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Start Saying Yes

When I was younger, I felt like I had all the time in the world. I had plenty of responsibilities to my family, friends, school and programs that I signed up for and yet I always viewed my time as flexible and endless. As I move into my last year in my 20’s I long for that feeling. Where I once would say yes to trying anything I now hesitate.

This is a part of life. The time after high school where you set out to find who you are and what you want to do with your life. Some people are lucky and know from the moment they’re born the life they wish to live, but I’ve never been one of them. I, like so many others, struggled outside of school and through my 20’s. The adjustment of responsibility to taking care of yourself by finding a place to live, finding a job and maintaining any semblance of a social life with family or friends begins to look a lot like Ninja Warrior obstacle course.

During these years, it becomes harder and harder to say yes to new things. Slowly that time I always thought I had was taken up by work and family and left me wondering where the day went. I started to become closed off. All of my energy was devoted to work and just staying on top of things. I have always treasured my alone time like a dragon guarding its gold, but when you come to a point in your life where you realize that you haven’t seen anyone outside of your daily schedule you have to question if its always going to be like this for the rest of your life. No connection; nothing new.

It was during this time that a life lesson – one that I had recognized, but never fully understood – made me realize I had two choices: I could continue on as anxiety, stress and disconnection ate away at me or I could acknowledge that I needed to make time for myself and start reconnecting with the outside world again. The realization that I needed to start saying yes again meant I had to rearrange my whole routine. It was hard at first, but I managed to set aside time each day that remained “open” to whatever came my way.

What I didn’t take into account was the change in social patterns. I had grown up just hearing about events from flyers or calling up my friends to go out and walk around. By this time, most of my friends lived out of state and I didn’t see many opportunities in groups to join. It seemed alien to walk into any group event I wasn’t invited to. Everything was now online or on apps. Searching through the countless social groups, it was hard to find something I didn’t immediately want to say, “I don’t know about that.” With only a few sentences and colorful pictures to describe each new social group I found it hard to make a decision.

I did try a couple of groups. Some I found enjoyable, but I didn’t connect with any of the people. I felt like I was networking for my career rather than just enjoying the company and shared interests.

Out of the blue, my mom told me about a singing group that practices in Elmhurst. Someone she knew was a member and she thought it would be something I could try. I had already tried other musical groups and couldn’t seem to commit. Would this be any different?

I asked if there was anything I needed to bring or if I needed to audition first; anything I needed to do to prepare. “Nope. Just get your butt over there,” was my mother’s reply.

The rest is history. I arrived, I saw and now I sing.

I’ve had several conversations with old school buddies, co-workers and even complete strangers about singing in Choral-Aires. They love to hear about my time as a Choral-Aire and say, “Well that sounds like a lot of fun!” I’ve invited many of them to come sing, but I usually get:

“Oh I can’t sing like that.”

“I can’t read music.”

“I don’t know if I have the time. I’m so busy right now.”

“That sounds like a lot of fun, but I’m not sure.”

I understand. I truly do because I’ve been there and I’ve used some of those excuses. From one day to the next, time is suddenly in short supply and devoting it to anything we don’t know is difficult. But I have to wonder if we disregard any opportunity because we truly are too busy or just because we don’t know what to expect. So let’s address each of these rationalizations one by one.

I can’t sing like that.

Yes -yes you can. The Choral-Aires Chorus is full of women from all walks of life. We’re not performers or musicians through our day jobs. Majority of us haven’t even been through music or voice lessons. A lot of us have never performed on a stage or learned choreography before. It’s not something I would ever expect every new member to be experienced in. We all started singing through church choirs, school or simply by turning on the radio. We all love to sing and that’s all that really matters. We sing, learn and push ourselves to become singers and then we push ourselves some more!

I can’t read music

If there’s one thing about music I know, it’s that you don’t need to be trained in it to be able to enjoy or perform it.

