Raymond, SD, Population 50: Where My Voice Began

Writing last week about my four-day trip to New York City, when I was 21 years old, prompted me to write about my home town this week. Click below for an at least somewhat funny eight-minute speech I gave about Raymond at a Toastmasters meeting last year on my birthday.

What’s rolling around in my brain right now is not what’s in the speech, but how my voice was first formulated, as I was growing up on a farm, 11 miles from Raymond, SD, population 50.

Consider your formative years regarding your voice, too. Were you encouraged to use your voice when you were young, or to squelch it? In what ways did you use your voice, and what happened when you did?

Even as a certified Transformational Voice® teacher and speaker coach, I’ve never really reflected on all the factors which impacted my voice as I was growing up. What I’ve excavated here is just the tip of the iceberg. Let me know what you uncover about yours on the blog, so we can support each other.

Kids on the school bus gave me the nickname “motor mouth,” which of course meant I talked too much. I was told I had a bad habit of interrupting people, which was true. We were supposed to be quiet in church. I didn’t find a church with electric guitar type music and people singing and dancing until I’d graduated from college and moved out of state.

I don’t remember ever hearing either of my parents swear when I was a child. (My younger brother told me years later that’s because I’d never been around Dad when he was working on farm equipment!) As a result, I didn’t swear either.

Being too loud and boisterous was not a good thing, as I learned after spending the night with my best friend, Julie, at her house. We played outside, made little cakes in her Easy-Bake oven, and jumped up and down on her bed while singing – for all the world to hear – along with her record player. Cher’s Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, and Dark Lady. Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat by the adorable, totally crush-worthy, Tony DeFranco and the DeFranco Family.

I didn’t have an Easy-Bake oven and would never have been allowed to jump on the bed. After I got home from Julie’s, Mom said I was completely out of control; I think I got a rare spanking. And I never spent the night with Julie again.

Dad read to me when I was very young, helping me understand the written word before I could read myself. I began singing probably as soon as I could talk. My parents invested in piano lessons with Mrs. Hamre in Clark (23 miles from the farm) from the time I was seven years old through my senior year in high school. Singing while playing piano absorbed a huge amount of my creative time, along with being on stage in declam, plays, musicals, and more musical groups than I can count all throughout school, including playing piano and singing in church. My parents found a way to get me to and from all those rehearsals, recitals and concerts.

One memory sticks out so much I went through my office closet to find an old scrapbook, with two letters and one newspaper clipping near and dear to my heart.

In my 30’s, after watching a television show about teachers, I was prompted to track down my high school music teacher, Janel, and wrote this (excerpt) to her:

What I don’t think you know, is what a profound, positive influence you had on me in my teen years. I wasn’t a “kid in trouble,” like some of those on this television show. And I’ve been blessed with a loving and supportive family. But I was extremely insecure, naïve, and shy. You saw something in me, something I’d subconsciously yearned for but had no idea I possessed, when you put me in Swing Choir my freshman year. I didn’t even know what Swing Choir was…and was petrified that first rehearsal, scared silly half of the first year…But there you were, guiding me every step of the way. The more singing and dancing I did, the more confident I became. You gave to, and taught, me SO much. Not just about music, but about self-esteem. I learned to believe in myself, to use my gifts, interests and skills.

Janel didn’t write back until months later. Here’s a portion of her response, typed on beautiful pansy-embellished stationery:

Your letter was a pleasant shock. And then came the tears. This was like something you read and dream about happening to you as a teacher – not something that really does. Right after the first of the year, I had one of the worst days possible. Nothing was right or good – questioning administration, unhappy parents, disrespectful, belligerent encounters with 2-3 kids and the rest of the kids were terrible! By the time I had driven 8 miles home, I had decided to pay the penalty ($) and resign. It just wasn’t worth it, much too much stress and much too hard on this tender heart. So, when my husband got home, we talked it over, and decided that we could work it out somehow with my quitting teaching. Then my husband said – “Here’s the mail.” And your letter. I came so close. Were you an angel? My deepest “Thanks” and My Love, Janel.

Yes, I am now a voice teacher, after being certified in the Transformational Voice® system.

But so are you, even without the certification.

We can all encourage each other to let our voices ring out, clear, true and strong. To say what’s really on our minds. To fall in love with our own voices.

The world needs your authentic truth spoken in your authentic voice. Don’t hold back.

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th. Stay tuned for details.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura