My Biggest Professional Influence
I’ve been thinking a lot about who has had an influence on me and my professional development lately. The reason for this is because the person I think is the biggest reason I am where I am now as a singer and voice teacher passed away on Sept 19.
I have talked about some of the people who have influenced me along the way before, David Jones, Lamperti, Jussi Björling. But I haven’t mentioned this person because interestingly she wasn’t a voice teacher or singer. Joy Caroline MacLennan Fisher was my Grandmother on my Mother’s side.
She wasn’t a professional or trained singer but she did sing most of her life, which lasted 98 years. She started out in the Glee Club in High School and up until a year ago she would stand next to my Mom in the Church Choir every Sunday like she had since 1959.
As is often the case, there were many details of her life that I did not know. She had told me about taking violin lessons when she was young and having to take the train 3 hours from her small town to the city where her teacher was. She would stay overnight there and then come home the next day. She did this as an eight and nine year old.
What I didn’t know was that she had played in a professional orchestra in her early twenties. She could always tell good music when she heard it. For many years she would go with my Mom and Uncle to performances of the Metropolitan Opera when they came through Minneapolis on the annual summer tour.
I missed my only chance to go when I declined their invitation the last year of the tours in 1986. I was only 15, what do you expect? I wasn’t really into singing yet. But when I did get interested in singing once I was in college I think it made her very proud.
I got the typical concern from my parents about getting work and supporting myself when I announced that I was going to major in music. But I never heard that from her. She probably felt it too, but she never said anything. She was always supportive in everything we did.
The title of the post might be a little misleading, because my Grandmother was certainly one of the biggest personal influences in my life. But I think her love of music created a culture in my family that really sunk into me.
But the part that I think seals it for me is the fact that she was a teacher. She went to teacher’s college in the 1930s and became an elementary schoolteacher. She was forced to stop when she got married and had kids. (That was the way things were then) But when they had grown she went back to teaching in the Minneapolis school system. And she taught until she was 63.
Teaching was ingrained into her person. And I believe it was from her that the talent for teaching came to me. So here I am professionally involved in music as a singer and voice teacher. All of which I can trace back to influences from her. And the funny thing is none of it was anything she tried to do. It was indirectly from just who she was and what she loved.
But because she loved it it was around me, and it stuck. At her funeral there was a nice remembrance read that told the story of her life. A frequent quality that was mentioned was her wisdom. It was said that she always seemed to have a good idea of what should be done in challenging situations. And people enjoyed talking to her about anything, but especially about their problems.
I feel that if, as my site title espouses, I am capable of any wisdom it is because of what I inherited from her.
I am thankful for the many years she was able to share with us. She had an almost magical youthfulness that has been passed to my Mom and to me. I hope that it will allow me to witness the lives of my children and grandchildren the way it did for her.
This is an important type thing for us to contemplate on occasionally. Thinking about things like this will inform us about why we sing. It is our love that gives us inspiration, and inspiration is the spark that creates singing.
Sometimes this can be forgotten because we get caught up in the difficulties we’re having. Whether it is the difficulty of getting our voice to work freely when we are developing or the difficulty of remembering the blocking while singing on stage, it is easy to forget what is really at the heart of what we are doing.
So make a habit of reminding yourself of where your singing comes from. Without the emotional inspiration of love natural singing is not possible. The behavior we call singing is a product of our desire to express the inspiration of our love. Keep that in mind so it can take care of some of the work.
Keep your eyes open for an announcement for something new coming soon. Details will be available in the next few days.