After the shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December, I had what alcoholics may refer to as “a moment of clarity.” I’ve written before about my inner conflict with performing as something that I see as fundamentally selfish. (I know many performers who see performing as quite the opposite: as a service. I should say that for me, personally, performing feels like a very selfish endeavor. And if I’m being totally honest — and I am — the real reason I like performing is that I really like the attention. This self-perceived selfishness has always been an issue for me, for as long as I can remember, and I think my guilt about pursuing a performance career is ultimately what led me to abandon it.) Obviously, I have a very complicated relationship with myself as a performer, and I think my reasons for spending a decade trying to make it as one (working through my psychological baggage?) have been mostly resolved in my real life, so I don’t feel a need to perform like I used to. It used to be my therapy. It was cheaper than actual therapy, and I even got paid to do it, so it was kind of a win-win, right? I digress.
I want to help. After the shootings in Newtown and the bombings in Boston this week, I feel a need to help — to make a fundamental difference in the lives of people who need a way to process, who need a way to heal, who need a way to cope with something that doesn’t make sense. You could argue that making people laugh and entertaining them is helping, and I don’t disagree. There have been magical theatre moments when my cast and I have absolutely connected and had a shared emotional experience with our audience, but those moments are rare and probably the very reason that we keep chasing them show after show. But like any career, mostly you just go to work and do your job. And if I am making a difference to my fellow humans, it’s in some abstract, metaphysical way. And this may be enough for many performers, but I want to contribute in a more concrete, tangible, and direct manner, which keeps bringing me back to teaching and music therapy.
More than the technical aspects of singing, I love the deep, personal connection I have with my students. Voice lessons are a lot like therapy. They felt that way to me, and I’ve heard many music teachers say that they are indeed part therapist. This is my very favorite part of teaching. I’ll be teaching private voice at the community music school in Athens, Ohio, starting this fall, and I am so excited about it. I’m also secretly thrilled that OU has a music therapy program, and I may be able to get a master’s/equivalency degree in music therapy. This direction feels better. I feel like I’m getting warmer.4