Sing Because You Can
At 7PM on New Year's Day I landed in New York City. I barely dropped off my bags in my Upper West Side apartment and said hello to my roommate before heading back out into the street. Sure, it was pretty dang cold. Sure, I was exhausted from a day of travel and New Year's Eve festivities. Sure, I was all alone, but I couldn't wait to walk the streets of New York City.
I put on my winter coat and hat and practically skipped down the street. I headed toward Columbus Avenue. Then I walked downtown, and then I turned around and walked uptown. I passed couples and families enjoying their final weekend of holiday festivities. I peeked in Christmas decorated store fronts. I walked and I walked...and I could stop smiling.
After about an hour or so, I was frozen and starving, but still smiling. I decided I wanted sushi, so I stopped in one of my favorite sushi restaurants in my neighborhood, and sat down at the bar. (I judge sushi restaurants almost completely on their ginger dressing, and Tenzan has the second best ginger dressing after Kodama in Midtown.) I ordered a roll, a salad with that yummy ginger dressing, and a Diet Coke.
Sure enough, I started chatting with the Bartender (who's getting married soon!) and an older man who's a regular in Tenzan. His name was Billy. We exchanged holiday stories. He had spent a nice week with his family, and I told him how I had spent most of my holiday playing Wendy! I told him how excited I was to be back in New York City after being gone for two months.
"Boy that must have been fun!" He exclaimed. Billy went on to tell me, that before he got into working in computers, he had moved to New York City to become an opera singer. Billy was a successful tenor and traveled all over the world singing! We each shared stories from touring.
"Do you still sing?...Do you teach lessons or anything like that?" I wondered out loud. I figured Billy got into computers because he was tired of show biz, or wanted to have more time for family, or wanted to make more money, or perhaps he was retired! But then Billy revealed to me that he had gotten into a car accident and the injuries were so bad that he could no longer sing.
Billy seemed sad when he talked about it, but also accepting. "I just don't sound like myself at all. I really can't sing...even just for fun, I can't sing. But I was lucky to get out of that car accident and just be alive!"
Billy also added, "My job now makes me good money, and I'm finding other ways to be creative. I just recently took up photography and have already done a few small gigs on the weekends!"
I finished my sushi and told Billy it was nice chatting with him. "Oh, it was so nice to meet you. Welcome back home!" It's nice to be welcomed back to New York City by a stranger you just met an hour ago.
It's easy as a performer when making New Year's Resolutions to get caught up in all the jobs you want to book and the high notes you want to be able to hit and the money you would like to make in your singing and acting career and maybe lose for a moment a just how much fun it is to simply sing a song or work on a scene and explore a character. It just feels good. Just to be able to sing with and for others is such a gift. I hope I can sing forever, but I guess I never know when I might lose those little singing muscles. Talking to Billy reminded me how lucky I am to have such a fun job and such a special creative outlet like singing and acting.
When I got home that night my roommate asked me more about my time away. I told her I had been working extra hard at my guitar playing in Alabama and had written a few new songs and could even accompany myself on those songs pretty well now. She asked me if I would play one of my new songs. I sang her a new song I wrote called, 'Sand Castle.' I paid extra attention to the vibrations in my throat. I noticed my mouth and teeth shaping the words. I felt the strings of the guitar and noticed the way the tips of my fingers burned just a bit from all the extra playing I had been doing in the last couple days. I felt my heart pitter-patter a little faster because playing a song in front of anyone always make me a little nervous. I tried to enjoy it all.
Okay, Backstage Blogospherians, while you are making lists and New Year's Resolutions and practicing songs and monologues for auditions, don't forget to enjoy the whole journey and the whole process. Don't forget to sing just for your mom or your roommate or for yourself. Don't forget to sing just because you can.
-- Emily Kinney