I grew up in a very musical family. Someone was always playing the piano or singing, or we were doing both. My mother and two of my sisters played the piano, everyone sang together around the piano, or when we were doing the dishes. There was only one problem; of the whole family I was the only one who could not read music! So naturally, I was always assigned to sing the melody. Like many girls in a musical family, I sang in the church choir and in Girls Choir in Junior High School.
Gradually life changed and I stopped singing for many years. Several years ago, one of my friends who was in Tucson Women's Chorus, invited me to their Spring Concert. From the first moment of hearing the lovely women's voices singing "Woman am I" and seeing all those women coming down the aisle at St. Mark's Church with their lighted candles, I was hooked. I loved the concert, and I could not get over the variety and different languages of the songs. I could hardly wait until fall to join. My friend assured me there were no tryouts and we did not have to read music, so I was ready to do it!
That very next fall I joined Tucson Women's Chorus, paid my fee the first night and got the packet of music and the cd. When I got home I looked at all the sheet music and...remembered I can't read music. I listened to the practice cd, suddenly I was overwhelmed. What had I done?
However, I decided to trust the process. You see, Karleena teaches music in a very unconventional way. She sings a short section of a song, then has us sing it with her. Then she does that with a longer bit, and then a longer bit. She does this again. And again. (Like she did with you all a little while ago.) And pretty soon, you are singing two part harmony on your second night of chorus practice. The songs are so beautiful that sometimes I get tears in my eyes when I listen to all of us sing. Sometimes the songs and Karleena's arrangements are hilarious, and we all fall out laughing. Sometimes we sing the same verse over so many times you think your eyes will cross. Sometimes it all comes together, and we are amazing.
I have learned of two different places to not practice: don't sing when walking the dogs and watch your speed if you sing in the car!
But the thing that amazes me most about Karleena, is that she believes we are better than we are! Because she believes we are better than we really are, we try to be that good! Karleena has patience with all of the very different women in Tucson Women's Chorus, and oh! are we different! So after three years, I trust the process, practice every day, try to attend chorus and then get to perform in front of an audience, singing. Can you believe it!
Anna Van Devender
Singing is a very portable hobby. It's perfectly normal for me to break into "Bowl, a choca-choca-bowl" while working in the kitchen. "Put a little flex in your plan" has gotten me through more than one traffic jam. "So many angels" is a natural lullaby. "May all beings be happy" was put to use in a memorial service. And "The Tarantulas" is a top request by my toddler, up there with "Row row row your boat" and "The wheels on the bus"
I grew up surrounded by Girl Scout and Campfire Girl songs sung by my mother, grandmother, and great-aunt. Elementary school musicals got me on stage for the first time, and I lucked out that choir really was the cool thing to do at my Junior High. High school choir took me to European cathedrals and the Swiss Alps, and I brought back life-changing memories. I've never minded that some of my peers had far more skill than me. Singing and sharing music together is what matters.
I am grateful for many things musical:
- the talented and nurturing music teachers I've had throughout my life
- the many choices of amateur choirs in Tucson
- Tucson Women's Chorus, where I can sing for the relaxation of it, contribute some of my experience, and take away songs that fit their way into every part of my life.
- Karleena and my fellow choir members for sharing their talent and their laughter
- my baby boy, who is my most regular audience
- my husband, who takes on baby duty one night a week so that I can have my little escape to rehearsals.
I hope that music, whether with your voice or another instrument, can make its way into the many different parts of your own lives too.