by Ben Herrington
After passing by Altered Stage every morning and evening, for close to a year, as I walked to and from work, and each time, inevitably, trying to convince my anxiety that years of singing punk rock in the shower would surely springboard me to rock superstardom (which arguments my anxiety would smartly dismiss by pointing out that I was not only tone deaf, but barely able to play the cowbell), on a cold February morning, upon arriving at my desk I finally decided to tell it (my anxiety) to STFU and I rang the telephone number listed on Altered Stage’s webpage.
Thanks in large part to an upbeat and earnest Jason Steele, I found myself about a week later sitting in a vocal masterclass with Bree Aikens and a number of relaxed people who all looked (and sounded) to me like really amazing singers and was resigned to the fact that I’d take a lesson with Bree, she’d try really hard to say something kind about my lack of ability, would politely conceal either giggles or a pained grimace behind her sunny disposition, and thereafter send me on my way. When said lesson finally went down, it turned out my predictions were only 1/3 true (she didn’t send me promptly packing..ha!), and in all seriousness, for as nervous as I was, Bree was thoughtful enough to suggest that with some practice (and reasonable goals) I could comfortably sing at a Reggies gig with a live band (my anxiety was getting more and more sold on a moment in the spotlight too, which was cool). In all honesty, I had my doubts, but now, less than 6 months later, not only have I managed to croak out some sad folk punk/emo acoustic tunes to a (partially) full house at Reggies Rock Club, I’ve been able to meet some really fun and amazing people who not only tolerate my attempts to sound like Chris Isaak at the monthly karaoke night here at Altered Stage, but actually encourage me to come back and cheer when I stop overthinking and sing freely. It’s been a wild ride for sure and one that I’m very grateful to have bought the ticket for, for even if a solo tour and a sold out show at Soldier Field remain daydreams, ending my workday a couple nights a week provides a much needed creative outlet and hobby, regardless of whether I’m rehearsing solo or with the new band (crazy, right?!?!). In any event, my anxiety now has me convinced that I’ll wind up like the 5th Beatle, but until then, I’m going to enjoy my time at Altered Stage!