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When I announced to my parents I wanted to major in voice at the end of my freshman year of high school, they thought it was a joke. And they laughed about it and told me it was funny. It took a year for it to sink in that I was serious. I don't blame them. I've had many hobbies in the past - ice skating, ballet, art, math olympiad - and none of it lasted long. They had no reason to trust a 15-year-old with the attention span of a squirrel to actually carry through on the "whole singing thing." Back when I told them of my newly-found dream, I had just completed my first year of choir and a total of 4 months of voice training. During that time, I had, somehow, gotten into both sectional- and regional honor choir and spend two glorious weekends rehearsing and performing. I was hooked.
My parents, though lax compared to most other Chinese parents, had their eyes set on something more practical for me: business. I'd always been good at math and science. And, what's more, I genuinely enjoyed it. Though I told people that I was taking AP Chem just to get the GPA bump, the truth was I loved every minute of it. But music became a big part of my life. I looked forward to choir and band more than anything else. I loved belting out show tunes in my room and annoying the neighbors. And, during those rare honor choir weekends, I would pretend that this is what I did for a living and sang like I was being paid for it. For my last two years of high school, I commuted an hour each way to my voice lesson every week, sometimes twice a week. I was in love with singing. I couldn't imagine not doing it for a living.
And then college application time rolled around. My parents were worried that I'd started too late to get into a performance program. Plus, even if I did, what are the chances I'd have a stable career? They picked seven schools for me, all for music education, music business, and general arts degrees. I got to pick three that I actually wanted to go to, but also for music education. I didn't care at the time. As long as I got into a music program, I was happy.
One crazy year later, I was starting as a music education major at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, one of the best schools for music educators in the country. I went to the mandatory music ed meeting during orientation, and promptly changed my BM in Ed to a BA in Music the first week of school. My argument, which I still 100% agree with: the world doesn't need another bad music teacher. See, I've been blessed with so many good music teachers. But I've also seen my fair share of teachers who would rather be doing something else. I didn't want to be one of those teachers who would rather be performing and blame their students for their current position.
My first voice lesson went something like this:
Me: I want to be a voice performance major.
My teacher: What major are you now?
Me: Music ed. But I don't really want to do the whole... teaching thing...
My teacher: Well, I have to hear you sing, but you can audition into it.
Me: Oh great! When can I do that?
Cut to me unable to do any simple vocalizes because of my unhealthy belt habit and my split register. Really though, I had a gigantic hole in my middle voice.
For the next two years, I would ask my teacher every other lesson when I would be ready to audition into voice performance. I'm not exaggerating when I say I have the best voice teacher in the world. She was patient, kind, insightful, and gave me all the courage to keep trying. After two years of hard work, but also multiple break downs and a brief period as a voice and piano double major (wow did that end quickly), I was finally declared ready to go for it. (Of course, that was also the last chance for me to try. We literally waited until the last possible moment.) Three songs and multiple questions later, I was accepted. I cried tears of happiness and began preparing for my now-mandatory junior recital.
The rest of my college career passed in a blur. I almost failed my level three jury, but somehow got through by the skin of my teeth. After that, I went to Florence, Italy to study Italian opera. I took lessons in the city twice a week. I sang my senior recital without forgetting a word. I got to be a part of the group that sang at both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. I graduated a semester earlier than expected. And I got cast in my first show since high school.
I look back at that 15-year-old girl who has barely started and I see how far I've come. I am thankful for every one of my educators, and especially my current voice teacher for believing in me and giving me a chance. I am thankful for my parents who took some convincing and a few years to come around, but are now fully supportive of my dream.
I had just become truly comfortable at school, and now I'm out of it. I'll go to a bigger pond, where I'm the smallest fish once again. It's a scary though. New York City is a big place. But hopefully, seven years down the road, I'll look back at me now - 22, just out of college, full of fear and anticipation - and I'll think to myself: I've come so far.