I am a very self conscious singer as my range is quite narrow. I have a two note octave so if I remain there I sound okay-otherwise I am flat, flat, flat. I can hear the music in my head; my challenged vocal chords just won’t reproduce it. So along comes my baby who can trill like a songbird, and unself-consciously so. Shower singing, study singing, bedtime singing, rocking out in the car singing: makes no difference, she has tunes running through her head night and day and they burble to the surface and burst into sound like bubbles in a hot pot.
When she was in fourth grade I moved closer to town and the fiber optic infrastructure was in place in my neighborhood to support cable television. Up until that time my kids had been raised on whatever our 75 foot antennae could pick up-specifically, PBS kids. My children now discovered the Disney Channel. At first I thought, awww how benign, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, the Mouseketeers, cartoons, how lovely. (Reflecting on my own Mickey Mouse Club days back in the late '50s of course-who can forget Annette?) What I didn’t realize was the impact that Disney along with a couple of other kid friendly cable networks was going to have on my daughter’s perception of reality.
Within a year or two of the time my children began watching Disney, Britany Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake as well as a host of other kids close to the age of my daughters were achieving mega fame. (The whole sexualization of those children, a practice that continues with Disney to this day is a whole other subject that I may take on at a different time.) I was able to combat pre-pubescent fanny shaking and belly baring fairly effectively, but what I had the most difficulty with was the distortion that kids just like mine were becoming famous.
As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I am a single parent. For
those of you who aren’t I would like to dispel any myths floating around(aided and abetted by television) that single parenting is somehow glamorous. I am here to testify that few of the single parents I know have those goofy funny relationships with our ex spouses, nor do we have ample money for the needs of our households, and we most certainly do not have those worldly wise, smart ass, funny but well adjusted kids. Most of us are required to squeeze a nickel until the buffalo shits (even if the ex comes through with the child support as mine thankfully always has ) and paying unexpected expenses is a real hair puller.
After watching kids “just like her” on television for a few months, my younger daughter decided that the way to financial solvency for me was for her to become a big Disney Star. When she was three she had promised to always take care of me (a promise I intend to hold her to upon my retirement) but at the ripe old age of nine she believed that she had the goods in that singing voice of hers to make it in a big way and wanted me to quit my job, roll up the household and haul us all off to California where she had every intention of becoming rich and famous.
It got to the point that she would try to entice me by asking me what kind of car I wanted to drive when she was famous as if the possibility of a new car would compel me to begin work on her dreams. During this period I was also accused of being unfair and not taking her seriously and not believing in her talent. I have always believed in her talent-she can sing every bit as well as Britany, better actually, however, her talent was never the issue of course. Using one’s children as a meal ticket, exposing them to situations that no child should be exposed to, selling her childhood to people who want to use children as commodities to enrich themselves; that is my issue.
We made it to high school with this unfair attitude of mine hanging in the air. In high school she became a fairly large fish in a small pond, starring in the annual musicals, talent shows, and had the bulk of the solo parts in her state ranked Vocal Jazz Choir. She received enough music education to make her realize that perhaps there was a bit of work left to do. However by high school she had become very aware of the American Idol meatgrinder and began nagging me to go to the auditions. I kept putting her off, telling her she wasn’t ready for American Idol that many of the successful people on that program had music industry experience; just no big break.
A year ago her dad called and asked her if she wanted to go to an American Idol audition in Florida. She hung up the phone and turned to me with a deer in the headlights expression and asked, “Should I go? Dad says he’ll take me.” I told her if she wanted to go she should go and that I thought she might make it to the Paula, Randy and Simon round but I wasn’t sure about what would happen after that. I also mentioned that if successful she would miss much if not all of her senior year in high school. After giving it a few days thought she decided to decline her dad’s offer. Very wisely she realized that she hadn’t any songs prepared and that if she was going to sing for Paula, Randy and Simon, she ought to be prepared. (Not to mention she kind of wanted to finish high school and graduate with her class.)
What she did begin preparing were songs for college auditions. The course of study she had decided upon is only offered at two schools in the Midwest, one being in Nashville and the other at a private school in Illinois. The Nashville school had an American Idol runner up to its name, so that was first choice. We went to Nashville, and she thought she auditioned very well. She loved the school, saw herself going to school there and all but had her bags packed. Next up was Illinois-much more to my liking as it is only two hours away from home. As fate would have it, she was accepted on the spot into the program in Illinois. She was not accepted in Nashville. A taste of reality-not everyone is going to like you. But my daughter is very practical. After twenty four hours of tears and it’s not fairing it, she made her peace with her fate and asked to go back to the school in Illinois to visit again since she had paid very little attention on the first go round thinking her future lay in Nashville.
Today, two days before she leaves for Illinois and her future, my daughter played a recording for me of the first song she has totally written, arranged and sung. It is a beautiful song, sung very much in her own unique style and perspective. She is an original, not a knock off of Britany or any of the others. During all this time that I have been making her wait, she has been learning and growing, listening to her own voice and feelings and how she wants to express them. She is ready.
Whether or not she is willing to undertake a life on the road playing music to people who care or don’t care or who listen or don’t listen remains to be seen. I am not sure that is a life I would choose for her, but I realize that if that is the life she wants for herself, that is her decision. So now I do think it is time for me to step up and begin working on her behalf where I can.( US Copyright Website anyone? That would probably be the first order of business.) At this point I am confident that given her choice of school and curriculum she will learn what she needs to learn to be good at what she does whether or not she is ever “discovered” and made famous. I am also confident that she will have the tools to express herself musically in her songs and be able to share them with others in some shape or form because she has something to say and she is talented. I know that whatever lies out there for her, in whatever form it takes she will find her way; the music is in her.