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Mission Motivation: Getting Started

Welcome to the year 2021 – we made it!

So much happened in 2020, but we’re not going to let it go to waste. We’ve learned how to have rehearsal online and that we can continue to learn from each other and about ourselves. We’ve learned how to create videos where we can “sing” together. We’ve relearned that technology is our forever frenemy.

Last year also brought on the big fundamental question: What does it mean to be a barbershopper beyond the competition? What is our motivation? 

Oh – is that a little heavy to start the year off with? It’s okay – I’m in the same boat as you.

I realized that my love for barbershop had a limit. As uncomfortable as that sounds, it’s at least a starting point to address where I stand. My reason for joining the Sweet Adelines world was of course the music and the women, but I found my motivating factor to improving myself and working on my vocal skills was dependent on the competition. With the cancelation of  competitive events added with the inability to meet in person for rehearsals, I was thrown into a tailspin.

So I asked myself – what’s your motivation? Why are you continuing to be a part of this world when your motivating factors are suspended? 

What does it mean to be a barbershopper beyond the competition?

This isn’t an easy question to answer and I definitely won’t answer it today, but I can start with the first step: home. This is where I have to currently work from and join rehearsals. Where does barbershop live when I’m at home? 

Have you ever been to a rehearsal where your director tells you to go home and learn a piece of music? What about practicing a new technique? Rehearsing your choreo? You nod your head and say to yourself, “Yeah, I can do that. Easy!”

And then you get home.

Is it ever that easy?

When I first joined Choral-Aires I was starving for music. After my first rehearsal, all I wanted to do was impress and make sure that I did everything I could to become a part of Choral-Aires. I learned my music quickly and throughout the week. The choreography was shortly learned after and then I was past the audition. After all of that, I felt compelled to do my best and continue to learn, but the life outside of the chorus that I had pushed to the side started to creep back in. 

I think we all have that moment whether it is having your first child, changing/pushing through the first years of your career, your interests changing, etc. where it feels like being sucked into a black hole for years. Chorus was always an anchor point for me – it kept me grounded during the worst years even when I felt horrible for not giving it my all. Probably a year after joining chorus, that moment hit me like a sledgehammer.

Chorus was still important as my anchor point, but that anchor point wasn’t located at home. And this is where the worst habit starts.  

I go to our rehearsal space once a week or on the weekends and I’m focused. Sometimes I’m tired or looking forward to a special event after rehearsal, but once I step into that space I know what I’m there for. It’s conditioning at its finest. There’s a groove that I just slide into and let it take me away for a few hours a week, (this is another bad habit, but more on that one later).

And then I get in my car and return to my life.

Despite all the emails and reminders to practice, I get into my car driving to practice the next week only to remember the assignment 15 minutes before I’m set to arrive. I panic, searching for my recordings so I can quickly practice with the now…crap, 10 minutes I have before I enter rehearsal. 

Still, I’d tell myself that I could pull it together when I need to and the bad habit continues. Oh sure, I’d have spurts of being proactive, but they never lasted long.

This bad habit became glaringly obvious when Covid-19 hit. 

The first thing I noticed is that I didn’t have a place to practice. It wasn’t that my husband hated hearing me singing the same thing over and over and OVER again or that I didn’t have access to a computer for rehearsals. I just didn’t feel comfortable singing anywhere in our home.

It started with wanting to be considerate to my neighbors since I live in a complex. Could they hear me? Were they annoyed that they were now subject to me singing the same thing over and over? Were they even more annoyed with the baritone part making absolutely no sense melody-wise? 

Slowly, I realized that it wasn’t just the neighbors I was worried about. None of the rooms in my house are acoustically to my taste. Singing downstairs feels like a cave while upstairs sounds like I’m singing in a closet and I found a point on the stairs where I can be heard in any part of the house. Useful, but probably not great for my husband trying to work from home. 

One thing after another, I found more reasons not to practice at home. I ended up going to my parents – a place I’d never felt uncomfortable singing in before. I practiced at work in the early hours while restocking the first aid room or making my coffee. But the home I grew up in didn’t feel the same and unless I was in rehearsal or practicing with my mom, I didn’t sing a note. I kept running into people at work who’d have questions about projects I was working on or looking for help completely distracting me.

The final nail in the coffin was at the end of the day, no one was listening to me anyway. I feel connected during rehearsal knowing that the women on the screen are singing with me, but I can’t hear them. I just hear myself, softly singing with a recording. 

Where does that leave me? With no space to sing, vocal cords starting to crack and resist, and pent up creative frustration that has to go somewhere. Hello, cupcakes…crap.

When I’m organizing a new project at work, I like to start from the ground up. I know that laying down a solid foundation first ensures that whatever may come later doesn’t shake the whole structure. While any project must have flexibility, the base must be solid. This can be a mission statement or base of operations/guidelines. 

And that’s exactly what I plan to use in the next couple of weeks as I work to rekindle my motivation. I’m going to find out what I need to start singing again. First, I have to find my singing “space”.

Tune in next week as I explore the first stage of my Motivation Mission 2021: Creating the Space


Published by sjungblut

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

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