QoTD: One Small Light

 

You can’t make progress until you let yourself sound like you. –Nathan Gunn, baritone singer

I first encountered Nathan Gunn right here on Ricochet, when @marcin posted a video of the musical, Carousel. Mr. Gunn played the lead role of Billy Bigelow. He performs opera and musicals, is a university professor in music and is very involved in promoting new programs. Besides having a beautiful baritone voice and his being handsome, I was curious to know more about him and found an interview of him on a program called, The Classical Life (video below). His story is in some ways typically mid-western American: 50 years old, born in Indiana, beautiful wife who is a pianist and five kids. But this quotation he made stopped me cold. It is something he tells his students.

I haven’t been a university student in a very long time, but this statement was one of those that struck me between the eyes and demanded my attention regarding my own writing. It is similar to other statements I’ve heard over the years—“Just be yourself” or “Just keep writing.” But I like the idea of being challenged and pushed beyond my comfort zone, at least some of the time. So his words called to me to parse them carefully as if there were a message hidden within them. Maybe it showed up just when I needed to hear it. Here’s what I learned:

You can’t make progress until you let yourself sound like you.

The pronoun “you” put the responsibility for my growth firmly on my own shoulders. Even at my age, I want to grow, and I can certainly seek help, but ultimately, I need to take the initiative to make that happen. Even if an opportunity just shows up, it’s up to me to actualize the results.

Then I asked myself, “What does it mean to ‘progress’? After all, where is there to go? I’m not interested in having my articles published in fancy publications. I’m not interested in becoming well-known or known for a particular genre. I think I make progress when I stretch myself in my writing; when I write on an unfamiliar topic; when I have to do research to fill in my understanding; when I write on subjects that feel risky or are controversial; when I reveal more of who I am; when I look inside to identify my own beliefs. By writing often, the process becomes more familiar, more organic as I put fingers to keys. All of these efforts stretch me and help me progress in my efforts to write in a way that is transparent, helpful, and encourages people to think through an idea.

And letting myself “sound like me” is an interesting choice of words used by Mr. Gunn. What do I “sound” like when I write? Am I willing to let myself be vulnerable? Do people have an authentic sense of who I am, what I believe, what I think is important in life? From the responses I receive from some of you, I know that I am making a contribution.

So, that’s why this quotation spoke to me. I want to feel as if I’m stretching, maturing, and growing. That people see me as clear and sincere, whether they agree with me or not. That some people believe I have something to offer.

I will continue to “let myself sound like me” as a way to grow and to be one small light in the world.

What does it mean for you to “sound like you”? Do you push yourself to grow?

If you would like to see a short video by Nathan Gunn’s performing—

And his interview—

Published in Group Writing
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  1. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Who said it, I gotta be me?

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    You have made my day. :-) Isn’t he a wonderful actor and baritone? :-) 

    I didn’t know all of this about him, but none of it surprises me one bit. You can tell that he is comfortable with himself. :-)

    And, yes, I too am still learning and growing. :-)  

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Susan Quinn: The pronoun “you” put the responsibility for my growth firmly on my own shoulders. Even at my age, I want to grow, and I can certainly seek help, but ultimately, I need to take the initiative to make that happen. Even if an opportunity just shows up, it’s up to me to actualize the results.

    And you are the only one who can allow yourself to grow, to progress. Others may push, but you have to take the steps. And by “you” I mean each and every one of us. We cannot change others, we can only change ourselves.


    This is the Quote of the Day. If you have run across an interesting quotation lately, why not share it with us? We have several openings still this month, including tomorrow. Come join us. It’s the easiest way to start a conversation on Ricochet.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Who said it, I gotta be me?

    Sammy Davis Jr?

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):
    And you are the only one who can allow yourself to grow, to progress. Others may push, but you have to take the steps. And by “you” I mean each and every one of us. We cannot change others, we can only change ourselves.

    Thanks, @arahant. That’s the message I hope will come through! 

    • #5
  6. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Hmm, can you hum a few bars of that?

