Saturday, June 1, 2013

I Am But My Own Voice

With All-Star students
before a show

How can I sing like Lea Salonga?  How can I belt like Regine Velasquez?  How about sing like Mr. Pure Energy, Gary Valenciano?  How can I sound like the Concert King, Martin Nievera?  The ultimate answer is that you can’t, so stop trying.  Does that seem harsh?  The reason I say that may not be exactly what you think.  The reason they are so highly looked up to is because they have become whom they are, they are unique, and they were able to find their own voice.  They don’t try and sound like other singers, they are confident in themselves and what they have to offer.

Two times in the past few weeks I have been put in a situation to give advice about singing.  To be honest, the first was unsolicited, but was posted on Twitter.  A young girl here in Cebu mentioned that she loved singing and wanted to take it up again.  But she was discouraged in listening to other people sing because she didn’t feel like she was good enough.  She said, “Even if I do my best, there are always some who are better.  How could I even excel?”  My response was that there will always be someone better than you out there in the world in almost everything you do.  If you focus on that, you will never live a happy life.  Be happy and confident in who you are and what you can offer.  You are the best at being you, actually you are the only person in the world who can be you!  I would never sing another song if I only thought about all the people who I consider to be better singers than myself.  But I know that I am the only person on this Earth who can sing like me and I take pride in that.
Performing with some of the kids of
The School of Rock

The second person is a friend and fellow USJ-R student who was not happy with the lack of his high vocal range.  He thought that he wasn’t a good singer because he couldn’t hit the high notes.  My advice to him was that maybe he wasn’t meant to sing those notes.  That’s not his voice.  Instead, find the songs that are in your own range that work for you.  We see it all the time in all of the television singing competitions; people don’t give themselves a fighting chance because they pick the wrong songs for their own voice.  Find what works for you and what showcases your own voice  If you have a great low range, then find a song that fits and go for it!  Don’t put somebody else’s standards to yourself, because you will never be in control of that.  Regain control and be happy with who you are.

Holding a workshop with students
Now that I am working with the next generation of singers at our school, The School of Rock, I am always telling our students to find their own voice.  In my first set of examples of great singers, you can learn from the singing of Lea Salonga, Regine Velasquez, Gary Valenciano, and Martin Nievera but that doesn’t mean that you have to sound like them.  When we are young and learning how to speak, we start by listening and repeating, but eventually we have to learn how to put our own sentences together.  The same should be said for learning how to sing.  When I was young, I studied the recordings of Whitney Houston, and I memorized every riff, every chorus, and every tiny quality of her voice.  But as I grew, I wanted to use what I learned and make my own.  We eventually stop repeating word for word and express our own ideas while speaking; if only it would transfer when people learn to sing.

Before a show with our students
Something else that I’ve learned while teaching is the importance of character and attitude.  This has always been my philosophy when performing, but it has been driven home now that I am on the teaching side.  I would always prefer to work with somebody who has good character and a great attitude than somebody who might be more talented but a real pain to work with.  I think this is something that younger performers don’t always understand.  It is NOT only about talent.  It doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you make people not enjoy working with you, they will never want to hire you.  Another thing I have to mention is the important of timeliness.  Showing up on time is something I stress to all of our students.  I must admit that it is something I picked up while working abroad, but I refuse to give in to “Filipino time.”  For me, time is respect.  If you show up late, you are telling the other people that you do not value or respect their time, that you feel your time is more important than theirs.  But anyway back to my main topic…

Me with Mr. C.  L: in early 2000's, R: PhilPop in 2013
If you are a person who wants to try something new, risky, or challenging, that means you seek for growth.  But on the other hand, if you choose instead to give reasons and excuses, then you will always just be stuck with where you are.  There are times in your life that you have to take a risk or else you may find yourself stuck.  I’ve always been a risk taker.  I’m proud of that fact and it has almost always resulted in personal and professional growth.  When I was 15 years old, my English teacher Mrs. Belleza encouraged me to take the bus from Lutopan into Cebu to audition for Mr. C.  I didn’t even know what the audition was for, but it eventually gained me a spot in Smokey Mountain and touring in Japan.  I experienced a lot of firsts at that time in my life: my first plane ride, first formal vocal training and workshops, which led me to my first time performing outside of the country.  It was actually during those vocal workshops that Mr. C passed along this same bit of advice on to me.  He encouraged me not to sound like anyone but me, because that is the best thing that I could offer the world.  At the age of 16, I was a skinny, curly-haired, brown girl from the mountains of Lutopan and I was on my first international tour.  Again in 1998, I took a risk of leaving in the middle of my studies at USJ-R in Cebu to move to Manila and pursue a singing career.  My dean, Dr. Mila Espina, encouraged me to go, saying that school would always be there when I wanted to go back (children reading this: School is very important and I did complete my degree.  Better late than never!).  That risk led to so many experiences and growth that I will never regret.
1994 Asia Music Festival in Tokyo, Japan with Chedi and Jason, as a member of Smokey Mountain

Every day we are given the choice to find ourselves and take a risk.  Or we can choose to stay in our comfort zone and just follow along with everyone else.  I would always encourage aspiring singers, or whoever for that matter, to always find yourself and find your own voice.  Embrace your uniqueness and what makes you different from everyone else on this planet.  I tell myself everyday that I am Anna Fegi-Brown.  Nobody else in the world can say that.  You might want to try it!  As soon as you wake up, say your name out loud, you are unique, you are one, and you are different and the world must know it! 
Performing at the Queen of Cebu pageant in Nov. 2012

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