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Do you want to sing?

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“Do you want to sing?”

When I was 9, my Mom thought I would like to take singing lessons. “Do you want to sing?” she asked.  She was right. I did. But going to my 30-minute weekly class was just the beginning of my journey with music.  I was amazed that a person could teach me how to sing higher, lower, louder. I didn’t even know it was possible!

Soon after, my first singing teacher said I should take piano.  It would help me to read music. So I signed up for piano. I loved that too!  A piano teacher came to my school and gave piano lessons during lunch. Then my singing teacher said I should try Kiwanis.  My first thought was, “there are dance competitions for singers?” I thought that was the best thing!

So there I was in a red and white dress, singing some song about clowns, I think?  What I didn’t realize was that singing when you’re nervous is a whole different experience!  I didn’t win. But I knew I was going to sign up again the next year. In the meantime, my first voice teacher moved, and I started with a new one.  With recitals and other small performances, I just couldn’t shake those nerves. When I sang in public, I just didn’t sound like I did in my lessons.

Later on, I signed up with Mrs. King.  I only knew her at the time as my dance teacher’s mother.  I would go to her house once a week, sometimes with my sister too.  We would do singing exercises, and she would pick songs for us about life and love, and we could all rock a great version of O Canada, in part English/part French.  What I didn’t know initially was that I would become part of Mrs. King’s Caring Kids and Teens. And I was about to sing practically everywhere. We frequented many nursing homes, retirement homes, churches, political functions like citizenship ceremonies, and city council meetings.  We frequented many malls during Oktoberfest, and Christmas Time. We sang in Kitchener Kiwanis and Stratford Kiwanis. Then there were all the fairs, Elmira, Cambridge, Tillsonburg, Aylmer and Western Fair to name a few.

The entire time, we were expected to dress well (close-toed shoes, a long dress, hair off the face), stand tall, sing proud, smile and give our audience some musical entertainment.  If I had dance practice, I could miss a show. As I got older, if I wanted to go out on a date, Mike would watch me sing, and then we would go out!

What slowly began to disappear were those pesky nerves.  Mrs. King had us focused on a task. Sing, so people hear you.  Make a difference. Put a smile on their face. We sang for people from all walks of life.  Some were happy, some were sad, some were healthy, some were sick. It wasn’t about me anymore.  It was about the music and the audience.

I don’t get the opportunity to sing much in public anymore, and if I do, those nerves still creep up.  But I can talk myself down now. I focus on the task. It has made a big difference in my life.

Mrs. King passed away last week.  She would have been 95 this summer.  Some of our dancers and singers at Star still competed in her contests up until last year!  She was always trying to give kids a space to have a voice, to stand up and be heard. While I will miss her dearly, it was a pleasure to see the Caring Kids and Teens again and share our fond memories of singing for Mrs. (Elsie Sue) King.  For me, it started with one singing lesson. A desire to perform turned into a love of song. For now, as the weather warms up, you can hear me singing at a stoplight, with the windows down near you, but who knows what the future holds!

- Kristin Werner


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