"You just have such passion in your voice when you sing and sound so amazing while doing it. Good luck in everything! Don't give up; you have such an amazing talent that you shouldn't waste. You better not slack off, or I'm going to be really mad at you!" Natalie cried, wiping the tears from her eyes as fresh ones were forming in mine. Natalie got out her final words of wisdom while I swallowed the lump in my throat. My voice teacher regained her professionalism while I was losing that of my own.
I'll admit, when I first heard that Natalie Gray, resident voice teacher and Jellybeans director was leaving Random Farms, I didn't cry. I was most certainly shocked at the news, and even though I was sad, I didn't let a single tear escape from my eyes. I don't like crying. I hate the way the sobs wrack my body, stain my face and bewilder my breath. That is why I avoid the action as much as possible and attempt to detach myself with all feelings that trigger it.
So, I tried not to think at all about Natalie's leaving during her last month at Random Farms, and even put off practicing my NYSSMA piece because it made me think of her. But once my last lesson with Natalie was days away, I figured that I had to get down to business and not only face the fact that my beloved teacher was leaving, but practice Panis Angelicus because let's face it: I don't know how to speak Latin.
As expected, practicing the piece brought up many memories of Natalie, which forced me to come to terms with the fact that she truly was leaving. It hurt. But once I did it, I felt so much better. Think of it this way: You climb over a mountain. The journey is exhausting and maybe you slip on the way up but once you reach the top, the view is beautiful. Once I got over my sadness of Natalie's departure, I realized how much I'd vocally improved over the years with her as my teacher.
I thought of how she molded my airy and unstable 12-year-old-pop voice into a trained classical instrument, and gave me ample knowledge of music theory and performance skills. I thought of how she taught me to work hard and persevere, but not to be too hard on myself. I thought of how she made me think of every performance as a learning experience, whether or not I felt satisfied by it. She taught me to love my voice and my craft, but not to take myself so seriously and have a laugh once in a while. After all, I'm only a sixteen-year-old performer who has many credits on her résumé but still has a lot to learn.
But I would have never gotten where I am if it hadn't been for Natalie. I thought that I would leave Random Farms long before she did but hey, you never know what life is going to throw at you. I don't know much of what else is coming, but I do know that I speak for everyone when I say that we all wish Natalie the best of luck in Houston, Texas and welcome Joanie Brittingham, our new voice teacher, to the Random Farms family. Even though Natalie is already gone, we know that her spirit will never truly leave Random Farms; Her operatic voice will ring all the way from Houston to Elmsford.