Suzanne's Music History

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My Music and Singing History

My mom was a singer in the 40's with big bands (I have no details because she died when I was 10, and my dad is also long-dead now). There was always music in our home because she would sing, or we would play instruments, or listen to the radio, or records. She played the accordian, and so did my brother David. I think he also played the violin at one point. My brother Pat played the clarinet in band at school, and I learned the flute and played it in elementary school. My brother Stephen played the guitar and bongos. Mind you, we didn't all play together like a band or anything. It wasn't that organized. We were very poor, and both of my parents worked, and my dad was hardly ever home.

In the 60's, I joined the chorus in elementary school and thereafter sang in choirs throughout junior high, high school and college. I stopped playing the flute after elementary school. I always loved to sing. I've always had a pretty good range and love singing high notes. My brothers were into rock and folk music, but they also liked musicals, so I used to sing along to all those records when I was little, especially The Beatles, Herman's Hermits, The Sound of Music and West Side Story.

We didn't have a lot of records. I used to go to the library when I was in junior high and high school and check out records and tapes, and copy them when I could. I listened to them over and over, especially the musicals. I couldn't read music and didn't have a great voice. I didn't know how to support the sound, so it was very breathy and quite a bit out of tune.

In high school in the mid-70's, the teacher put me in the alto section, even though I preferred singing soprano. That did teach me how to read music and how to sing harmony as well as help develop my lower range. Eventually I got to move up to soprano. Choir teachers and directors often put people where they need to have more singers, rather than where your voice should be.

My brother David and his wife paid for me to have voice lessons when I was in high school. I learned a lot from her, but still I wasn't very good. With the voice, it's hard for the teacher to show the student how to sing because it's not an instrument where you can just demonstrate where to place your fingers or your mouth. It's mostly internal and a lot of it is mental. Singing in choir in some ways just underlined the bad habits I had of singing with an unsupported sound because I thought I was supposed to sing quietly and blend in. That's pretty common, from what I've read.

I enjoyed singing and tried out for everything I coul:, recitals, musicals, etc. no matter how badly I messed up or how terrible I sounded. I had very bad stage fright, too, so I would usually mess up really bad on auditions, anyway. I never got any big parts in the high school musicals for the same reason. Still, I had fun, and in my 11th grade year, I went to summer music camp in Nevada, in the Las Vegas mountains, which was great fun, and I learned a lot. Also, my high school choir did all sorts of fun things. I was involved in not only the regular choir but also the Advanced Girls group and in my senior year, I finally made Chamber Singers. We went to Mexico on a fun trip my senior year.

By the time I graduated from high school in 1979, I knew I didn't have what it took to become a singer, and also I knew that entertainment people rarely got jobs in Hollywood or anywhere that paid well. However, I did get a small drama scholarship from my high school, so I took drama as well as music classes in college. I had this vague idea to get some sort of music-related job. I knew I wanted to get a college degree, but I didn't have many plans besides that.

In college, I definitely improved as a singer, but it took many years before I finally got a good teacher in 1988 that was able to help me figure out how to support my breath. By that time, I had graduated and was taking courses toward getting a teaching credential (which I never finished). After that, I mostly just worked on my singing by myself. Using a karaoke machine that my sister-in-law Eileen gave me, I would record myself singing, with karaoke backings, and listen to it and improve that way. I would also get other people to listen and give me their suggestions, and I went out to public karaoke.

I still had stage fright, but drinking before singing helped quite a bit. I started doing lots of karaoke in the 90's, so eventually I was able to sing confidently, even without drinking. I've taken more voice lessons a few times in the past decade, including as recently as 2013.

I record myself singing now with karaoke backings on the computer and upload the recordings to the sites Singer's Showcase and This is Karaoke. I also record myself a bit on video at Singsnap. These are all home recordings and not professional at all. I sing much better live!

I was able to develop my voice to the point where it's now very good, especially for popular music, rock etc. of all types and I've been trying to find a band to sing with instead of just karaoke for many years. I finally found one here in Honolulu! I'm singing oldies with a band called The All Natural Band. There are 7 of us and we have a lot of fun. No real web presence yet, but stay tuned!

I would also love to build an all-female rock band to play real oldies Grrl rock like Janis Joplin, Blondie, Pat Benatar, Heart, Linda Ronstadt, Go-Go's etc.

You can see some of our Christmas concert a Hale Mohalu on my YouTube page. We hope to get some better recordings soon!

Updated 12/27/14

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