Sing Portland! is going up in the world — singing with Deke Sharon, performing at Carnegie Hall. We’re getting a bit of a reputation.

So it’s about time we shake things up a bit, right? It’s about time we take a look at our ‘everyone welcome’ policy and start making our singers audition…

Oh Hell no! Nuh-uh, not gonna happen. And I’ll tell you why.

Everyone can sing.

No, really. I’ll prove it to you.

A few years ago a singer brought her husband to one of my workshops. Before he even started singing, the husband offered his apologies. He told me he couldn’t hold a tune in a bathtub.

Okay, I thought, challenge accepted. I’ll show him.

But he really was bad. Had I met my match? I kept wondering how to “fix” it, all the while keeping my fingers crossed that his wobbly voice would stop floating about and land where it needed to.

Then I made eye contact. I knew he had it in him to match pitch — everyone does. And guess what… as soon as I looked him square in the eyes, he found the right pitch.

The secret to finding the right pitch.

The same thing happened in choir recently. I have a singer who sings way off key every now and then. One of the stronger singers next to him checked in with me: “Do you know that he is singing off pitch?” Well, of course I do. But I also know that he’s finding more and more notes on pitch because every time I make eye contact with him I see him radiate confidence, I see him find the guts to reach a little higher and hit the note right on.

Because that’s the secret, really. It’s comes down to something as simple and as complex as confidence.

You see, singing out of key is uncomfortable — it’s embarrassing. In fact, I used to avoid making eye contact with singers who sing way out of tune. I may have given them an encouraging smile to make sure they felt welcome but I didn’t want to put them on the spot. I knew that eventually they’d sing in pitch. Whether it took weeks or months I knew that they’d get there in the end.

And I confess, I’d feel a little embarrassed too. I’d hope the rest of the choir wasn’t bothered by the brave newcomer, and pray that the out-of-tune singer wasn’t feeling self-conscious. But the thing about all that worry and embarrassment floating around is that the singer can feel it, consciously or otherwise.

So I needed a new strategy for my off-pitch singers — and I remembered the out-of-tune husband.

Now, when I’m faced with an off-pitch singer I simply need to decide inwardly that the singer can do it. Then I look at him and beam that message over to him. And it’s not a look of “match pitch, damn it!” It’s a look that says, “you have it in you, you’ll find it and it’s okay if it doesn’t happen today.”

And most of the time that one look gives them the courage to find it.

It’s an awesome phenomenon. It shows the power we have to give other people confidence, the ability we have to empower each other. And singers need that.

Because it takes a lot of guts to try to reach the right pitch because the higher you sing, the brighter your tone and the more you stand out. It takes a lot of trust to go higher and believe that at some mysterious point you’ll hit the right note.

And time and time again I see that eye contact and encouragement make all the difference.

So often singers make excuses not to join a choir and the fear of not being good enough is excuse number one. But guess what…surrounding yourself with a group of singers is the perfect way to become a good singer. But you have to believe in yourself, you have to allow, you have to trust that you DO have a decent voice.  

The voice is an amazing being. It just hangs out there with you, until you give it permission to shine! It has unlimited patience. You can choose to criticize your voice all your life. It won’t judge you.  But the day you decide that it has a place in this world, the day you allow it to shine with all its glamour, it will surprise you and make your heart sing. And sometimes all it takes to get there is a little eye contact and a little confidence.

Whether you’re already pitch perfect or need a little time and encouragement to get there, we’d love for you to join us at any Sing Portland!’s three choirs: Sing Portland!, Pop PDX or Vocal Improv. Remember, everyone is welcome — no audition necessary. After all, I already know that you can sing!