V is for Vocalish — My Arts School Experience

V is for Vocalish - My Arts School Experience

While the vast majority of my university career was focused on science, my high school life was all about the music. I attended an arts school, and it was pretty much exactly like you’d expect:

Arts School - Glee

This was music class.  

Arts School - High School Musical

All the time.

Arts School - Uptown Funk

All day, everyday.

Well, maybe not. Yes, we actually had to go to real classes, and only the dance students danced in the hallways (and only sometimes).

I was an instrumental music student. That means I lugged my clarinet to and from school every single day, attended band rehearsals two or three nights a week, and (I think) prolonged my orthodontic treatments in my quest for a better embouchure. To those of you who played a larger instrument in your arts school and are rolling your eyes at my use of the word “lugged”: it was heavy, okay?! I ended up doing pretty well, participating in competition-level bands and getting a solid grade as well. I considered majoring in music in university for all of five seconds, before I realized that I had no desire to practice my instrument ever again once I graduated.

Arts School - Please don't make me play the clarinet...

Okay, but why does the title of this post say “Vocalish” rather than Instrumentalist — and what does “Vocalish” even mean?

First of all, today is “V” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. So that’s one reason.

But the real reason is that I also had quite a bit of involvement with the vocal class in our school. (For reference, there was a woodwind class, a brass class, and a vocal class in each grade.) I really like singing, and it was quite easy to pick up without requiring much practice outside of the classroom or the choir rehearsal. I ended up also joining the competitive choir, which was a really great experience — and I was the only instrumentalist that joined.

There are lots of reasons for that, like the time commitment and the skill required to audition, but another consideration was the stigma that instrumental students attached to vocalists. There was a widespread belief that the singers were divas, and that vocal music doesn’t require nearly as much intellectual power as instrumental music does.

Arts School — Haters Gonna Hate

Given my “vocalish” status, I wasn’t one to take sides. Sure, my vocal music didn’t require much at-home practice compared to my clarinet pieces, but those alto harmonies were hard, not to mention working on tone, timbre, and enunciation, especially in languages you have no hope of understanding in time to perform. Plus, those arts school stereotypes were totally unhelpful.

So in the end, I graduated from high school with extracurricular “credits” in both choir and band. And while I was technically a graduate of the instrumental class, the vocal program still holds a special place in my heart. Besides, I don’t play my clarinet along with the radio while driving down the highway… but I don’t miss that chance to belt it out.

Did you attend an arts school? What forms of art are special to you?