I took a course in college on anthropology, and not only did I get an A, but it taught me that I could sing.

Allow me to explain.

In my two-year stint as a student at the University of Buffalo I took an anthropology course called Magic, Witchcraft And Sorcery. This was a fascinating study that sent my young mind soaring with ideas to ponder. Basically, under the guise of anthropology, we were learning about the power of beliefs. We learned about how refugees from Haiti had been mysteriously dying in Florida hospitals. Doctors could find nothing wrong with them and were unable to help. Then someone summoned a Haitian witch doctor, who diagnosed the remaining patients as the recipients of a spell. He recited some incantations over the sick people, and color instantly came back to their skin. They walked out of the hospital within hours!

We also learned about a native tribe in Africa that believed that having babies had nothing to do with having sex. These people had no concept of or need for birth control. The women in the tribe would freely have intercourse for years with no pregnancy. One day they would receive a vision of a soul wanting to be born. In an altered state they would experience being impregnated by Spirit. Their experience of conception was completely non-sexual!

What does this have to do with singing? Lots! Although I adored music and songwriting, I had successfully convinced myself that I was not and never could be good enough to pursue it as a career. Talk about casting a spell! When I left college music was just a hobby. I had written a few songs, but I didn’t sing them in front of others. I had no confidence in my musical talents, although secretly I fantasized about becoming a singer.

Although I could feel a kettle of songs brewing inside of me, I was convinced that becoming a singer was a fantasy not worth indulging. Keeping a lid on it seemed a lot safer than the vulnerability of admitting and acting on my passion. But the stove had been turned on and the teapot was starting to whistle. My secret was reaching its boiling point.

One day I was listening to a barbershop quartet singing doo-wop a cappella on a street corner in Greenwich Village. This was a regular pastime for me, and as usual, I was singing along under my breath. I felt enchanted, swept away by the beautiful harmonies.

Then one of the singers in the circle asked his buddies, “Hey, does anyone know the lead to that new Billy Joel song on the radio, The Longest Time?” Everybody lit up, knowing it was a perfect song for their style of singing, but no one knew the lyrics all the way through.

They were about to drop it and start on another song, when a hand went up from somewhere within the audience. I noticed it was attached to my arm. Then a voice piped up, coming somewhere from the vicinity of my throat. “I know the song!” I exclaimed, in a tone of authority I must have borrowed from the gods.

The quartet, slightly surprised that someone outside their circle was inviting himself to lead a song, invited me into the center. My knees were shaking, and I wasn’t imitating Elvis. I was so scared I’m convinced my angelic cheerleaders were working overtime to help me get through this. The quartet started the song with the background oohs. I opened my mouth and started singing. I noticed some pleasant vibrato in my voice that I had never heard before. Maybe it was from the trembling.

When the song was over, the quartet and the audience applauded me. I slipped away from the crowd and started skipping down the street, aware that I just had a life changing experience, and that I was through hiding and pretending. Music was not just a hobby – it was a passion, and I burned to find out if there was a singing voice in there to discover. I started taking voice lessons, but even more significant than that, I started singing, in front of people, at any opportunity.

I remember a deal I made with God at that time. “OK, God, you gave me this love of music and song. I can’t think of anything in the world I’d rather do than celebrate life through singing. I’m going to bet that if you planted in me the dream-seed, then you will guide me on the path of having it come to fruition. I’m going to take these lessons. I’m also going to sing, privately and publicly, at any chance I get. I’m going to become a singing fool! And I will trust that with each song I sing, I am being guided to develop a beautiful voice that I can use to spread joy on this planet. God, here’s the deal: I’ll open my mouth. You make me a singer!!”

Well, I did follow through on my part of the deal. I sang in my apartment. I sang for my friends. I sang on the sidewalks of Greenwich Village and in Washington Square Park. I took weekly voice lessons and did my daily exercises, and gradually noticed improvement. With each week, there was a little more space and range of sound in my throat. It was as if I was building a vocal pipeline for the sweetness of my soul to find expression. My friends noticed my progress and told me so. Their support was a valuable part of my confidence building.

I remember when I met Charley Thweatt, who gave me a great gift with his encouragement. Charley travels globally as an inspirational troubadour, and had been doing so for many years when we met. He travels to exotic places in the world and does exactly what I was aspiring to do with music. Charley has a beautiful singing voice, and I was instantly insecure, intimidated, and jealous of his gifts and success. I managed to put those feelings aside long enough to spend some delightful, playful, connecting time with him. We took out our guitars and shared songs. When we finished, Charley looked into my eyes and projected a laser beam of love and support my way. After a minute or two of precious, penetrating eye contact, he broke the silence with words that sailed into my heart like a shooting star. “Scott, I think your music is meant to be heard and appreciated by many, many people.”

A few seconds later my inner critic, that old and worn out shoe, invaded the intimacy and began to smack me over (and in) my head. I decided to share my judgments with Charley. “But I’m not even remotely in your league,” I whined. “I’ll never be equal to you!” His response was one of the most inspiring and timely things anyone has ever said to me. Shrugging his shoulders, he replied, “Equal? Who cares about being equal. Just have fun!”

Fun? Did he say fun? What about comparing and striving to be great, better, best? What about being so good that everyone will love me and nobody will reject me?

Suddenly I saw through my ego’s smokescreen, the complex maze of self-protecting motivations. Was I singing to redeem myself from an imagined sense of unworthiness? Was I hoping to use my talent to convince the world, my parents and myself that I was lovable? Were these the real hunger pangs of every starving artist, the pain of seeking love through performance?

The mantra “just have fun” cut through all that red tape and put me right in touch with my heart’s purpose for my musical expression. Those words became my steadfast reply to the daily diet of “not good enough” thoughts that passed through my brain on a regular basis. I will always be grateful to Charley for the magic words that helped me break the spell of disbelief in myself: Just Have Fun!

In those days I lived by a playful but firm creed: Never miss an opportunity to play my music, especially for new ears. Wherever I went, my guitar went with me. Health food stores became concert halls while I was shopping. Subway commuters unwittingly became an audience. If you wanted to be in my life, you were going to have to listen to my music. Friends would call me up and ask how I was doing. My reply often was, “Great! Would you like to hear my latest song?” Actually, it was more of a demand than a question. I was in love, and, like all new lovers, I couldn’t contain myself! My beloved voice, served with a restraining order at a young age, had been locked in my throat for far too long. We had some catching up to do.

As time went by I was asked a certain question more and more frequently. “Do you have a tape of your songs. Eventually I saved enough money, found a recording studio, and made my first tape. A year later I made another. Then another. In fifteen years I went on to create nine CD’s of my music. Each time in the studio I learned more about developing my craft. And with every new project, I noticed my voice was richer, fuller, more pleasing to my ears. My singing voice was like a shy, neglected kid that had been given some love and attention. Over time, it had sprouted, grown and blossomed. Often I feel like a proud parent who, in the face of popular medical opinion, had successfully taught his crippled, wheelchair bound child to get up and walk. And then to dance.

How many dreams do we toss in the closet, never challenging the spells of “not good enough” and “impossible”? How many secret passions live within us that are not being allowed to develop because we are afraid of doing something poorly, and so we don’t begin at all?

I think back on the years I lived my life with my voice in the closet. I reflect on how convinced I was that I was not a singer and never could be. I’m so grateful I was wrong about my limitations. Perhaps we are all wrong about our limitations.

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