Why I Still Take Voice Lessons

“But why are you taking voice lessons?”

I get this question a lot. It’s usually followed by:

“You can sing.”

And, well, yes, I can. I’ve been singing for longer than I’ve been talking, or so my parents tell me, and it’s one of my favorite things in the world – to feel the music and create a moment and a memory.

But as with any skill, singing requires technique, patience, and practice, and the more diligent you are, the better you’ll become.

And I suppose that’s the simple answer to why I still take voice lessons. But I thought it would be interesting today to dig a little deeper. So, let’s get started.

I take lessons because I enjoy them.

I like learning. Even when it’s hard. Even when it knocks me down a peg. And the more I learn, the more I realize I still need to learn, and that’s exciting. Plus, I just like singing, and so it’s fun to set aside at least an hour every week that I know will be devoted to something I truly enjoy.

I take lessons because I am decidedly not an expert.

I started voice lessons when I was nine years old. I took them all throughout school, and then into college. And then I took a really long break. I decided that singing wasn’t what I wanted to do as a career, and I focused on other things. In the decade and change I wasn’t taking lessons, there were a lot of things I…well…forgot. Muscle memory fades, technique gets rusty. I’m not a bad singer, but I can be so much better, and I want to be.

I take lessons because it holds me accountable.

I’m going to tell you a shameful secret. Are you ready? Oh, God, I hate to admit it, but: I AM LAZY. Like, really, I’m terrible at deadlines, I really like naps, and I’m not great at motivating myself. I do it, and I work hard, but it’s a challenge. Having a teacher (an awesome one, I might add) who can keep me accountable and help me choose the right areas to focus on is just really invaluable, and it keeps me moving forward.

I take lessons because it makes a difference.

I get a little better with every vocal warm-up. I get a little better every time I master a difficult passage in a song. With every lesson, I get better. And the better I get, the happier I am. My voice is an instrument, just like a guitar or a piano. How I take care of it, and the love I give to it, matters.

I take lessons because there is always more to learn.

I mentioned this a little earlier, but I think it deserves a few more words. I will never know everything about how to be the best singer I can be. The more I learn, the better I get, the more that world will open up to me, and the more I’ll have to learn. And I think this is applicable in life, just generally. There is always, always more to learn, and I’m pretty satisfied knowing that I’ll be a perennial student. It makes me excited, knowing that I’m just one breakthrough away from the next life-changing piece of information.

I think that covers it pretty well, but now I’m curious. I’d love to know – do you have a skill you’re still working to hone? How do you approach it? What motivates you to keep learning?

A random post for a Monday, I know, and different from my usual content, but I hope you enjoyed it!

The Joyful Return of Live Music (or, Friends + Music = Happy Katie)

I’ve missed a great many things over the last year and change. I’ve missed hugs, I’ve missed people, I’ve missed travel, I’ve missed parties. Some of the things I’ve missed feel trivial – I love parties, but they’re not critical to my happiness – and some feel big, like hugging my parents. And some things just feel so…weird? I don’t know if that’s the right word. Like, just not right. Like, my world is not right without them. And one of those things is live music.

Music has always been a huge part of my life. I’ve written about that before, so I won’t tread old ground, but suffice it to say that me and music are an item. Long-term. Forever. We’ve never broken up and we never will. Music + Katie = True Love. My world without hearing live music has just been not quite right.

Which is why I’m so grateful that it seems live music is coming back, and that I live in an area where there’s plenty of live music to see, and that I have extremely talented and gracious friends (link below to their page) who, last Thursday, gave me the opportunity to make some good noise with them. Which, let’s be honest, is pretty much my favorite thing.

And luckily, Graham got a video! So, I thought I’d share it with all of you. I hope it brings you joy, as it did for me.

* The Crooked Angels are an extraordinarily talented, creative force for all that is good and positive in this universe. And they’re pretty cool people, too. Check out their music and share it with your friends. You’ll be glad you did. And so will I. 😉*

An Old Song for the New Season

It’s been a while since my last music post, so I thought I’d share this bluegrass tune today. It’s one of my favorites. I always think of this song as the seasons change, and it’s in my head now, looking out at the blossoms and the newly green grass.

A Sort of Love Poem

*I had planned to post a sweet song for Valentine’s Day yesterday, and then a poem today. But time got away from me yesterday, as it so often does, and well, here we are. So, here’s a sort of love poem, and a video of me singing some Gillian Welch by the fire. I hope you enjoy both! And if you’re in the US and in the line of fire – er, ice – with this latest winter storm, stay safe and warm!*

Dear Someone,
I don’t need you, but
I’d like to meet you
nonetheless.

