Sitting in my second jazz vocal masterclass, my teacher had just presented the three songs that three students would sing. I knew one of the songs pretty well and the other two were new to me. One of them had a chart but no lead sheet, so I was learning the song completely by ear and feel. After hearing the teacher sing, the three students in her "team" were to go on stage and sing the three songs and based on how they sounded, a song would choose us.
"Who would like to go first?"
I leaped up without hesitation. One of the other women in the group commented on how she loves the fact that I never hesitate and always just dive in. "How do you do that?" she asked me.
It was easy to answer and something I now don't even think of. It's the improvisation rule of "say yes" and fits with my personal motto of "start where you are, use what you have and do what you can". With this mindset I am liberated from the pressure of perfection and fear of failure. I'm learning new songs so there are bound to be mistakes!
I started with the song that I knew least and that had no lead sheet. I was finding my way in the dark, but that was okay. Then I sang through the song I had never heard, but at least had music to read. Lastly I sang the song I knew best. I knew that I would be unlikely to choose that song to work on, so decided to seize the moment and give a performance of the song. It was beautiful to be accompanied gorgeously on the piano by Bob Sedergreen, shed inhibitions and really commit to the song. There were moments when I had goosebumps and I could feel the energy of the "audience" (my fellow classmates) really feeling the song with me. I received an appreciative round of applause and loved having the opportunity to sing "The Man I Love" by George Gershwin.
The other two singers in my team had their turn at the songs and it was immediately clear who should sing which song. I have come out with the song I struggled with most, but really enjoyed the humour. It's an old song called "Hard Hearted Hannah (the vamp of Savannah)". A few people said that I should sing the Gershwin because it sounded great. It sounded great partly because I already knew it. What would be the point of starting out with something already known and spending a term working with that and missing the chance to discover something new.
Fear is the antidote to leaping in. I'm so glad that it's been overtaken by my willingness to say "yes" and the mindset that creates.