Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Turn, turn, turn

There is a time for everything. And this, it seems, is the time for me to start pursuing music.

"Music?" you ask sarcastically. "Really, Shannon? How long, exactly, has it taken you to figure this out?" My answer is: 24 years, good sirs and madams. Even though I've been actively musician-ish since the tender age of... oh, probably 3 or 4. Who would've thunk.

It's true. It took me almost 24 years to realize that music was what I wanted to be involved in. That singing, in particular, is what I want to dedicate myself to. Granted, there were little signs and hints along the way. I minored in music at PLU, playing in the wind ensemble and (in my last semester) singing in combo class. I was in our church choir when we lived in Seattle. I took a smattering of vocal jazz lessons. I joined the wind ensemble when we moved to Missoula. I conceded that I wanted to study music - in an academic vein, the philosopher in me insisted - and started working towards a second BA in music history so that I could apply to graduate programs in musicology. And I enrolled in jazz combo instead of wind ensemble when I officially became a student.
That last step, it seems, was my downfall. Jazz just swallowed me up and kept me comfy and incredulous at the same time. And this fall, things started happening that woke me up to the power of this music in my life. Our combo was performing. I liked singing. I started taking lessons regularly, practicing... practicing! I had never practiced singing before (at least, with any sort of rigor). And suddenly, something said "New York" and I didn't immediately dismiss the thought. "New York," the idea said again, expanding itself in my consciousness, and I allowed it to make its way through my mind. I poked it a little, but not much. Let the idea expand, I thought, and we will think and hope and pray and maybe be able to do this in a rational way. There were, of course, the "what are you thinkings" and "be logicals" and "really, you are going a bit crazies" that lashed out, on instinct, at this idea. But the idea didn't care. It had grabbed hold of the other parts of me that wanted, wanted, wanted the possibility of jazz to work. As it turns out, those parts are fighting harder against the unbelieving parts every day. And they're starting to win the logical side over. Now it butts in with "oh look, there are plenty of administrative assistant positions available in New York, and they actually pay a decent wage," and "oh look, apartments in New York would be affordable if I had a day job" and "New York is really the best place for this sort of thing, so it's the most logical choice." Funny how things change. Or assimilate. Or evolve.
Jazz is like a weed, tunneling through the soft dirt of my life. I could try to rip it out, but its fractured roots would hang around, biding their time to erupt back into bloom.
And so, it seems that I have decided to cast aside academia (at the moment) and abandon a second degree. As prestigious and useful as a BA in music history is. she said sarcastically.
I clung, for a while, to the academics. It's more reasonable, I told myself, and performance is no real career. Getting a PhD shows that you've made use of your time. Becoming a professor means you're smart, educated, etc. Singing does not do that. Singers are not generally considered PhD-level intelligent. No offense, singers, but I was asked if I could read music by a saxophonist last year. Because that's what instrumentalists think of singers. (I can read music, by the way. I started playing the clarinet when I was 8, for goodness' sake.) But the idea in my mind was that only unreasonable people would choose to perform rather than... y'know, do something else. Like get a real job, etc.
I suppose it's all folly, though, in one way or another. Performance isn't necessarily a stable career choice. But neither, really, is getting a PhD. Not until you get tenure, and even then... in this economic climate, even tenure isn't a guarantee. And I don't want tenure. I don't want something that says, "congratulations, you're here for forever!" Not right now, at least. And I'm realizing that I don't necessarily want to teach in that mode, anyways. If I want to teach at all (which is not really all that certain).
I remember thinking when I was little that I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn't want to be a teacher. That conception has morphed somewhat in the last several years, but still. I think I tricked myself into thinking that being a professor would be the type of teaching I would like. Probably because it means you're really smart, and I would like to show people that I'm really smart. And again, singers don't really exude intelligence. Or I don't feel like they do. Because I'm an instrumentalist, gosh darn it, and me and all my instrumentalist friends KNOW that those singers are the lazy type of musicians.
But y'know what? I'm a good singer. There. I said it. I don't say that almost ever. Because I want to be humble. And humble people don't boast. I know that I am not the best singer. I still have a huge heaping ton of things to learn and work on. But I'm good at singing, good enough to work on it, good enough to devote myself to it - for a time, at least. And if I don't, I realize now that I will wish I had. So, in the interest of not turning into someone who wishes their life away on things they never do, I am moving. I am moving to New York. I am moving to New York to become a gigging musician. A singer of Jazz. And I will work and I will work until I'm awesome. And I will get paid to be awesome. And I will fall in love with New York and do my best to get New York to fall in love with me. Small parts of it, at least.

I don't think I've ever dreamed this big. Even though this is still the small type of dreaming big. But it's bigger than I'm used to. I've spent all my time thus far trying to be reserved, keeping things in check, holding on to reality. But something is changing, and I want to change with it. So. Here goes.

1 comment:

  1. Shannon, you are awesome and New York will fall in love with you. I'm really proud of you and, even though it won't be easy and it may not fall into place right away, I know you can do this.