Dear Ms. Lewis

I received a sweet letter recently from a young girl that wants to sing.  I thought I'd share my response with all of you since i get letters like this from time to time....  maybe it'll apply to several of you...
Dear Shaene,
          I hope the deadline for your school project hasn't yet passed.  Here are the answers to your questions, i hope you can use them...
First of all, I should tell you that I don't ordinarily have time to answer all the letters I receive.  However, I really wanted to respond to your letter because my daughter is also 12 years old and I know how much she would appreciate a response if she were in your position.
So, I think the easiest way to do this would be for me to list your questions first and then my answer to each one...
1. What type of singing education did you get?
I didn't have any professional singing lessons when I was growing up.  I had the benefit of my mother being an exceptional musician (piano, clarinet, voice) and was able to learn a lot from her.  I also had the added benefit of growing up in the church, my father was the pastor, so I was able to learn about stage presence, singing in front of people, etc. that way.   I did eventually take a few voice lessons with a couple of different professional singing coaches when I was an adult.  They can help you develop good technique and make sure you're not developing any bad habits.
2. How did you get started out singing professionally?
Like I mentioned earlier, I began singing at a very early age on stage in church.  My first 'paying' job was 'HITOPS'.  That was a musical written/directed by Ernie and Debbie Retino, the same team that did all the Psalty the Singing Song Book albums.  I auditioned for the musical and was chosen to be a part of the cast.
3. What do you suggest a 12 1/2 year old do to prepare for a professional singing career?
Well, what I tell my own daughter is to practice, practice, practice!!  get good...no get GREAT at what you do so when the right opportunity comes along, you'll be ready.  Consider learning an instrument.  I didn't take my own advice as a kid.  I wish I would've practiced the piano more when I was your age.  Maybe today I'd be able to accompany myself.
4. Do you ever get nervous or fearful singing in front of people?
Yes, sometimes I still get nervous, but it's more like excitement rather than fear.  When you realize that God is honored by the singing of his word...there isn't anything to be afraid of!
5.  Do you record in a studio?
Yes, sometimes.  Other times we set up equipment at home and record in the comfort of a bedroom!  Technology today gives us unlimited options!
6. If so, what do you have to know about recording as opposed to performing on stage?
Well, the nice thing about recording is you get many chances to get a song just the way you want it to sound.  Being on stage you basically get one shot!  That's another reason practicing at home is SO important!
7. When you were little, did you sing in school or in church?
I pretty much answered most of that in numbers 1 and 2 above, but I also sang in school from Kindergarten thru High School.  I had parts in musical productions, choirs, and assemblies.  I would encourage you to sing whenever and wherever you can.  again....any opportunity = practice!!
I love riding horses and I used to ask my horse trainer all the time..."how can I become a better rider?"  And my horse trainer would always say to me.. "Ride more.  It's miles in the saddle that get you the experience you need to become better."  The same is true with singing...or anything else you want to be good at... the more you do it, the more experience you gain, the more you learn, the better you become.