While I have never worked full-time in music, I’ve been singing and playing several instruments most of my life, and I sing as a professional “ringer”, or, choir section leader, around town. I’ve done ALL sorts of interesting things and I plan to write about some of them over time, so, I thought I’d start out by listing some of the unusual or important ones for your entertainment, and for my reference in the future.
Probably the pivotal moment was at the beginning of 5th grade when I auditioned for the school choir and did NOT get in — unbelievable. I had already been singing for a while, and I think my mother even went to school to talk to the teacher about it, but, he wouldn’t budge or reconsider. I didn’t take any lessons or work on my singing (that would be much later), but the next year, I auditioned again, for the same teacher, and I was accepted, and eventually had a solo verse on “Kumbaya” at one of our concerts. One thing about music — if you can’t take some rejection, you won’t get very far.
I started playing guitar because we had one — my mother and some of her friends had signed up for an adult guitar class at the local community center, but, they ended up mainly laughing each other and upsetting the instructor, so that lasted a very short time. So, we had a guitar and a beginner’s book. I’m mainly self-taught, and by age 13 I played enough that we bothered to pack up my guitar so that I could take it on the plane with me to summer camp in Georgia.
Another pivotal moment was at the end of 10th grade, when anyone in Senior Choir who wanted to audition for the 24-voice Vocal Ensemble had to sign up on a list on the wall. I didn’t sign up — I didn’t think I was good enough, and I figured maybe I’d audition the next year. After class one day, the choir director called me up to the front when he dismissed the class, and said he noticed I hadn’t signed up to audition and wanted to know why. I told him I didn’t think I was good enough, but he said that although he wasn’t making any promises, he thought I should give it a try. I did get in, and we performed at various community functions as well as at school. This group was the closest that a music geek got to having the status of people like the cheerleaders.
College is for a whole other entry. So is my discovery of the 5-string banjo. I did some of my most unusual gigs as a banjo player, including playing in a show where I was the only non-sorority member, playing at a pig roast, and being dressed up as a man to accompany a male quartet in a benefit show — to this day I don’t know why it was important that the banjo player also look like a man, but, I like wearing men’s clothes, so, I didn’t object — that was in 1982.
I have sung on the stage of Carnegie Hall. There were about 100 other singers with me (the Cincinnati May Festival Chorus), and the Cincinnati Symphony. I auditioned for the chorus mainly to go sing there, and it definitely was worth it, but other than that, singing in a large group is really not my thing, so I only sang with them for one year. The time commitment to sing in the chorus is pretty huge, and for the most part I have never stuck with one thing for multiple years — I get bored and want to move on.
I don’t like to travel, so I haven’t gone very far to sing — just Milwaukee and Indianapolis. In Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, I’ve sung at the Covington Basilica, Music Hall, the Music Hall ballroom, the Reds baseball stadium, Price Hill Chili (actually I only played piano there), Coney Island, and more churches than I can remember, though I will write about some of those.
Some other future topics — my 2 years in the Cincinnati Camerata (I auditioned on a dare), 4 years with a women’s chorale, Women in Song, directed by a former member of Chanticleer, playing in a contradance band, having my own bluegrass group, “Sheryl’s Front Porch Band”, and my ill-fated attempt at being a Sweet Adeline. And there is Sacred Harp singing, which I did a lot for about ten years, and my current church substitute gigs. I also did some gigs with Kenny Smith’s “Peace and Serenity” and one with the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus. So, I get around!