Watch your language!

I have been doing morning meditations using an app called The Daily Calm. At the end of each meditation, a graphic comes up summarizing the most important point of the day’s “lesson.” Today it was language.

Shortly after I finished my meditation, I went to peruse Facebook (big surprise, I know), and came across a link to an article about the enduring pain of childhood verbal abuse. I thought this was an amazing bit of serendipity and probably what I should talk about today.

I grew up in a household where praise was not easily thrown around. (Okay, it was never thrown around.) If I misbehaved, I was told that there was clearly something wrong with me – perhaps it was that fever I’d had when I was a child, perhaps I was just intrinsically bad. I was generally a well-behaved child, and any bad behavior was normal for a kid of my age, whether that age was 4 or 14. (And really, how bad could a 4 year old be that would warrant someone calling the recorded weather and saying, “Hello, police? I have a bad little girl here. Can you come and get her?” in a voice loud enough for the terrified 4-year-old to hear, resulting in said child groveling in tears at your feet???) This kind of approach led me into a cycle of shame that took me a very long time to get over. I worried that perhaps there was something wrong with me. That I was fooling everyone with my so-called “talent” and that I was a fraud.

Despite that upbringing, I grew up to make choices that my mother didn’t like – I went to college and graduate school for music, a field both parents disapproved of, I moved across country, I left a marriage that made me unhappy, I learned to drive stick shift (so unfeminine!), I dyed my hair auburn, I opened my own voice studio instead of settling for a day job – and I was and am happy. (Surprisingly, my not having children was never an issue.)

And I am very careful with my language with my students. I never want to shame anyone. Words have consequences. I’m honest with my students, but I always try to find the good in their efforts, even when I’m addressing vocal issues that need improvement. Sometimes I’ve slipped up. And often I’m not so careful with myself. But I’m working on it.

Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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