Finding My Voice This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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I distinctly remember what was running through my mind: “OWWWWWWWWWW!” No, this isn't a story about a violent attack, or some intense physical anguish. I wasn't being tortured, or really experiencing any serious harm at all. This isn't a story like that. This is a story about a voice lesson. One that changed my life.

For as long as I can remember, I've loved to sing. I’d sing all the time. In the car, in the shower, in bed at night while trying to fall asleep; you name it, I sang there. Except one place: on a stage. In front of people. Up until about eighth grade, I had a classic case of stage fright. I did the school musicals, but never worried about performing because I was usually just an ensemble member, swaying in the background. I occasionally took voice lessons and even performed in a couple of recitals for small audiences, but I was still afraid of that stage. In the back of my mind I doubted my voice and thought that it wasn't strong enough. This doubt was pulling me back, keeping me in the wings.

The summer before tenth grade I participated in Summerstage at the New York State Theatre Institute, and I learned so much about the many aspects of theatre. One of the first days we had a group voice lesson, where each person in the group of about fifteen had to sing a solo in front of everyone. “On My Own” from Les Misérables was my piece, a song that needs a big voice and lots of power. I stood shaking, about to start, when one of the counselors stopped me. He stood behind me, grabbed my arms, and started pulling me backwards. He said, “Now start singing, and try to break free at the same time.” I was perplexed, and honestly found it a little odd, but I hesitantly started. He tugged hard, and it really hurt! With my mind so focused on pulling away and struggling to escape his grip, my voice just happened. It came bursting out and left my body with so much power, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was sure the look of surprise on my group’s faces mirrored my own. It was exhilarating and electrifying, and in that moment I knew I had the strength. I finally found my voice.

That voice lesson lingers in my memory. It gave me the confidence to perform, and now musical theatre is a big part of my life. But it also showed me that sometimes the biggest thing holding me back is simply me. I have overcome my self doubt and now love to sing, as well as voice my opinions, whether it be in my Peace and Justice class, or about who is the best actress to ever play Eponine (definitely Lea Salonga, by the way). That lesson, in many aspects, made me come out of those wings and onto the center of the stage.

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