Unable To Sing

It’s been a rough week. My scratchy throat and sexy voice became a full blown cold very quickly. I had aches, nasal congestion, and a sore throat for three days. My voice became less sexy and very weak. I didn’t even know what my voice would sound like before I spoke. After the aches went away, I developed a cough. I drank lots of tea, but I sadly haven’t had any coffee the whole week. My throat is no longer sore, but I’m still unable to sing.

I feel like my recovery has been slower than usual because I haven’t been sleeping very well. I had an epic statistics homework assignment due last Thursday for which I stayed up until 4:30am the night before to finish. Staying up way too late is never good when you’re sick.

Besides that night, I’ve also been waking up multiple times during the night, which is not something I’m used to. Usually when I’m sick, I can take some medicine before bed and sleep soundly through the night. This week, though, the medicine doesn’t seem to have the same effect. Even after taking phenylephrine HCl (nasal decongestant) and diphenhydramine HCl (antihistamine/cough suppressant), I still cough up lots of phlegm balls (gross, I know). I just can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep.

I’ve been relaxing a lot this weekend, so I’m definitely on the mend, but I’m still worried about my singing voice. My falsetto is always the first thing to go and the last thing to come back when I get sick. My choir concerts are at the end of the week. I already had to sit out on the rehearsals for both of my choirs last week, and I’ll probably have to miss out on at least some of the rehearsals this week.

Every time I get sick and lose my voice, I’m always afraid that my falsetto will never return. I’ve always prided myself on my falsetto. Being a countertenor/male soprano makes me feel somewhat special in choir, like I bring something no one else can (or does, at least). It’s a big deal to me that I can’t even sing a single note right now.

Let’s see what the next few days bring.

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Two Choirs

As I had mentioned in a previous post, I’m interested in two university-run choirs. I attended one last night and the other one tonight. The choir last night had about 200 singers, whereas tonight’s choir had less than 30. The ensembles are very different, both in repertoire and atmosphere.

I had heard that the sight singing would be more challenging in the smaller group, but I was mostly able to keep up with everyone (who all seem to be very experienced). Fearing that my voice was still recovering from last night, I drank extra water and sucked on a few pieces of Ricola throughout the day. My voice still gave out again towards the end of tonight’s rehearsal, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as last night.

So here is my dilemma: I really like both choirs, but I’m not sure if I should stay in both. I originally anticipated only joining one choir to keep my extracurricular time commitments at a minimum. Individually, each choir has only one rehearsal a week, but being in both means double the time spent away from studying for my other classes. Since my classes haven’t assigned any homework yet, it’s difficult to tell how these choirs will interfere with my schedule over the term.

On the other hand, if I always tell myself I won’t have time, then I won’t have time. I hesitated for two years before joining a choir in my previous graduate school because I thought I wouldn’t have time for it. Once I did join, I wondered what I had done with my Monday nights before then. If I decided to stay in both, they would become part of my schedule, and I wouldn’t even notice the time commitment anymore. At least that’s the hope.

In other news, this is my 500th blog post! Yay! I’ll try to do my annual retrospective next week for my third blog anniversary.

I Can Do This

Today was the first day of class, and what a long day it was! I’m still a little unsure of what courses to take, so I audited one of my options from 10-11am. I then had three classes back-to-back in the afternoon from 1pm to 4pm, followed by my choir rehearsal from 7-9:30pm. Rather than walk all the way back to my apartment during each break, I stayed on campus the whole day. I didn’t sleep very well (anxious about classes?) and my right shoulder has been sore all day (no idea why), so I was already exhausted near the start of my twelve hours on campus.

I don’t have much impression on how difficult my classes will be yet, as the first day of any term is usually all about class logistics, but my statistics class on data mining sounds intimidating. I have a feeling all of my classes , even the applied linear algebra one, will be challenging. What I have to remind myself (constantly, it seems) is not to become paralyzed by fear. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

Side note: Yes, I chose to take applied linear algebra instead of real analysis. Linear algebra is directly applicable to classes I need for my master’s degree, since my program is meant to prepare me for finding jobs in industry. On the other hand, real analysis is a foundational course for theoretical/mathematical statistics that would be more suitable for staying in academia. If I ever decide to continue on for a PhD, I’ll have time to take real analysis then. Also, as it’s been nearly ten years since I took a linear algebra course, I can use the review.

The first rehearsal of choir was great. I forgot how intense rehearsals can be, but singing in a choir again really brought back a lot of memories of my previous choirs. Quite a few sopranos were initially confused when they saw me sitting in their section (something I’m used to), but the woman next to me was very nice and accepting.

Having been away from proper singing for a few years, my voice hasn’t built its stamina back yet. If I’m properly warmed up, I can sing a high A (A5) with no problem. Towards the end of the two and a half hour long rehearsal, I could barely sing the F (F5). I need to drink more water, less coffee (no small feat), and keep throat lozenges with me at all times. As my high school choir director used to say: “Singing is a physical exercise!”

It was a little disheartening for my voice to give out during rehearsal, but I know I’ll get better as I practice more. I can do this.

