On Singing, Sierra Boggess, and Being Enough

I had a beautiful opportunity to go to New York for just one short day this week. One of my favorite performers, Sierra Boggess, is wrapping up a run in my all-time favorite musical Phantom of the Opera, and I felt a strong call to go see her perform.

I’ve been aware of Sierra’s work since I impulse bought a ticket to see Phantom during its Las Vegas run. Then I had the good fortune to impulse buy myself into another of her performances, this time during her Broadway debut as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Both times, I felt incredibly lucky to have run across such a special performer.

This was the first time that I’ve intentionally gone to see her: flying more than 6,000 miles in the course of three days and treating myself to a front row seat. I really needed a spark of inspiration (it’s been a rough summer) and the generous world provided. My incredible husband Noah was willing to use some of his hard-earned airline miles to put me on an airplane and my good friend Piet let me crash on his couch for a couple of nights.

Sierra made every ounce of effort worth it. As a performer, she has that incredible power that comes from a fully realized gift and the courage to share it with the world. Offstage, she lives by a philosophy of “you are enough, you are so enough, it’s unbelievable how enough you are,” a mantra that she learned from her vocal coach, Mary Setrakian.

I figured I could use some of that good medicine, so I met up with Mary for a private lesson the afternoon before the show. Mary instantly picked up on some of the technical and artistic challenges that I have the hardest time with. We did some methodical, compassionate, effective troubleshooting over the course of the next two hours that was both emotionally rewarding and incredibly inspiring. I found myself doing things vocally that I previously hadn’t thought I was capable of.

And in the end, it came back to being enough. Mary’s essential message to me was that I don’t have to prove myself or impress anyone. I just have to own what I already am. I don’t have to try to control every note and every breath consciously, the control is already all right there in the tenderest spots in my guts. “Tae,” I have to tell myself, “you already are.”

That’s a message that’s very easy to send, but incredibly hard to receive. I still wonder why on earth it is so hard for me (and for us all) to accept that we truly are enough. But when that acceptance comes, the results are profound. It’s an ongoing process for me; but just like flying to see Sierra, it is worth all the effort.

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