What song should I sing?
W R I T T E N B Y Allison Mondel
This simple question can leave you wandering around for years:
What song should I sing??
Our attitude towards choosing repertoire is informed by many things: your tastes, your musical interests, your professional aspirations, your mood.
On the surface, the selection of one song does not seem like a big deal. But it can quickly lead to overwhelm. Why?
Because we attach so much of ourselves, and our worthiness, to what we sing. Questions abound about whether this is right for me; where will I ever perform this; does this define who I am as a human being; will people think I am strange or reaching too high or playing it too simple; will I be hired; will I be capable?
My friend, this is a lot to hold for one song. I know the feeling, though. Overwhelm is real, and in most cases it leads to inertia. If we cannot commit, we then leave this choice to someone else (like your voice teacher!), who may choose something out of alignment for you.
Choosing your repertoire does not need to be so emotionally laborious, if you are able to break down the process and reframe your approach.
When I worked as a voice teacher at the National Cathedral, I had to choose gajillions of songs for my students every semester, year after year. Out of necessity, I became nimble at selecting songs for each student, personally suited to each voice, personality, and desired musical and vocal goals.
I liken this process to wearing the Sorting Hat at Hogwarts: using my intuition, I would say the person’s name in my mind, and hear the title, or a composer’s name, or a genre, or some little breadcrumb that would lead me to some definitive choices for that student. I was not overwhelmed by the choosing, because I did not have any existential questions about their vocal futures! I was trying to serve their best and highest interest.
When we are young, or are beginners, we are always going to look to our teachers for guidance. If you have had any musical training at all, this is pro forma, and an important way to learn about repertoire, your aptitudes, skills, and tastes.
But what happens when you feel that inner pull towards something else? (I know you have.) Maybe something that other people either would not approve of, or agree with, or recommend? Or even something your past self would not understand.
Maybe you feel pulled towards something you don’t know about yet? A new genre, perhaps, or something else that is causing you to step outside of the box, or leading you into a new career path. Scary, right? Overwhelming?
That makes perfect sense. But let’s break this down. First of all, let us celebrate your urge to make your own music! This is a crucial first step on your voice journey, and as far as I am concerned, is totally awesome.
Your sacred voice is calling you to your purpose.
And then… stop. Wait. Where do you go from there?
This is where you are bombarded with all of those questions.
First of all, choosing one song does not determine your worthiness, or your career path, or your entire Self. It is one song.
A song does not define you. A song is a piece of art, created by another person, or people. You do not need to conquer a song. You enter into a creative relationship with a song. And guess what? Songs need singers to sing them. That’s you, my friend!
I believe that a song chooses you, as much as you choose a song.
I also know that other people have told you what songs you should sing. This may have been for very Good Reasons. I have chosen many songs for people to sing, all for the greater good of the student.
But as you evolve, you will notice – and feel – that the creative choices of other people and organizations are no longer aligned for you.
Because as a creative person, you are going to need to choose the musical vehicle for your own transformation, growth, and personal expression. That may be very different than what you know. That may intimidate you because it means stepping out of the only box you know. (Thank you, classical voice training.)
My friend, I applaud you. This is a big leap, and it is important. It feels scary, because it means you are reaching into a new level, and stepping closer towards your calling to use your voice in the world.
So when you feel overwhelmed, know that something big is moving through you. You are ready to make a leap for your voice, and yourself.
Not that I am any kind of authority, but if it helps, I give you full permission to sing whatever your Higher Self calls you to sing. Whether that means a big change, or something you never would have done before, or seems like a reach, or goes against everything your teacher has told you.
You must trust your own intuition and inner guidance. You must honor the force within you that says, “this song is calling to me.” Or follow your hunch to listen to something, or find the sheet music, or ask about something.
You may actually have to break some damn rules.
It is only by honoring our inner voice that we discover our true purpose. We must learn to recognize and shed the voices that hold us back. Sometimes they are the voices of others. More often it is your own Ego Voice, keeping you safe from unleashing that magnificent force you have held within you, but without a clue as to what to do, and hoping you will not actually die from choosing a song.
So we don’t choose at all. We would rather circle in a state of indecision than choose one, single, two-and-a-half-minute song that could make us shift into a state of being that is amplified, but unknown. Refreshed and quenched, but terrifying. Maybe even happy.
A song does not define you. A song helps you discover the best things about your voice. A song is a container for you to develop your artistry.
Try not to read any further. No existential crisis required. Just pick up a song. Literally any song. And follow your inner voice to what is next.
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