Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
My STEP Signature project was to take vocal lessons with a professional in order to develop my singing talents to the level where I could perform in front of others. This entailed taking lessons weekly and establishing a practice routine over the course of a year which resulted in vast improvements to my vocal technique and building up a sizable repertoire of songs that I could perform.
What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
During sophomore year, when it was time to draft up a STEP proposal and the deadline to select a STEP project was imminent, my options were very limited. I’ve always believed that growth only occurs when individuals are placed outside of their comfort zones, but since I had secured an internship in my home city it limited my options for going abroad. I decided to pursue one of my long lost passions, singing, despite my assumptions that I wouldn’t have enough time or that I wasn’t good enough to make good music.
While I was making my schedule for practice throughout the week I realized that an unnecessarily long amount of time doing nothing, browsing the internet, watching Netflix, etc. when I could actually be making progress towards my goals. I tried to fix this by scheduling small amounts of practice time throughout the week so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed trying to get all of my practice in the day before my lesson. I assumed that such a small amount of practice every day would be relatively easy to maintain but what ended up happening is that excuses start to build up and most days I would find some way to avoid practice. This realization made me value commitment a lot more and I actively tried to cut down on the number of excuses I had.
What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
My teacher was very good at pushing me outside of my comfort zone. In the first lesson during warm-ups he told me to put a kazoo below my nose with no explanation. I felt super self-conscious at first but I quickly realized why he had said that. By putting a kazoo next to your nose while you’re singing if you blow air out of your nose (which is bad) then it’ll make a sound and you’ll know to stop singing nasally. The important lesson there was that in order to improve you must shake your preconceived notions and fully trust your mentors because they know how to make you succeed.
There was a week that I didn’t practice as much as I should have, and when I walked into the lesson my teacher asked me if I still wanted to perform at the performance class the next day. I agreed to perform because I had a relatively easy song in mind and I was sure that I wouldn’t mess it up because I’ve sang it so many times. However, when it came my turn to perform the next day I went up to the piano, mostly confident, starting singing my piece, and what happened was that I wasn’t messing up the difficult parts that I always sang to myself and practiced but the easy parts that I didn’t pay attention to. This made me realize that practicing only the most difficult parts isn’t enough to make you better, it’s that a balanced training routine is required in order to become a consistent performer.
Whenever me and my music teacher started a lesson it was always up to me to pick which song I wanted to work on that day. In the beginning I chose a song that was relatively easy for me to sing, and I was able to work with that for a week or two but after that I wasn’t able to learn much from that song because it was so easy. So what I did in the weeks after I chose some of the most difficult songs that I could find, and while sometimes they would prove too challenging for me most of the time I was able to persevere and learn it over the course of a longer period of time, picking up new techniques along the way. My music teacher never refused to teach me a song no matter how difficult it was because he believed that with enough practice I could learn to sing as well as any professional artist. By going through this process with me he instilled in me the confidence to go after any song that I wanted because if I can’t do it, nobody can.
Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
This transformation was a valuable one in my life because especially at this time, when I’m graduating and almost ready to take on the real world with the skills and relationships that I’ve acquired in college, it’s important to remain confident in myself as challenges arise. Learning to sing is also a very vulnerable act, as you’re letting people listen to you and judge you on the sound of your voice, and by performing repeatedly I learned to be authentic and proud of who I am and express myself freely. In general, whether it be my personal or professional goals, I want to be a genuine, selfless leader and these are important steps in that journey.