Harmonizing with Mr. Keck

I have a goal to dedicate each of the books in my Soul in Ashes series to a teacher that made a difference in my life. Book 3, Sanctuary Defiled, is dedicated to Mr. Keck “for teaching me about harmony.”

Singing a solo in a pioneer program
Singing a solo in a pioneer program

My mild-mannered alter ego is a mezzo soprano singer. I was blessed with a powerful voice, and I’ve enjoyed singing almost as long as I’ve enjoyed writing. When I joined my high school choir, Mr. Keck was my teacher.

As Christmas approached, I tried out to be one of the soloists for our holiday performances. Mr. Keck gave me the opportunity to sing for two of the performances. During that time, I was also taking private voice lessons. My private instructor suggested that I perform a little differently than anyone who had ever sung the song before by not stepping back to join the choir after the first verse of the song. So, during the first performance, that’s what I did. I stayed forward and completed the song as a soloist, instead of blending back into the crowd.

It wasn’t until after the second performance that I realized my mistake. As we prepared to start the song, Mr. Keck took the microphone away from me, jokingly telling the crowd that my voice was strong enough to carry. Well, I have a loud voice, but not quite loud enough to carry over an entire choir, so I ended up blending with the choir for the last verse, after all.

Through this experience, I realized the importance of following the director, and doing things his or her way. I also learned that when you’re working with a group, it’s more important to blend in and sing as a team, so that you can create a beautiful sound that you can’t make just by yourself. Mr. Keck could always tell when I wasn’t singing the notes right during rehearsal because my voice was so strong, and I hadn’t yet learned how to blend in.

Over the years since then, I’ve tried to acquire that blending skill in the many choirs I’ve performed with. I felt triumphant recently when someone complimented me that I blended in very well with the other singers in a rather small group. I still enjoy singing solos, and I’m thrilled when I have the opportunity to sing as loud as I can, because for some narcissistic reason, I like the power my voice can wield. But I’m also glad that I can recognize when I need to tone it down and blend with those around me to create beautiful harmony I can’t make alone. I thank Mr. Keck for that lesson.

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