    • #6
  7. Marythefifth Inactive
    Marythefifth
    @Marythefifth

    Hmmm. I didn’t listen to the interview to find the context of the quote. But by itself, I took it to mean something else entirely: don’t start out trying to sound like someone else, some idol. Use what you have, then take your tone and your expression (what makes you unique) and hone it. Then I heard him sing and never mind. He doesn’t sound like himself. I can’t listen to singers who use wide vibrato and color-destroying chest voices. Yes, that’s how you project, but ugh. That level of control also kills nuance in your delivery. Zero dynamics, zero inflection. Oh well. If you just want to be heard from a live stage, then who cares who is singing the part? It’s just words connected to an ever-fluctuating pitch.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Marythefifth (View Comment):

    Hmmm. I didn’t listen to the interview to find the context of the quote. But by itself, I took it to mean something else entirely: don’t start out trying to sound like someone else, some idol. Use what you have, then take your tone and your expression (what makes you unique) and hone it. Then I heard him sing and never mind. He doesn’t sound like himself. I can’t listen to singers who use wide vibrato and color-destroying chest voices. Yes, that’s how you project, but ugh. That level of control also kills nuance in your delivery. Zero dynamics, zero inflection. Oh well. If you just want to be heard from a live stage, then who cares who is singing the part? It’s just words connected to an ever-fluctuating pitch.

    I guess you didn’t like his singing? Keep in mind that different parts require different presentations.

    • #8
  9. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Marythefifth: But by itself, I took it to mean something else entirely: don’t start out trying to sound like someone else, some idol.

    Me, too.

    If you listen to Bing Crosby, circa 1932, you can hear what’s referred to “the Jolson wail.” If you listen to early Sinatra ballads from the Harry James era you can pick out Crosbyisms. Michael Buble has his Sinatra tics.

    • #9
  10. Suspira Member
    Suspira
    @Suspira

    Okay! Okay! I’ll get back to work on my novel. Why is everyone nagging me about it?*

     

    *Or am I reading something into this post that isn’t there?

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Suspira (View Comment):
    Okay! Okay! I’ll get back to work on my novel. Why is everyone nagging me about it?

    About time. 😉

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    EJHill (View Comment):
    If you listen to Bing Crosby, circa 1932, you can hear what’s referred to “the Jolson wail.” If you listen to early Sinatra ballads from the Harry James era you can pick out Crosbyisms. Michael Buble has his Sinatra tics.

    @ejhill, what you point out is interesting. (I’m still not clear on what @marythefifth was saying, too.) I agree with both of you (I think) that trying at the start out sounding like someone else is foolish. I’ve never been inclined to write like someone famous, and I wouldn’t know how to do it. The singers you refer to–is there any judgment in what you say, or is it just an observation?

    I think in my own writing, rather than sounding a certain way, I try as much as possible to be as authentic as I can. I think that’s what Mr. Gunn was saying.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Suspira (View Comment):

    Okay! Okay! I’ll get back to work on my novel. Why is everyone nagging me about it?*

     

    *Or am I reading something into this post that isn’t there?

    Your understanding works for me, @suspira! I’m with @arahant!

    • #13
  14. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I think the quotation implies that “you” have integrated good stuff from others such that “you” is not an imitation but an improved but genuine version of “you”.  There are some “you’s” out there who would do well to pretend to be someone else.

    One of my all-time favorite funny birthday card covers had a disheveled drunk sitting on a bar stool telling his listeners that his identity had been stolen but that the joke was on the thief “because I’m an a__hole.”

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Thank you on two counts, @oldbathos. Your first comment is spot on: we become those things we experience, that are meaningful to us, that we treasure, which become integrated with who we are. That “genuine version,” I believe, is who we are most deeply, not just what we do but how we manifest that inner being. 

    The drunk comment is a good one, too!

    • #15
  16. Marythefifth Inactive
    Marythefifth
    @Marythefifth

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Marythefifth (View Comment):

    Hmmm. I didn’t listen to the interview to find the context of the quote. But by itself, I took it to mean something else entirely: don’t start out trying to sound like someone else, some idol. Use what you have, then take your tone and your expression (what makes you unique) and hone it. Then I heard him sing and never mind. He doesn’t sound like himself. I can’t listen to singers who use wide vibrato and color-destroying chest voices. Yes, that’s how you project, but ugh. That level of control also kills nuance in your delivery. Zero dynamics, zero inflection. Oh well. If you just want to be heard from a live stage, then who cares who is singing the part? It’s just words connected to an ever-fluctuating pitch.

    I guess you didn’t like his singing? Keep in mind that different parts require different presentations.

    Yeah. It was harsh of me. I dream of being able to devise a public comparison demo. Using chosen singers, not myself!

