“To me, singing is easier than breathing. A skill I had to learn in my youth was how to NOT just be singing all the time. I wake up with an earworm (song stuck in my head) every morning, and any given phrase or tone might conjure a song from my throat, like a human jukebox. I am glad that I grew up in churches that put a heavy emphasis on singing, and on teaching the whole congregation how to read their parts. Singing with a group raises beautiful emotions!

My relationship with singing solo has been complex, with conflicting messages coming from inside and outside my home. A series of vignettes with varying weight: my sister pretending she didn’t know me in public restrooms (understandable, but who could resist singing in that delicious echoey space?); being asked to join the choir at every new church I attended; singing Rubber Ducky in 3-part harmony with my sisters while we washed dinner dishes; being chastised by my mom who thought my friend and I were trying to out-sing each other during devotions, simply because we have loud voices; qualifying for regional singing competitions and performances; my mom’s opinion of my university vocal career, “I just don’t understand why you’re doing this.”

Writing this biography has been a big step in liberating my psyche from the mixed messages and my mother’s attempts to make sure I don’t get a big head. I know she meant well, but every time I perform or someone asks me to, I feel like I’m clawing my way through a cloud: something inside me starts screaming that people will think I’m full of myself, that they’ll be inconvenienced by my attention-seeking. I try to tell myself instead that I love listening to musicians, and chances are, people will love listening to me sing! I try to tell myself that just because people pay attention when I sing, does not mean I’m “attention-seeking.” Eventually, the healthy, loving, celebratory messages will outshine the suppression of my youth. I’m grateful to everyone who has celebrated and encourages me to sing. I love working with the various groups and acts in Butte who include me, and I look forward to owning the stage more and more over time, for the enjoyment of all who can hear us.”

Pivotal Youth Influences

“One of the best summers of my childhood involved two things I was constantly craving: socialization and the performing arts. In 2001, right before I turned 13, I attended Murdale Baptist Church’s Summer Week Of Choir. Several groups of kids spent a week doing character-building competitions, learning an entire musical, and competing in Bible quizzes. At the end of the week, we performed the show, “Giddeup Giddalong, Gideon.” I was lucky enough to land a solo, and happily stood up to the microphone to belt out the lyrics.

At some point in my teens, my mom got me a few voice lessons with Pastor Tommy Taylor. I remember he helped me learn more about controlling my breathing while singing, by having me sing laying on my back, with books on my stomach. I later used this trick when I was helping Judy Norbut coach our youth choir at my church in Southern Illinois. Judy did an amazing job of finding hymn and song arrangements that suited our choir of mostly pre-teen and teenage girls. One of my favorite memories was singing out over the congregation from the unused church balcony on Easter Sunday, a song with a descant (a soaring high part over the melody). It was a beautiful emotional experience.

Dr. Fred Pfalzgraf was in charge of rehearsing our congregation each Sunday night service for a long while. He divided everyone up into sections in the pews: Basses, Tenors, Altos, and Sopranos, and walked each group through their part in turn. Then he would combine all the lower voices, then all the higher voices, then put everyone together! We all felt so powerful, learning a new complex language that enabled us to sound like Christian badasses (not that we used words like that). Sometimes he would pull a strong voice from each section to turn around and sing back at the group, so that they could have someone to follow, and it was always such a thrill to be able to help with my big voice in that way. We learned some really challenging music without everyone having to know how to read notation.”

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