My Journey With Music

Growing up, I always struggled figuring out what my “thing” was. The way I saw it, everyone around me had their own “thing” -- something they excelled at or were particularly interested in and passionate about. My oldest sister was a social butterfly, ran track, played tennis, piano, lacrosse, and danced. To me, it seemed as if she was involved in every single activity imaginable. My middle sister, while not as overtly confident, carved her identity through her academics and displayed an overall level of intelligence and curiosity that constantly baffled me. To put it into perspective, she began reading and studying maps in the third grade on her bedroom floor for fun, which explains why to this day she rarely has to use a GPS. Being the youngest, I was much different. I did not consider myself the brightest, and I resisted participating in extracurricular activities as much as possible -- not only because I was scared, but I seemed to hate everything I tried. I started taking piano lessons at the age of four and enjoyed it to some degree, but learning some of the technical aspects, like theory, was challenging, so I never considered it an activity that I could see myself taking seriously.

Around 7th grade, as my classmates were getting involved in sports and clubs at school, I became more and more anxious about what I should get involved in. So, I thought about what I did on a daily basis. I read avidly, watched TV (not exactly the most valuable skill to have in life), played piano, and sang. Singing, however, was something I did on the side and mostly in private, like singing in the shower or every night when my sister had already gone to sleep, just to bother her. I sang in chorus at school, but that was mostly to fulfill the fine art requirement. But I liked singing. My teacher and my sisters even mentioned I had a good voice, but I never took those comments to heart and always stood in the back row during our performances. None of my close friends were in chorus -- they all played sports -- and most of my family was academically, rather than musically, inclined. When I really thought about it, though, music had been a significant part of my life. I had been taking piano lessons for so long and always found myself singing.

I reached out to my mom and asked her to sign me up for voice lessons, and of course she happily agreed because I was finally expressing interest in actually doing something, which was a rare occurrence. As the first few lessons went by, I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed it. I utilized the technical music skills I absorbed from piano and was able to pick up each piece of music fairly quickly, which impressed not only my teacher, but myself as well. Even when she gave me notes on aspects to improve, such as my stage presence, I gladly took her feedback and saw it as a way to only get better in the future. This is when I sort of realized that maybe I did have a talent -- I was not just good at it, but I truly liked what I was doing. I felt a burst of energy when I attended my weekly lessons, and at home when I practiced my songs and fine-tuned my technique. Most importantly, I felt happy. My teacher remarked that I had a beautiful voice, and that I needed to fully realize that before I could showcase my gift to the rest of the world.

These experiences continued to carry me through the beginning of high school, which was terrifying to a self-conscious person like me. I wanted to curl up in my shell and simply get through the next four years, but I knew that that was the old me, and I truly wanted to break out of that mold. So I persisted in putting myself out there -- I not only resumed chorus, but I became increasingly involved within the music department by auditioning for the winter musicals. I was not accepted freshman year, but surprisingly enough, I was not crushed. I kept singing, because I was passionate about it and I was not going to let a rejection deter me from pursuing something that I loved. I worked with my vocal coach to boost my confidence and performance abilities, not because I was forced or felt pressured to, but because I desperately wanted to. One of my defining moments was auditioning for and being accepted to my high school’s coed a cappella group, XIV Hours. At this point, I was pretty accomplished with part singing and reading music, but the style of a cappella took some getting used to given the complete absence of instruments. Even if it felt strange at first, I grew to embrace it over time as I got to know and performed with the other members. I felt empowered and genuinely happy because I was able to make new friends and bond with others over a shared passion, something I had never come across before.

Thus, going into my freshman year of college, it was a no-brainer for me to audition for such a group when I arrived at Wake Forest. I ended up joining Demon Divas, Wake’s contemporary all-female a cappella group, and I can definitively say it’s been one of the most enriching and satisfying experiences for me on campus. We are an extremely diverse group, comprised of unique and equally fun members, all focused on promoting our love of music with the rest of the community. As a sophomore in Divas, I feel as though I’ve come a long way on my musical journey. Being a shy and stubborn young girl, I did not realize it would be possible for me to end up where I am today, performing onstage in front of so many of my peers. Music isn’t everything in my life, and I most likely won’t pursue it as a full-fledged career, but I will never stop making music in my free time. I hope my story, along with the various bumps in the road, will prove to be meaningful to someone out there who is not entirely secure in their identity or what they’re passionate about. Do not feel pressured to follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing. If your heart’s not fully in it, then it’s not right for you. Be your authentic self, and try to find what suits your personality and plays to your strengths. Ask yourself, what resonates with me? It could be art, it could be knitting, it could be cooking. It does not necessarily have to be your career. I guarantee that each and every individual on this campus has their “thing.” It’s just a matter of figuring out what brings you joy in life and how you can share that in a positive way with others. The motto I try live by is “Do what you like, and like what you do.”