Defying Gravity

When I was a kid, I always loved singing the highest parts of songs, just because I could. Singing Jasmine’s part in A Whole New World was way more fun than singing Aladdin’s part. As a result, I sang with my falsetto throughout puberty and beyond, so my singing voice never cracked the way many boys’ voices do. I had good control over my voice, which is probably why I transitioned into a deeper speaking voice without noticing it.

Sometime during high school I joined the high school choir. While I could easily sing the soprano notes, my high school choir director stuck me in the baritone section because of the common shortage of guys in choirs. In college, I again joined the choir. After a couple terms as a baritone, I asked my college choir director if I could sing with the women instead. Once I transitioned into the soprano section in college, I never went back to singing in my baritone voice. Besides the mixed choir in college, I also eventually joined the women’s choir as the only guy in the group. During the two years I was in the women’s choir, they never changed the name!

When I was in graduate school for math, I always thought I didn’t have time to join a choir, so I waited two years before I joined a community choir (not affiliated with my university). Since I had been out of organized singing for a while, I joined as an alto as a way to restrengthen my voice before jumping back into the soprano section. Singing alto is fun, but I don’t have much power behind the lower notes in the alto/tenor range.

Now, after three years without participating in a choir, I decided to audition for the university choir here. Since this was orientation week, the music department had a table set up outside the music building to answer any questions the incoming students had. Even though I had already researched the department online, I was able to meet and chat with the choir director with whom I would be auditioning.

My audition was yesterday afternoon. The audition began with singing scales to determine my vocal range. The director tested both my falsetto and my normal baritone voice. He didn’t test my limits too far, but he got a good sense that my voice is most comfortable in the soprano range (compared to an alto range).

We also did some rhythm exercises and sight singing. The rhythm exercises, which involved the director clapping rhythms and me clapping them back, were fine, but I’m terrible at sight singing. The conductor later even told me that sight singing was the weakest part of my audition. Since I haven’t been in a choir in three years, I definitely feel like some of my skills have waned a bit.

The last part of my audition was that I had to sing a short clip of any song of my choosing. Since I’ve been addicted to the Wicked soundtrack for weeks now (no idea why, besides that it’s amazing), I decided to sing the first verse of Defying Gravity. I had never sung Defying Gravity to anyone besides my family (in the car with the soundtrack blasting through the speakers), so I was quite nervous.

Apparently, the director liked my voice! There are actually five university-run choirs here (there are student groups too) which offer a wide variety of styles and eras of music to sing, and the director gave me the choice of four of them! The director even said that no matter if I wanted to sing as a baritone or as a male soprano, he would love to have me in the group either way!

Side note: The fifth choir is the most advanced choir that requires much stronger sight singing. It would have been a huge time commitment, so I was never shooting for that choir anyway.

I’m interested in only two of the choirs, as their repertoires interest me and they have low time commitments. One has only about 30 singers, while the other has close to 200. I’m going to attend the first rehearsals for both groups and see which one (or both) I prefer.

Yay! I’m officially a member of at least one of the choirs on campus!

In Transition

I’m becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact that my life is on hold because of the actuarial exam. I spend my days at Starbucks studying, and then I go to the gym. That basically describes my week.

There are so many other things I would like to be doing. I would love to hang out with my friends more often. My friends are such a big part of my life, and yet I rarely see them now because I’m trying not to take time away from studying. I only have three posts on this blog in the “Friends” category so far. The importance of my friends is very underrepresented, and the reason is because I just haven’t seen much of them these last few months.

I would also love to practice driving more. Online dating guy thinks it’s pretty strange that I’m 25 years old and I don’t drive on the freeway (I think he might even be losing interest because of it…). Living in cities for college and graduate school where I didn’t need a car, I put off practicing driving. Now that I’m back home, I should be driving a lot more and getting used to LA traffic. But no, I drive to a Starbucks that’s ten minutes away from my house to study, and then I drive down the street from there to go to the gym. Because of my exam, I have no real reason or opportunity to drive further and push myself to practice.

Today I went with my parents to visit my grandfather (who lives with my uncle and his family). My grandfather had relatives visiting him from Shanghai. They are my grandfather’s cousin’s children (their father is my grandfather’s brother’s son). I don’t know what they’re called. Second cousins? I certainly don’t know what to call the relation they are to me. Anyway. I drove the 60 miles to his house, which includes driving on multiple freeways. It’s good practice, but my parents were in the car helping me. I have yet to drive on the freeway by myself. But the only opportunities I have to drive long distances on the freeway are with my parents, and even those are few and far between.

What else? I’d like to find a choir. I miss singing and I miss the social interaction with other singers. I’d like to go shopping and maybe have the occasional day of splurging. There are a lot of things on my wish list, including a fantastic cashmere hoodie I saw at Bloomingdale’s. It’s $250. Besides the tuxedo I bought for my choir in college, it’s probably the most expensive piece of clothing I’ve ever wanted. I can’t even consider buying such a thing until I get a job.

I’m getting so antsy. I want a job! I want to make money and start living on my own again. I like living with my parents for a little while, but I think living at home too long is stifling. I need my independence back. This transition period has gone on far too long already.