I just got back from the Isabel Bayrakdarian concert at Westminster United Church. It was stunning, imperfect, human, and from the heart – completely inspiring. She did not impress us with her vocal prowess, she just let herself go to the music, and it spoke through her.
So often I lose sight of what this is really about. These last few months have been all about impressing people. I have sung auditions for UofT, McGill, NUOVA, and the Atelier in Paris; I sung two rounds of my grad recital, I sung my first professional gig with the WSO, and countless other things in between. I have also continued to work at Fude, teach, and go to school full-time. All of these involvements want my full attention at all times, which I want to give. However, with all of this busyness, I think perhaps I have momentarily lost sight of the original reason I decided to busy myself with these things – and that is the joy of communicating through music.
These last few weeks, I have suffered two rejections – I was not chosen as a finalist for the position in Paris, and I was not accepted into UofT. The Paris audition was not a surprise, but I did have one brightly burning flame of hope that I would make it. I didn’t realize how brightly that flame burned until I saw the list of singers that I was not on… then my heart broke. I cried myself to sleep, thinking that there was no possible way for me to be in Europe, where I felt I belonged, next year. However, when I started talking to people, I realized that this feeling of helplessness was only because of limitations I had placed on myself – there is no reason I can’t be in Europe on my own terms. After making this decision, I decided, barring an incredible offer, to decline any offers UofT or McGill would give me. I surprised myself once again by facing incredible doubt in my value as an artist when I received the UofT rejection letter. If I can’t even get into a post-secondary program, how do I expect to make it in Germany, a country where I don’t speak the language and I hardly have any professional contacts? Why am I putting myself through this? Why doesn’t someone just tell me that I should stop trying and choose a different career?
“Our glory lies where we cease to exist”
Well, no one told me that. Maybe my path is choosing me just as I’m choosing it. Maybe no one is telling me to stop trying because I shouldn’t stop trying.
If there’s one thing I know right now, it is that I need to sing, no matter what. I need to pursue this path, until I absolutely cannot pursue it any further. I need to let my voice sing to people – no matter how much money it costs me or how difficult it is to imagine my future with this voice. This inner flame has nothing to do with institutions accepting or rejecting me, it has nothing to do with a maxed-out line of credit, it has nothing to do with critics or adjudicators. Either it must sing or it will not.
I know that the year that will follow will only be more full of doubt, of rejection, and also of risk-taking, of acceptance, of success and joy. And above all, I know I will grow, if not just out of necessity – my freedom and my prison. I have three months left in Winnipeg, three short months to prepare myself to step out into the world, holding my voice and my love for people out in front of me in my outstretched hands.
“I wish I had me a fast-footed horse,
And a veil to wrap my mind
I wish I had me a tiny little whip
And a heart that could close like a coat
Take my baby home,
Take my baby home,
I ain’t free, and I never will be
Take my mother home…”