Archive for sing

Risk, continued

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

This month I am taking the risk I’ve written about several times: I’m singing a *recital in just a few short days.

I’ve done so much to prepare for this that it feels like less of a risk than it did. But it’s still challenging, and I’m still nervous. I think I will be jubilant when it’s actually happening. I imagine myself standing in front of my friends, in a space I love, singing music I’ve chosen, and smiling from ear to ear. I can already feel the glow that will fill me when I realize I’m actually doing this.

I want to risk experiencing that glow. I want to let myself relax about everything that’s worrying me.  I want to risk feeling excitement, joy, and freedom as I sing. I want to prepare as much as I can prepare, and then let go.

Simply deciding to do this concert has brought about a change in my life. When you decide to work on your voice, you start poking around a part of yourself that feels very vulnerable.  How we speak is a huge part of who we are, or at least who we think we are. Choosing to release tension in my voice requires admitting that the tension is there. I’ve had to work in two directions:  physically, releasing bodily tension to let my soul sing, and spiritually, releasing soul tension to let my body sing.

One of my voice coaches says that we sing as a gift to others. We take a song and polish it so that we can give it away. I find that to be a beautiful image, because it takes the focus off me, the singer, and puts it on the gift and on the recipient. Self-consciousness, the source of my tension, dissolves as I focus on giving something away.

Here’s what he says about taking a deep breath to sing: “Fill the basket, and then feed the masses.” Isn’t that lovely? If I hadn’t decided to risk a concert, I never would have learned that.

What I’m saying is that risking this concert has turned out to be a gift to me. I’ve learned a great deal, not just about vocal technique, but about speaking the truth and sharing my heart. I think my next risk is simply to keep taking this one, and see where it leads.

This post first appeared on my RiskADay blog project, which has now concluded.

*A note from Laura: Check out this short, delightful video taken right after Carolyn’s recital by clicking here. Enjoy!

Carolyn Cook is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. She now blogs at

Singing a New Song

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I can sing.

It still feels risky just to write those words, but today I am smiling about them. I took a risk, and it’s really paying off.

When I was a girl, I sang all the time. My mother sang around the house, off-key, but with joyful abandon. She sang hymns and old songs as she cooked and cleaned (somehow combining this with a career as a college math professor). I inherited her love of music. I sang in church choirs and school choruses and high school musicals. I loved it, and I was good at it.

But for reasons I won’t go into here, I left singing behind somewhere in my twenties, and when I became a professional actor I was careful not to put myself out there as a singer. I wasn’t well-trained, so I sounded amateurish in comparison to the amazing belters who did the big shows. I developed a career as an actor in straight plays. I thought that was enough.

But sometime in the last decade, singing began to gnaw at me. Some wild faerie demon angel in me wanted to get out and sing. I wasn’t equipped to help her, because she needed access to my vocal apparatus and it wasn’t up to the task. Any effort just to sing ended in tears and frustration, because my voice tired quickly. I was using it well as an actor, but not as a singer, and I was afraid of doing damage that would ultimately hurt my acting career.

Note the words “I was afraid.”

I was afraid of much more than vocal damage. I was afraid of failing as a singer. I was afraid of succeeding as a singer. I was afraid of making a fool of myself. I was afraid of everything that had to do with growing as a singer. It felt very, very risky.

But I couldn’t ignore the voice within. After failing to break through my barriers with several voice teachers, I found help with Laura. She didn’t teach me to sing, but she helped me give myself permission to welcome the song back into my life.

Slowly, slowly, I inched toward a willingness to open my heart and my voice. I worked with more teachers.  I stuck to it.  I joined a choir, and then a chorale.  I sang a solo in church. I sang poorly, and yet I didn’t die or lose all my friends. The floor did not open up and swallow me. (I wished it would, but it didn’t.) I lived, and I learned from my mistakes. I found better teachers and began making real progress. Somewhere along the way I stopped needing to cry.

A couple of years ago I took a leap of faith and auditioned for a musical.  I didn’t get cast, but I gave a good audition, and I was satisfied.  I thought that was the end of the story, but it wasn’t; a few months ago I auditioned for another musical, and I actually sang with something resembling confidence.  Again, I didn’t get the job, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that I had put myself out there for a musical audition. I had let myself risk wanting to sing.

Then came last Friday. I auditioned for a small part that has a little song. The diretor, who knows me only as an actor, asked me, “Do you sing? I’ve never heard you sing.”

And I said, “Oh yes, I sing. You’ve never heard me, because I used to be too shy to sing. But I do.”

Then I sang.

That’s it. There’s no fairy-tale ending to this. The director didn’t leap out of his chair and beg me to be in his next Broadway production. I just sang my song, better than I have ever sung it, and I knew that something had changed. I’m a singer now. He recognized it, and so did I.

I may or may not get the part. But I’ll never forget what it felt like to say, with complete assurance, those words that once felt so incredibly risky:

“Oh, yes. Yes. I sing.”

This post first appeared on

Carolyn Cook is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship.

Poetry and the Olympics: Olga, Gabby, Little and Grown Up Me

I am writing this post with tears in my eyes, having just watched an amazing special on Olga Korbut.  Wow, what a difference she made on the sport of Gymnastics, in the hearts of those who watched her, and, as they pointed out, in the Soviet – U.S. relations.  The story about her moment with Richard Nixon alone is priceless!  I am thinking about our current darling, Gabby Douglas, and how the two of them are so much alike, with their enthusiastic spirits!

And now, for today’s poem, is one I wrote about me – another then and now story, of sorts..

Wanting for Myself and Others 

I grew up wanting to be somebody
Else.  Like many little girls, I
Put on skits,
Sang with records, was
Sensitive and dramatic.

I ended up on stage
For money, for love,
For friends, for myself.
Although who was that?
Who was I?

I knew whose voices I admired
So I used theirs, or some
Facsimile therof.
I performed so well
I became unwell.

Now the long road
To recovery discovery
Continues and I
Listen for my voice,
Hoping for

Others to
Use it to
Find their
Own True