I went to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp for 7 summers. Otherwise known as Fine Art Bootcamp, students would spend at least two weeks immersed in whatever art they had applied for. As a piano student, I had private lessons, music theory lessons, music appreciation lessons, duet lessons every day and had to memorize and perform a piece by the end of the two weeks. A lot of time during our day outside of our daily classes was assigned to practicing in our own individual practice rooms. However, like all children left unsupervised, my fellow classmates and I would spend time with each other playing around and listening to each other show off our piano skills. One summer, I walked into a room where a boy named Leif was sitting at his piano playing a beautiful melody. As his fingers lazily wove around the keys, he swayed back forth breathing deeply with eyes closed. I listened silently by the door for a minute or two. I couldn’t figure out what piece he was playing. Rudely, I interrupted him by asking him what he was playing. He smiled and said, “I’m just goofing off.”

As I got to know him, I found out that he actually didn’t know how to read music and had only started learning recently. He just sat at the piano and improvised. I was trained from a young age and improvisation was never something that came naturally to me. Years later, I thought back on that moment and realized that music came naturally to him because learning to read notes weren’t important to him. He enjoyed experimenting and learning what sounded good to him on his own. He breathed and music came out.

Many of the women in Choral-Aires do not know how to read music and yet we all are able to sing pieces and perform them. We all work together and support each other as we learn our melodies. Though sheet music is provided, we also have recordings of each individual part to practice. We record ourselves so we can improve on our own. We breathe and music comes out.

I don’t know if have the time. I’m so busy right now.

I know exactly how you feel. There are some days I come home and all I want is to be left alone, clean my home and finally read that book that’s been collecting dust on my night stand. But even at home, I’m still facing my own personal stresses and responsibilities; chores that must be completed, bills to pay and plans for the future. The stresses of everyday life can be ruthless and leave long lasting marks in our routines.

There are times that I don’t wish to leave the comfort of my home, but when I get to the chorus I know that I can let myself relax and slip into just enjoying the company of others singing with me. There isn’t anything I have to do, but sing. I feel the stress slide away and I always leave rehearsals with a clear head and light heart.

It might seem small, those three hours I spend once a week singing, but it has changed my life. I have a place where I can let go and just be me with no expectations. I learned that taking time from your busy schedule and setting it aside for just yourself leads to a balanced and happy life. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

That sounds like a lot of fun, but I’m not sure.

Trying something new requires trust. What I found when I went and tried different groups was them wanting all my information and then getting hounded by updates and requests and being asked for money. It’s a great deterrent and unfortunately affects anyone from trying other groups in fear that they’ll have the same experience everywhere.

When I walked into my first rehearsal the only two questions I was asked were: “What’s your name?” and “How did you hear about the Choral-Aires?” There weren’t any papers to sign or information exchanged other than a binder full of sheet music and general information about the chorus.

I also think people who try new groups become overwhelmed. They see where joining this group will take them and how much time and money they’ll need to be spend to completely divulge before entering the door. They talk themselves out of it before even experiencing anything.

There wasn’t any expectation asked of me other than to sing. For weeks I simply arrived, was handed a binder full of music and sang the night through. I didn’t think about the road that it would lead me down because I just enjoyed the fact that I was able to walk in and sing and be supported for nothing in return. I later joined because I wanted more and I knew that whatever I put forward would be on my terms.

I could go on to tell you more of the benefits of becoming a Choral-Aire or just becoming a barbershopper in general, but here’s the bottom line: You have to say yes to the experience. I mentioned before that there are no words I could use to describe the entirety of barbershop and it’s because the experience itself is unique. There’s really nothing like it and you’re in luck – there’s nothing you need to do or bring, but a love to sing to try it out.

Reasons to say yes:

If you love to sing

If you need to get out of your head, house, or leave that crummy day you had at work behind

If you want to meet women of all ages, backgrounds and interests

If you want to try something new

If you love music

If you love to have fun

If you need to reconnect

Remember, rehearsals are every Monday night at 7:00pm. Location of rehearsals can be found on our website at https://choral-aires.com/

We’ll see you there soon!

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Published by sjungblut

A woman in the workforce by day, a singer by night, an artist in between it all.

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