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Marythefifth (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Marythefifth (View Comment):

    Hmmm. I didn’t listen to the interview to find the context of the quote. But by itself, I took it to mean something else entirely: don’t start out trying to sound like someone else, some idol. Use what you have, then take your tone and your expression (what makes you unique) and hone it. Then I heard him sing and never mind. He doesn’t sound like himself. I can’t listen to singers who use wide vibrato and color-destroying chest voices. Yes, that’s how you project, but ugh. That level of control also kills nuance in your delivery. Zero dynamics, zero inflection. Oh well. If you just want to be heard from a live stage, then who cares who is singing the part? It’s just words connected to an ever-fluctuating pitch.

    I guess you didn’t like his singing? Keep in mind that different parts require different presentations.

    Yeah. It was harsh of me. I dream of being able to devise a public comparison demo. Using chosen singers, not myself!

    That would be fascinating! I don’t know that much about music, certainly very little about opera or the terms you use. When I think about art, I think about how we all have different tastes, that there isn’t necessarily “good art,” but it’s more in the eye of the beholder. I guess singing must be different.

    • #17
  18. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    When I think about art, I think about how we all have different tastes, that there isn’t necessarily “good art,” but it’s more in the eye of the beholder.

    No, there is good art. Not everyone likes it, but that doesn’t make it bad.

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    When I think about art, I think about how we all have different tastes, that there isn’t necessarily “good art,” but it’s more in the eye of the beholder.

    No, there is good art. Not everyone likes it, but that doesn’t make it bad.

    That’s true for the classics. But what about those who rave about the wild contemporary art. Every now and then I see something I like, but a lot of it (I think) is awful. Who gets to decide it’s “good art”?

    • #19
  20. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Who said it, I gotta be me?

    Sammy Davis Jr?

    Bingo!

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Who said it, I gotta be me?

    Sammy Davis Jr?

    Bingo!

    Hey, this ain’t no slouch, man!

    • #21
  22. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    When I think about art, I think about how we all have different tastes, that there isn’t necessarily “good art,” but it’s more in the eye of the beholder.

    No, there is good art. Not everyone likes it, but that doesn’t make it bad.

    That’s true for the classics. But what about those who rave about the wild contemporary art. Every now and then I see something I like, but a lot of it (I think) is awful. Who gets to decide it’s “good art”?

    Most contemporary art is not good. (Most art of the classical period was not good, either, but the bad has been sifted out through the years.)

    • #22
  23. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Most contemporary art is not good. (Most art of the classical period was not good, either, but the bad has been sifted out through the years.)

    Use of “good” is patriarchal, heteronormative, racist, so-five-minutes-ago, and bad for the modern gallery scam market.

    • #23
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Most contemporary art is not good. (Most art of the classical period was not good, either, but the bad has been sifted out through the years.)

    Use of “good” is patriarchal, heteronormative, racist, so-five-minutes-ago, and bad for the modern gallery scam market.

    I guess we could partake of a tour of the graffiti in the cities to realize what we’ve been missing.

    • #24
  25. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Most contemporary art is not good. (Most art of the classical period was not good, either, but the bad has been sifted out through the years.)

    Use of “good” is patriarchal, heteronormative, racist, so-five-minutes-ago, and bad for the modern gallery scam market.

    Yep. And I don’t care, either.

    • #25
  26. I. M. Fine Coolidge
    I. M. Fine
    @IMFine

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Who said it, I gotta be me?

    Sammy Davis Jr?

    Bingo!

    Hey, this ain’t no slouch, man!

    Yes, Sammy said it. (Warning, obscure trivia alert) But the song “I’ve Gotta Be Me” was originally recorded by Steve Lawrence. It was a song from the not-very-successful 1968 Broadway musical Golden Rainbow that Lawrence was starring in with his wife, Eydie Gorme. It was a modest hit for Steve, but Sammy’s cover (released only months later) was a major success, and that is the version we all remember. (I actually own the original cast album of Golden Rainbow, and I’ve always preferred Steve’s version. Very smooth. Just sayin’.)

    And interestingly enough, the original song is actually “I’ve Got to Be Me” — Sammy changed it to “I’ve Gotta Be Me” and that is now the official copyrighted title.

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I. M. Fine (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Who said it, I gotta be me?

    Sammy Davis Jr?

    Bingo!

    Hey, this ain’t no slouch, man!

    Yes, Sammy said it. (Warning, obscure trivia alert) But the song “I’ve Gotta Be Me” was originally recorded by Steve Lawrence. It was a song from the not-very-successful 1968 Broadway musical Golden Rainbow that Lawrence was starring in with his wife, Eydie Gorme. It was a modest hit for Steve, but Sammy’s cover (released only months later) was a major success, and that is the version we all remember. (I actually own the original cast album of Golden Rainbow, and I’ve always preferred Steve’s version. Very smooth. Just sayin’.)

