Gospel, Opera, and Alternative  

   by Kathi O. Smith

Being a music major in a previous life, I have always enjoyed a wide variety of music. My favorites are gospel, opera, and alternative rock. Obviously, my favorite types of music are not nearly related, but they all have a special place in my heart.

Gospel music brings back wonderful memories for me of a time shared with my immediate and extended family. I come from a musically talented clan, and anytime we got together, instruments were dug out of closets, from under beds, and brought together for a "singspiration." From the youngest child to the oldest adult, music through gospel songs was heard near and far from the "old house on the corner." My siblings and I also sang together in a quartet, and we often went to churches and nursing homes to share our voices.

Another favorite style of music developed when I went to college originally, and I was exposed to opera. I would not have believed I could have been interested in such a sound, but when I found that I could actually sing lyric soprano, a glass-breaking pitch, I smiled. All that gospel singing when I was younger was paying off. I was in demand. My music professors challenged and encouraged me to sing in a variety of venues. I often sang at special events and was frequently chosen for musical drama parts. Music was a significant part of my original college experience.

My most recent favorite style of music, alternative rock, comes to me through the special challenge of becoming a mother. When I became a mother almost twenty years ago, I exposed my son to a variety of types of music. My husband and I both played instruments and sang together, so my son was saturated in music. My son has kept me up with the current music styles as he has grown older. I have consistently listened to my son’s type of music to be able to say as a mother, "I know what type of music my child plays!" Alternative rock is quite different from what I grew up with, but I can honestly exclaim if one can get past the loud yelling and screaming, the words are expressive, honest, and well thought out. I enjoy watching my son write new songs and then perform them for me. I feel I have shared a part of my heritage that was so special to me with him.

Even though I came from the hippy generation that was exposed to Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and The Who, my gospel roots helped keep me sane. I had to "sneak" to listen to many of my favorite musicians, but I paid back my guilty feelings by performing for my parents on their demand. I was the "Shirley Temple" in my family, and I was proud to have that title. My favorite types of music may not be related, but they all are special and memorable to me. If anyone ever sees an old woman driving down the road with her mouth wide-open singing, one might want to just roll down the window and enjoy!

This essay was written by Kathi O. Smith, then a sophomore majoring in Nursing. It was written for Dr. Marsha Mathews’ ENGL 1095 class.

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