It might be fun, Dear Someone,
to see where things could go,
but no, I’m not waiting for you.
See, I’ve got other things to do.

It’s a big universe, after all,
Dear Someone,
and who can say who meets who
and when.
Though I hope we do,
eventually, some time, someday,
maybe.

And so,
Dear Someone,
whoever you are,
if by chance we stumble across each other
at some party or in some bar,
I’m open to the possibility.

Some Days Are Just Like That

It’s been sort of a strange day.

I stayed up way too late last night watching a meeting of my local Board of Supervisors, and woke up this morning feeling foggy and sleepy. No surprise.

I had some meetings and non-writing tasks to complete, and they went well. Always good, though they kept me quite busy.

I made way too ambitious a dinner for a Wednesday. It was tasty.

And I got some sad news, which is never fun, and which has me feeling pretty down.

And between all of it, I haven’t had much time to sit and write today. I don’t write every day, but I’m never super pleased when I feel like I can’t write, as opposed to just choosing not to. Anyone else feel that way?

Anyway, I’m just not quite myself today, I think. I don’t have any interesting thoughts or stories to share, and I’m tired. Some days are just that way, I guess.

On Friday, I’ll post some pictures of 2021’s first snow, but until then, enjoy this admittedly low-quality video of my dad, my uncle, and me playing one of our favorite songs at a little café in southwest Virginia. This is from a few years ago, but John Prine never goes out of style.

A Song for Graham (Bonus Post!)

I know this isn’t a normal posting day for me, but y’all, my husband and I have been together for 12 years today, and I forgot until about 3:00 this afternoon.

On this day, 12 years ago, Graham and I basically looked at each other and said, “Let’s do this.” And here we are now, after all this time, married since 2013, living in our little historic house in our beautiful village with our needy pets and our embarrassingly extensive wine collection, and I have never been happier for anything in my entire life.

I can’t believe I forgot.

So, to make up for it, here’s a little Cole Porter, by way of Patsy Cline, for Graham. Note – no makeup, frizzy hair, don’t care. The most important thing is the love. I hope you feel it, too.

A Song for Today

I just have no words after what I’ve seen and heard in these last several hours.

As I often do in times of stress and fear and sadness, I’ve turned to my fond memories, and to my family, and to music. So I thought I’d share a video with all of you of my dad and me playing one of my favorite songs. I’ve not performed this one in public since my grandfather passed away in 2015. He was a WWII veteran, and a coal miner. I am proud to be a coal miner’s granddaughter.

It’s hard to get through this song without tears now that he’s gone. But today, his legacy of strength and perseverance, of hard work and grace in difficult times, and his belief in a strong, fair and free America has kept me going.

Wherever you are in the world, whatever you’re going through, or dealing with, or healing from, I hope this brings you just a few minutes of joy and peace and comfort, as it has for me. Tonight, I’m sending all of the love I can out into the universe.

I hope tomorrow is a better, brighter day.

I Always Have Music

I have no gas left in my tank today. I stayed up until well after 4:00 a.m. EST watching election results come in, and right now, after several cups of coffee and way too much junk food, I am a drooling zombie. (I mean, not really, but if you looked at me and an actual zombie right now, it would be hard to tell the difference.)

And there are still valid votes to be counted, so I’m still watching. (And counting valid votes is decidedly, objectively NOT disenfranchisement or fraud, but that is a post for another day.)

Man, I’m so tired.

Anyway, I got nothing. I wish I had something insightful to say about the state of things, but I can’t seem to find my words today.

Luckily, even when I have nothing else, it seems I always have music. So, enjoy this (admittedly not super high quality) video of a friend and me goofing around and making some good noise, back a century ago in 2019, when things were still normal. Or, more normal. (Honestly, what even is normal anymore these days?)

This One’s for John

My heart hurts today.

When I try to think of something to say about the passing of John Prine, I’m honestly lost for words.  Which is funny, because he certainly never was.  I don’t think we can overstate the importance of his music to the story of American songwriting.  I don’t think there will ever be another one quite like him.  I don’t think the world will ever be the same, now that he’s not in it.

If music comes to us when we need it most, then I’ve needed John Prine my whole life.  His songs have stayed with me since I first heard them, when I was too young to really understand them.  Now I’m in my thirties, and I still listen to them, sing them, think about them, every single day.

And when my dad and I play, we always play some Prine.

So, this one’s for John.  Thank you for everything.  I hope you’re exactly where you wanted to be.