    And interestingly enough, the original song is actually “I’ve Got to Be Me” — Sammy changed it to “I’ve Gotta Be Me” and that is now the official copyrighted title.

     

     

    I love Steve and Eydie! I saw them on someone’s TV show a bazillion years ago. Eydie had everyone crying at one of her best. Darn–it was such a tear jerker. @imfine, do you know that one? 

    • #27
  28. I. M. Fine Coolidge
    I. M. Fine
    @IMFine

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I. M. Fine (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Who said it, I gotta be me?

    Sammy Davis Jr?

    Bingo!

    Hey, this ain’t no slouch, man!

    Yes, Sammy said it. (Warning, obscure trivia alert) But the song “I’ve Gotta Be Me” was originally recorded by Steve Lawrence. It was a song from the not-very-successful 1968 Broadway musical Golden Rainbow that Lawrence was starring in with his wife, Eydie Gorme. It was a modest hit for Steve, but Sammy’s cover (released only months later) was a major success, and that is the version we all remember. (I actually own the original cast album of Golden Rainbow, and I’ve always preferred Steve’s version. Very smooth. Just sayin’.)

    And interestingly enough, the original song is actually “I’ve Got to Be Me” — Sammy changed it to “I’ve Gotta Be Me” and that is now the official copyrighted title.

     

     

    I love Steve and Eydie! I saw them on someone’s TV show a bazillion years ago. Eydie had everyone crying at one of her best. Darn–it was such a tear jerker. @imfine, do you know that one?

    My guess is that it’s “It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone” — a genuinely heart-wrenching ballad sung (apparently) by a woman whose husband has died (rather than just the break-up of a romantic relationship.) The other candidate is “If He Walked Into My Life” — a Jerry Herman torcher from the musical Mame (although it can be sung in a romantic context as well.) Eydie kills both of these songs. I am also a big fan. 

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I. M. Fine (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I. M. Fine (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Who said it, I gotta be me?

    Sammy Davis Jr?

    Bingo!

    Hey, this ain’t no slouch, man!

    Yes, Sammy said it. (Warning, obscure trivia alert) But the song “I’ve Gotta Be Me” was originally recorded by Steve Lawrence. It was a song from the not-very-successful 1968 Broadway musical Golden Rainbow that Lawrence was starring in with his wife, Eydie Gorme. It was a modest hit for Steve, but Sammy’s cover (released only months later) was a major success, and that is the version we all remember. (I actually own the original cast album of Golden Rainbow, and I’ve always preferred Steve’s version. Very smooth. Just sayin’.)

    And interestingly enough, the original song is actually “I’ve Got to Be Me” — Sammy changed it to “I’ve Gotta Be Me” and that is now the official copyrighted title.

     

     

    I love Steve and Eydie! I saw them on someone’s TV show a bazillion years ago. Eydie had everyone crying at one of her best. Darn–it was such a tear jerker. @imfine, do you know that one?

    My guess is that it’s “It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone” — a genuinely heart-wrenching ballad sung (apparently) by a woman whose husband has died (rather than just the break-up of a romantic relationship.) The other candidate is “If He Walked Into My Life” — a Jerry Herman torcher from the musical Mame (although it can be sung in a romantic context as well.) Eydie kills both of these songs. I am also a big fan.

    It was the latter. What a voice, what a song!  Thanks! 

    • #29
  30. Franco Inactive
    Franco
    @Franco

    It’s a great quote and I agree. I’m a musician and I’m not sure if I have yet to find my voice. I guess while jamming I do sometimes, but otherwise I’m a complete hack.  Then again, I’m not famous or even close. At this point it’s more of a hobby, even though I do make money performing.

    But having or discovering your own ‘voice’ is something that is pretty widely known among artists, and people in the industry. Yes, it applies outside of art, as long as the discipline isn’t too regimented.

    My daughter is a dancer and budding actress, who just graduated from a commercial dance program and she’s been made fully aware that she has to go deep into self discovery and find ways to express authenticity. That’s not an easy thing to do, since the very act of trying to be ‘authentic‘ is, well, somewhat inauthentic.

    Now, I have been mildly obsessed with a young lady who has definitely found her own voice, and appears to be an amazingly ‘authentic’ person, and became spectacularly famous before she was allowed to drive a car.
    I was absolutely blown away when I first heard her 6 months ago, and this post gives me a chance to share it:

    Great, simple songwriting. Relaxed impassioned performance without histrionics. Completely different from what was so popular just yesterday. She’s 18…

    • #30
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