Coaching and training speakers and singers for over 25 years provided a wealth of opportunity to study human behavior. My clients included those who had enormous potential as well as those who would never venture out of their own living rooms. With coaching, instruction and encouragement, many were empowered to get out there and “do it” with confidence and success. I also had those that showed absolutely no aptitude but had a great desire.
In the early years of my business, I worked with an older woman in her sixties who wanted to improve her singing. I knew her in the community and was aware that she was viewed as somewhat of a laughingstock. She sang in the church choir and was a monotone. I had never taught a monotone before and I had only recently finished my graduate work. A strong belief in the fact that no one is beyond improvement led me to take her on as a project. We began in January with assessments. It took me a few meetings to ascertain that she could actually hear the different pitches but had never been trained to listen well or learn to match pitch. We met every week for almost 3 months during which I played a pitch on the piano and she attempted to match it. My questions moved from “Did you match the pitch or not?” to “Are you higher or lower than the pitch?” as she began to learn how to listen to the piano and find the pitches for herself.
By April (most people would have given up long before this but not she!) she was consistently matching the pitches and we chose a song to work on. Nothing difficult…a simple piece…but a stretch for one who had only recently learned how to listen to music. She learned her piece and we worked on it steadily for the next couple of months. Again, most people would never want to work on one simple song for such a length of time.
In early summer I participated in hosting a Fine Arts Camp at Belmont University in Nashville,TN. She attended along with many others, some of whom sang in the choir with her. The last evening of the camp there was a performance opportunity for all participants. I assured her that she must sing. She had worked so hard and was a living testimony to the fact that no one was beyond improvement. When her time came to sing, a hush fell over the crowd in the hall. The accompaniment began and, with confidence learned in our weekly sessions, she began to sing. She sang simply, steadily, and matched every pitch. It was not a stellar performance in comparison with the talent in the room much less the environment of Nashville with its aspiring hopefuls. However, when she finished the hushed silence erupted into thunderous applause. There was not a dry eye in the room. Those who had laughed in secret, wept openly. This mature woman had acted on the desire of her heart. She had no aspirations to be a soloist or a star but she simply wanted to improve. She won the award of the most improved that summer and no one ever laughed again.
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart–Psalm 37:4. It was never about her; it was always about Him. My reminder has continued to be this simple older woman and the amazing fortitude and spirit she shared with me and others that summer.