I’ve been singing almost my entire life.
Even in elementary school, I loved going to the front of the church to perform “This Little Light of Mine.” My upbringing was quite symphonic, with my parents introducing me to many different genres and styles of music at a very young age. Heck, the first TV show I ever fell in love with was “The Wiggles.”
Music was a significant part of my early life in school. Every concert, talent show, or church performance was taken with a grin. It’s what got me into public speaking in the first place. If you think about it, the two subjects aren’t that different from one another. Both require standing in front of a large group, getting loud, and providing listeners with an enjoyable experience. While I may love putting my talents on display now, it wasn’t always that way.
Okay, let me give you some backstory; I’m kind of a loud person. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it hasn’t helped me either. My volume carried over into my singing as well. It really didn’t matter if I was doing a solo or performing as part of an ensemble. I was always the thundering voice of the choir. This, to put it lightly, did not gain me any fans.
Back in elementary and middle school, the choir would watch videos of our concerts the next day in class. As expected, there was a certain voice that would consistently overpower the others. This led to people considering our recitals as “Wyatt Nun and His Backup Singers.” Now, these comments were not meant with a positive connotation. It led to me becoming quite insecure about my singing, and I almost quit choir because of it.
When I got to high school, I decided I was going to give vocal music one last shot. I distinctly remember talking to my director, Mr. Kaye-Skinner, about working on volume control in my singing. It was my goal that if I was going to stay in choir, this was an issue that had to be corrected. It was either learn to adjust my brash voice or quit.
Every Friday in the FC choir, there is a listening activity that we do. Mr. Kaye introduces us to a song that we may not have heard before, and we are supposed to fill out a form that gives him our general opinions on that track. That first week of choir, I recall Mr. Kaye showing us “Existentialism On Prom Night” by Straylight Run. I know plenty of you don’t know that song, but trust me, you should.
Straylight Run was a side project started by John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday that thrived in the Indie rock scene from 2003 to 2008. Realizing his songs wouldn’t fit the emo stylings of TBS, he created Straylight Run with Shaun Cooper, Will Noon, and Michelle DaRosa. After starting this band, “Existentialism On Prom Night” was one of the first songs the group debuted.
This track is one that really influenced me from the moment I heard it. The tune is about how some moments in life just seem like dreams, but all dreams must come to an end. It preaches the message that life only gives us so many of these surreal moments, and we would kill to have that feeling. In the chorus, Nolan shouts “Sing like you think no one’s listening.” It’s a song about letting go of your worries and living in the moment.
After showing us the track, Mr. Kaye announced we would be singing it at our fall show. The choir then spent the next few months working on that tune, along with the other songs for the concert. While I did use this time to practice my volume control, Straylight Run had lit a fire inside of me. I started to realize that singing is something about which I have always been passionate, and I shouldn’t let hecklers stop me from doing what I love.
That November, the choir did perform “Existential On Prom Night” for the audience, but I was also given the opportunity to perform a solo at the show. I took this chance to sing a track from one of my all time favorite bands; Green Day’s “Good Riddance.” Finally, I was able to be loud without annoying others! Jokes aside, this show did actually go much better than any other concert I’d ever been in. My volume problems had been conquered, and my insecurities about singing had been eliminated.
Freshman Wyatt didn’t realize this, but “Existentialism On Prom Night” is a staple that our choir presents every single year. This past week, I sang it for the third time in my high school career, along with a solo of “I Miss You” by Blink-182 and a duet with Geneva’s very own Aidan Trowbridge, in which we sang “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. We belted out the lyrics to all of the people on the streets (ba dum tss).
As I previously stated, this is my third year as a tenor in the Fillmore Central Choir. Music really is a passion of mine, and I’m quite grateful that I was able to conquer my fears and continue singing. Yet, I owe a lot of this to Mr. Ben Kaye-Skinner and Straylight Run. If not for them, I wouldn’t be who I am today. They taught me to overcome adversity, never give up on my passion, and to sing like you think no one’s listening.