Strengthening My Voice Amid Stress as a Rising Senior

This semester, without doubt, has been another busy yet fulfilling one. Next week, for instance, will consist of an average of one public speaking engagement (e.g. admissions panel, hosting a federal judge)/final presentation each day for me. Amid all the stress and excitement, it is not too self-indulgent for me to reflect on some of the positive experience that I have had. I would specifically point to my decision to make physical fitness a number one priority this semester — no matter how busy I get, I would never allow excuses not to work out. Consistently doing aerobics, zumba, tennis, and weight training would have probably seemed like a nightmare to the old me who didn’t believe in investing the energy and time in doing physical exercises. Now, it has become something that I actively look forward to each week as a vehicle for stress relief and a source of fun, often with friends. Another commitment that has delighted me consistently are the voice lessons that I will discuss later in this piece.

One of the events I recently hosted - the Sigma Delta Pi initiation ceremony at the 5 Claremont Colleges.
One of the events I recently hosted – the Sigma Delta Pi initiation ceremony at the 5 Claremont Colleges.

I have grown over the course of the semester, been honored with some reassuring new accomplishments, and been challenged to think about things that I need to work on in order to push my own limits further. As a rising senior in college, I am looking forward to post-college-graduation life and am working towards my goals. Admittedly, the sheer level of stress sometimes overwhelms me in an unhealthy way — so many items to complete and so little time that result in moments of self-blame and frustration whenever I’m being unproductive. As a result of the self-blame, I often feel even more unproductive at the thought of wasting time contemplating on the things I could have done better. Of course, no one is a machine. Some people think that I’m close enough to being one, though, and even joke about it. I still have an unhealthy mentality, however, that goes hand in hand with my perfectionism that is often manifested in overstudying and overthinking things. Each minute that elapses seems to escape into the abyss of an endless labyrinth beyond my reach and control. It is easy to lose oneself amid the constant anxiety over what will happen to me after graduation. In short, this period has been a time to strengthen my own voice, for listening to my own voice will help guide me towards the next stage.

Literally, I have been working on further developing my own voice in several ways. Notably, I have literally been taking voice lessons! My longtime obsession with classical music and musicals such as Phantom of the Opera have made me very fond of singing. In high school, I was involved with our choir, which was luckily a pretty amateur group that welcomed participation from people like myself who have not had much prior experience in singing but are passionate about music. In college, I have spent many a weekend going to classical music concerts and admiring my peers’ amazing talents. In comparison, I felt that my singing voice is extremely weak. Despite continuing to enjoy singing at karaokes and in the shower, I have never been confident enough to consider joining our college choir, a much more professional group that does amazing work.

This semester, I finally signed up for a voice lesson. It has been a tremendously rewarding experience for me, as I am literally strengthening my own voice. A pleasant surprise came to me early in the semester, when I discovered that with training, my voice range is much wider than I had ever anticipated. I have always considered my voice pretty deep for a female voice, and even view my voice as a little boyish. People have commented that it is a unique voice and complimented me for that — similarly, they have pointed out that it would be a waste for me not to practice the piano, since my fingers are long and slim, appearing to be quite fitting for this purpose. I regret that I still have not picked up the piano since I stopped playing in elementary school, but do hope to make it a goal in the near future. But I digress. Voice lessons have taught me that even though I have considered my voice to be in the alto range, I could also be trained as a soprano. Perhaps I am a mezzo soprano, or maybe I could mold my voice to be in different ranges.

With the help of my amazing voice instructor, Ursula, I have taken on challenging songs. Somewhere Over the Rainbow has always felt way too high to me, but with perseverance and dedication, I was able to sing it. My third song of the semester, Nel Cor Piu Non Mi Sento, is an Italian aria that addresses the torments of unrequited love while being a relatively light, comical song at the same time. It has been fun trying to construct a character through music, and communicating with the songwriter who created this voice centuries ago. It is a process of bringing the story and the character alive by giving her a new, unique voice that concurrently allows me to step outside my comfort zone and imagine new ways of playing with my own voice. Although I speak in my voice every day and sing every so often too, I have found that there are limitless ways of further developing and molding it. Singing has also allowed me to have some fun with acting, for facial expressions really help deliver the message, too. As I am also taking a creative writing class in the theater department, I find it interesting to compare and contrast ways in which I can shape my characters’ voices while strengthening my own at the same time along this journey.

I recently turned 21! I think secretly, one of my wishes for the coming year would be to sing better and more confidently.
I recently turned 21! I think secretly, one of my wishes for the coming year would be to sing better and more confidently.

Today, Ursula told me that she has been very impressed with my progress and even invited me to consider joining Choir next semester. Although time commitment-wise, I likely will not find the time to commit to Choir, I am truly honored and grateful, and cannot wait to embark on the next stages of my journey in music.