Anybody with a voice can sing. But it doesn’t take much to convince someone that they can’t. Maybe it’s getting passed up for a solo in middle school chorus. Or maybe it’s a friend’s joke when everyone’s singing along in the car. Sometimes all it takes is one incident in childhood to turn someone off of singing—or music—for the rest of their life.
For many campers at Acting Manitou, singing—especially in front of a group of people—is one of the most intimidating experiences they encounter. Starting on audition day, the campers are presented with many opportunities to showcase their voices; from the musicals and the camper talent show, to multiple singing electives and pool time jam sessions, our campers are given boundless chances to be loud and proud. But speaking as someone who still struggles with his own singing abilities (especially when it comes to harmonizing…oh boy), I know not everyone jumps at the next chance to hit the high C in Seasons of Love.
In the spirit of growth that we foster among our campers and staff, we place enormous value in trying new things. And as a musician at camp, I see time and time again that singing—and learning new instruments—is often outside many folks’ comfort zones. But what better place than summer camp to join an a cappella group or write your first song? Yesterday’s elective presentations crystallized the idea for me that people of all ages and backgrounds deserve the right to express themselves through music.
Now when I reveal that I’m a classically trained guitarist who started lessons at age five, you may roll your eyes and say, “Well it’s so much easier to start when you’re young!” I point you to my co-staff member Simon who is still in his first year of teaching himself guitar and on top of his job of running our amazing evening activities can be found every night in his room playing and studying one of his guitar books. And if unregulated, consistent practice is not up your alley, then I’ll direct you to one of my favorite artists, Amanda Palmer, and her trusty ukulele.
Amanda champions the ukulele as an instrument of the people because of its shallow learning curve and accessible price point. The lyrics to her song “Ukulele Anthem” illustrate her point nicely:
“Play your favorite cover song, especially if the words are wrong…
You can play the ukulele too it is painfully simple
Play your ukulele badly, play your ukulele loudly…
Stop pretending art is hard, just limit yourself to three chords, and do not practice daily”
And lastly, if music isn’t your thing: great! On your journey of trying new things, it’s important to learn what you don’t like. Statistically speaking, there will be way more experiences that you will dislike than ones you will like. Crossing those off the list is just as important as underlining the ones you enjoy.