Shyness – Singing In Spite of It
by Cassidy Warner
There are many obstacles when it comes to performing, and each person who chooses to place themselves on a stage has something they have to overcome. This is not news to anyone who has felt the heat of a spotlight, but it always surprises people when they learn that my most ferocious obstacle is my painfully persistent shyness. Doing something as simple as walking up to a stranger and introducing myself is a task that causes my palms to sweat, and it is also something that I see as a challenge that needs to be overcome everyday.
Why, then, would I choose to place myself on a stage? The truth is I love being there. I found this love in high school when my best friend practically dragged me to auditions for the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. To say that I was reluctant to audition would be a massive understatement. At this point in my high school career, about the only time I had even talked to other people was when I had been addressed directly, and those exchanges of words could hardly be called real conversations. However, something happened when I was onstage that I had not expected: I felt at home. I discovered that I could come to life through the character I was portraying, even if I was “just a chorus girl,” because I was not presenting myself to the audience—I was presenting a complete stranger who I had come to embody. Not only that, but I realized that I could take this newly discovered talent and transfer it to the real world. When at my most nervous, I have honed the ability to act out a persona that is far more extroverted and confident than I actually feel.
Yet, even as I grew more and more accustomed to being in the spotlight, there was still an aspect of performance that I was not comfortable with, and that was singing solo. Despite the fact I was in the chorus for the school musicals all through high school, I could not bring myself to sing on my own in front of others. Seeing as I would love to be involved in musical theatre, this posed a serious problem. I wanted to be able to sing in front of an audience without freezing up in fear, even if I never made it to Broadway. Thus, last quarter at the University of Denver when I realized I had extra space in my class schedule, I bucked up the courage to sign up for voice lessons in the music school.
Admittedly, showing up for the first class was an experience that nearly reduced me to a panicky wreck. It took every ounce of courage and bit of bravado I possessed to stroll casually to the meeting point, but I was determined to start these lessons and overcome my next looming obstacle. Learning to sing well in front of strangers was not—and is not—an easy task, and it is especially intimidating when the person listening to you has made opera singing her career, as my instructor Erica Papillion-Posey has done. I tried all quarter to relax before my voice lessons, because I knew I sang better the less tense I was, but I could not always accomplish the level of relaxation I needed to perform well.
As I move into my second quarter of voice lessons, not only will I be focused on training my voice the way it needs to be trained, but I will also be concentrating on finding ways around my fears so that I can do what I love. Shyness may be a major part of my personality, but I refuse to let it dictate what I do. Singing for an audience may not ever come easily to me, but by forcing myself to do so, I know that I will be one step closer to overcoming the shyness that could otherwise take over my life entirely.
Cassidy Warner was born in Vail, Colorado, and raised Gypsum, Colorado. Currently Ms. Warner is a senior at the University of Denver and will be graduating in June. She is majoring in English Literature with a emphasis in Creative Writing and minoring in Japanese and Theatre. You can contact Ms. Warner at: Cassidy.Warner@du.edu