, but I did not expect how much attention to detail, focus, and diligence it requires to become better and truly skillful as a musician. I wouldn’t consider myself anything more than a beginner, but it was exciting to see various improvements throughout my project.

A key transformation that took place was in my ability to be vocal. I’ve always sat quietly and been hesitant to speak in front of people, afraid to make mistakes and be called out for saying something that’s not intelligent. Forcing myself to sing kicked this mentality out the door. I’m still uncomfortable singing in front of a group of people and enjoy playing guitar much more, but better understanding my voice will help me in presentations, in producing my podcast, and whatever other endeavor that requires articulation. During my first lesson, I was so afraid to sing with volume and I frequently ran out of breath. By my last lesson, I was singing confidently and with conviction. My view about creative professions transformed as well, I have the utmost respect for anyone pursuing a career in anything creative as, by only scratching the surface, I better understood the incredible amount of willpower, determination, and diligence needed to succeed. It’s not unlike any other career field, it just requires a different set of technical skills. My appreciation of the arts has truly transformed.

First, I took vocal and guitar lessons with Regan, my instructor, for over four months. In each of these interactions, I slowly grew in my development as a musician and someone who is more confident in their voice. At each lesson, we would start with vocal warm-ups, singing scales and loosening up any stress that I had built up. Then, we would begin working on songs that I wanted to learn, typically by Justin Bieber, Michael Buble, or Frank Sinatra.

It took a while to uncover what style of songs fit my voice well, but ultimately we settled on more jazzy tunes. Meanwhile, I was also learning more about guitar and music theory, learning both fingerstyle guitar and how to play chords to accompany my voice. This proved incredibly difficult as both singing and playing at the same time requires one to be automatic. I made slow progress at this, and it required lots of work at home to make my guitar playing for a few songs feel automatic. I only learned how to play and sing a few songs, but I’m looking forward to putting in more work after the completion of my STEP project to develop these skills further.

Overall, this project helped me find my voice and be comfortable presenting it. I have always loved podcasts, and wanted to start one but was initially afraid of how I would be perceived. After taking vocal instruction, I felt much more comfortable and launched an episodic podcast titled Around the Oval. Now, I work for the university and host a podcast for The Office of Student Life titled “Time and Change.” I don’t think this would have been possible without my STEP Signature Project, as it provided me with the skills and attitude needed to explore my interests.

My STEP project and the associated transformation will be valuable in my life in several ways. First, personally I love listening to and playing music, and this is only the next step in pursuing creative expression as a hobby. Professionally, I hope to become a physician one day, and from this experience I hope to be better at handling uncomfortable situations and managing my priorities. Music will be a relief from stress for the rest of my life. This project will also help me communicate better with various types of people, which will undoubtedly help me as I serve diverse patient populations that come from all walks of life.  Thank you STEP for funding this project and creative pursuit. I’m grateful for the experience and hope others’ are enabled to challenge themselves and pursue their passions in a similar way.

Over the course of my project, I recorded snippets of me playing songs on guitar. As mentioned, I’m far more comfortable playing guitar than singing, as it is very different when you’re in front of a live audience. Please enjoy this compilation that I made below of a few songs that I learned along my journey, thank you STEP for funding my transformational experience!

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