From Adrienne O: I‘M SO EXCITED!!! I just got the keys to Performance High’s new space in Broomfield! She says, “It Started with A Career Ending” in the Fall of 2005. I worked all the way through Thanksgiving and Christmas without taking even half a day off. 100 hours a week for months, on a B2B software project that had been my nightmare for three years. I was 32 and had been working in software for a decade since I graduated, and I had vertical furrows growing ever deeper between my eyebrows as I spent all day staring at a computer screen. I weighed less than I had since I was 14, since I could barely eat because of stress. Long story short, the project raged along in crisis mode until spring when the CEO fired my boss, laid off me and all my co-workers, and closed our Colorado office.
I needed something more from life. Something that connected with people, not businesses. Something that let me let my hair down. Something that felt colorful, adventurous.
I finally remembered I had wanted to be… a singer?
The Spark Ignites
But that’s not a career choice, I thought.
Almost no one in my extended family is a musician… or a painter, writer, or creative of any sort. Few of them even have artistic hobbies! I’m surrounded by doctors and lawyers and techies, and I have a B.S. in a small Computer-Science-related major from Stanford.
Still, I started taking voice lessons. Just to see. I didn’t know where it would go, and didn’t really care. I just needed to do something for me, try something fun and a little scary, follow that fading echo of a little girl’s dream, while I figured out the next chapter in my life.
But I couldn’t seem to find a voice teacher that I really liked. The classically trained teachers didn’t “get” the music I wanted to sing, the others didn’t seem to know much about the voice, and I left most voice lessons wondering if I had just wasted $60 and an hour of my life. I skipped around from teacher to teacher until I thought maybe the problem was me. Maybe I just needed to stick with someone for a while. So I stuck with one teacher for a year, until she let me go, telling me she had nothing more to teach me.
I was dumbfounded: Nothing more to teach me? But high notes were still tight and difficult! I still had a big break in the middle of my range! My voice was still so inconsistent day to day!
Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach
Frustrated, and feeling out of options, I decided against all logic to start teaching voice. (I figured there was no better way to learn to do something than to teach it.)
So, in 2009, I stopped being a freelance software developer and started teaching voice. And I did indeed learn more by teaching than by just taking lessons myself. By seeing how so many different voices worked, I started seeing the common threads and piecing together a framework and a set of consistent tools and techniques that allowed me to help other singers overcome their vocal challenges, and by extension, my own voice as well.
But I knew great teachers were out there somewhere. The voice is the oldest instrument, fer chrissakes; I may not be finding my teacher locally, but I know great teachers exist. So I resolved to pay whatever I needed to pay and go wherever I needed to go to really learn how the voice worked.
I finally found an excellent, albeit expensive, teacher in Nashville. After a few months of lessons with that teacher, the lightbulb went on. In spite of all the lessons, all the different teachers, all the at-home study, all the vocal programs and books I had bought (from Seth Riggs to Brett Manning to Robert Lunte to Jesse Vendera and way beyond), until then, my voice had never really made sense to me. I had more tips and tools than I knew what to do with, but no overarching understanding of how to train a voice to behave predictably, consistently, and reliably, across the entire range, without a break.
But finally, then, I did.
Now, I know about the International Voice Teachers of Mix. It so happens that the organization was founded the year after I gave up looking for a teacher and became one myself. Now (early 2018) I am pursuing accreditation with IVTOM and should have it by the end of the year.
Recently, a Broadway artist from New York who has taken voice lessons his entire life and toured for two years with West Side Story told me that voice teachers of my caliber are hard to find, even in New York City. I was shocked, but of course, incredibly flattered. And this is what makes me realize I’ve found one of my callings in life.
Oops, I Found My Calling
I’m not a naturally great singer. I had to work at it. I have made probably every mistake you could probably make as a vocalist – and I learned to sing as an adult, so I understand and remember the journey of learning to sing. Unlike a life-long singer who took voice lessons since they were young and was steered away from developing bad habits in the first place, I had a mountain of bad habits to overcome. So I know how it feels, I remember how to get from here to there.
That’s one of the things that makes me a great teacher. Naturally great singers are often not great teachers because they don’t know how they’re doing what they’re doing – it just comes naturally.
And, unlike a lot of younger voice teachers, I’m not doing this as a Plan B until my own artist career takes off. Instead, I’ve become grateful that somehow, through this whole winding process of the last decade, I got really good at helping people make progress quickly – just like that Nashville teacher did for me. I became the teacher I wished I could have had when I was learning to sing. And I want to pass it on.
Twelve years ago I had never sung into a microphone, never recorded in a studio, never sang with a live band, never run sound, never taught a voice lessons, never written a song. Now I have multiple albums out, thousands of voice lessons taught, I’ve sung and played multiple instruments in multiple bands, I have music in film and TV, the list goes on.
I can’t believe who I have become. And I want to help people become that greater self they feel a glimmer of.
Just like when that little voice said in my head, “You always wanted to become a singer.”
What little spark are you ignoring within yourself? Go on, take the leap.
Questions? (720) 772-7505