Ready to reappear from my self-imposed hiatus and once again try my skill in the operatic arena. You see, roughly ten years ago, after having been initially diagnosed as baritone and having sung for many years as such, I discovered I was a tenor. One day in a lesson a pair of Gabriel Kahane's Craigslistlieder proved to me and my teacher, Jean-Ronald "Ron" Lafond, that when I didn't manufacture a darker sound, a clearer, more natural sound emerged. The next lesson I brought Alfredo's aria from La traviata and it felt easier than any of my high baritone repertoire. We were convinced, but few others were. Some colleagues didn't believe I could possibly be a tenor, and others thought I was delusional. Who starts a Fach change at my age?! Well... me.
There was no choice really. As humiliating as it was to feel like a complete beginner, back at square one technically, this was the path I had to walk. I had to find the true and full potential of my instrument, and potential of myself as a singing artist. I settled in for what would be a long and challenging journey. Frustratingly I would age out of YAPS and most competitions before the transition was complete. The only upside was that my new Fach was a relatively rare one: spinto tenor.
The early part of the transition was utterly confusing, even under Ron's guidance. One day the voice needed brightness and another day richness (you need both for vocal chiaroscuro), one day it felt easy and the next labored, one day my high Bb would ring brilliantly and the next it would crack into a million pieces! Progress was slow and taught me patience and humility. For me there would be no shortcuts as I transitioned from baritone to tenor.
For so long, I didn't feel "ready". Oh I know, sometimes it's the mind stopping us from accomplishing what we might. This was different; I didn't know from one day to the next what to expect from my throat. For a professional singer, that is absolutely terrifying. Slowly (and non-linearly) I gained consistency and calm. Part of that progress was technical, but more of it was mental. Piecing it all together was the hardest thing I've ever done.
At various intervals along the way I would try out my chops. At first, I was jumping at the chance for any small opportunity. Often though, my voice or nerves would betray me, and the experience would leave emotional scars. I really wasn't "ready". Over time though, I continued to seek out occasional opportunities, both concert and opera. Gradually I found small successes: a Messiah in my hometown, covering Tamino (and going one once!), singing Jose in two productions of Carmen, and most recently a three tenors concert.
Yet after each of these, I realized how much work there was still to do: releasing fear, releasing breath, balancing brilliance and space, trusting and not controlling, etc. So I scheduled more lessons with Ron and went back to working out my vocal issues. With time I truly did fall in love with the process and let go of attachment to a specific result. I knew I would succeed, and it would take as long as it would take.
Friends and colleagues would ask what's next for me, and I would tell them: nothing, I'm not "ready" to audition again. They thought I was just fearful. Well, I was fearful, but I was also not ready. I refused to put myself out there when I simply couldn't trust my voice. Why waste everyone's time?!
The biggest change came two and a half years ago: I met a woman, fell in love, got married. When I moved in, her two children welcomed me warmly. Having previously been so completely sure that I'd missed my chance at love and a family, I now had both. Last November our daughter Ella joined us, and my heart has never felt so full. The loving support of my family has nurtured me in ways I couldn't have imagined, including vocally. We've hosted frequent house concerts and I've performed more in the past two years than in the previous eight. As a result I’ve learned new repertoire, rediscovered the joy of singing, and begun to release fear and to trust my voice again.
Will the fear ever disappear completely? Maybe not, but it no longer paralyzes me. The lack of consistency I experienced in the transition is behind me. Day after day my voice feels more dependable and true. Will it be enough get me hired? Stay tuned…