Singing in the Car … and on Stage

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

One of my favorite songs to sing for a crowd …

“Ugh, it’s such a long drive,” I used to tell myself when thinking about my commute from Clearwater to St. Petersburg. Whereas the commute used to make me think of traffic and money spent on gas, it now makes me think of singing and dancing. During my morning drive to work, music is my coffee, giving me the jolt I need to feel awake and ready to start the day. On my way home, music is my stress reliever, my chance to be loud and to dance and sing regardless of what the drivers next to me think. Head bobbing, arms occasionally flailing, lips moving. I must look like an interpretive dancer.

I’ll sing and dance to just about anything — rap, country, classic rock, oldies. Singing so much to and from work has actually helped strengthen my voice, making it easier to project my voice when I turn to the stage. Reviving my passion for singing has given me a chance to find my voice. When I sing loudly, I feel more confident than usual and reassured by the fact that just because I may sometimes seem quiet, I have another side that’s finally starting to show beyond the confines of my car.

Last month, I sang on stage at one of my colleague’s birthday parties. My legs were shaking, my hands trembling, my heart racing. I sang “Lean on Me” and Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.” It was the first time I’d sung solo on stage since playing Marion the Librarian in “The Music Man” in seventh grade. Senior year of high school, I sang “Lean on Me” in a talent show with my best friend Linsey, hence the reason I like reenacting the song. And “Before He Cheats,” is, well, just an empowering song to sing.

The same band I sang with at the birthday party asked me to sing “Lean on Me” and “Before He Cheats” at the Biff Burger this Friday and Saturday night. The restaurant looked like a fun place based on an outdated photo I saw online, so my friends and I went. The parking lot was dotted with antique cars as part of a late-night car show. Needless to say, my 2003 Kia Optima didn’t exactly fit in with all the old Chevys and Harleys. I should have lifted the hood to show off my not-so-impressive engine…

Lots of bikers and families were at “the Biff,” jamming to classic oldies like “Twist and Shout.” After a couple of songs, I got up on stage and sang. Nervousness seemed to disappear this time around. A little encouragement from good friends likely helped.

Later in the night, my friends and I went to O’Maddy’s, a karaoke bar in Gulfport, where we sang from our seats. We missed our queue to go up on stage, and the song I wanted to sing had already been sung. “I never play the same two songs,” the D.J. quipped, “in one night.”

I’m no Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, try though I might to emulate their voices when their songs come on the radio. But I’m seeing the advantages of singing on stage and the ways in which music can help give us a newfound sense of confidence and peace.

I’m looking for new songs to sing during my morning and afternoon commute. I’ve wanted to make a Nora Jones CD to listen to in the car. She has such a beautiful voice.

Any other suggestions?