“No person has the right to rain on your dreams.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
An old memory recently haunted me. I recall being a child, standing in the driveway of my parents’ house with my father. A man that many held in high esteem had come to pay a visit. I can still remember the sadness and humiliation I felt when he sternly lectured me. He was telling me to take the piano less seriously. His own daughter had tried to “make a go of it” and had failed. And given his daughter’s lack of success, it was obvious to him that I should give up.
Years later, at age 18, I was confronted by another man who was held in high esteem. He and his wife discouraged me from continuing to take voice lessons. Apparently they’d discussed it and decided that I was “nothing special.” That I should focus my energies elsewhere.
I am lucky that my spirit was stronger than the hurtful words that were hurled at me when I was a child and young adult. I am a sensitive soul and honestly, remembering those experiences is still brings forth tears. Those were damaging moments.
Those wounds have informed who I am as a person and as a teacher. When a new student stands before me at whatever level of development, those wounds have taught me not to judge a book by its’ cover. If a student has the desire to sing, it is up to me to give them the best tools I have in order to help their voice blossom, not to judge how far they will go. I am real with my students. I do not sugar coat. I push, prod and encourage. But never will I say anything to demean them or make them feel like a lesser person.
Today I am a professional musician and have been so since graduating with my first music degree. Depending on the time of the year, I play for between 1,500 to 2,000 people per weekend at the church where I am the Director of Music. At times, I have the opportunity to sing for those people as well. Tomorrow I will have the distinct pleasure to teach voice lessons at the college where I have taught for ten years in August. I continue to perform and have released three recordings as a singer that have been heard in all corners of this fine planet. I can say with a great degree of confidence that many people are very glad that I did not give up on being who I was supposed to be.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Love is what encouraged me to stay on my path. I had wonderful teachers who showered me in positivity, saw my potential and nourished it. I received love in the tougher forms as well through pushing, prodding and the continual raising of bars. I continue to study and the work continues.
Looking back at what I’ve just written, all of the words filter down to this one sentiment. No matter what anyone says, follow your heart. It really does know best.