Letters from the dorm: how vocal lessons gave me my voice in singing and public speaking

By April Xu Xiaoyi, Pomona College, California
By April Xu Xiaoyi, Pomona College, California |

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This semester has been another busy yet fulfilling one. Next week, for instance, I will have an average of one public speaking engagement (eg, admissions panel, hosting a federal judge, final presentation) each day.

It is easy to lose oneself in the constant anxiety over what will happen to me after graduation. So I have used this period as a time to strengthen my own voice, for listening to my own voice will help guide me towards the next stage.

I have been working on developing my voice in several ways. For starters, I have literally been taking voice lessons! My longtime obsession with classical music and musicals such as Phantom of the Opera has made me very fond of singing. But even though I love singing at KTV and in the shower, I have never been confident enough to consider joining our college choir, a very professional group that does amazing work.

So this semester, I decided to sign up for voice lessons. It has been a tremendously rewarding experience for me. With the help of my amazing voice instructor, Ursula, I have taken on challenging songs. Somewhere Over the Rainbow always felt way too high to me, but with perseverance and dedication, I was finally able to sing it. My third song of the semester, Nel cor piu non mi sento, is an Italian aria about the torments of unrequited love - but it still manages to be a relatively light, comical song at the same time.

It has been fun trying to construct a character through music, and trying to imagine the songwriter who created this character centuries ago. This process of bringing the story and the character alive by giving her a new, unique voice 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 moulding it. Singing has also allowed me to have some fun with acting, for facial expressions really help deliver the message, too.

I am also taking a creative writing class in the theatre department, and 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.

Edited by Andrew McNicol