May 11

Are You Singing in Tune?

May 11, 2015

Personal Growth

Florence Foster Jenkins lived from 1868 to 1944, and at the peak of her career as an operatic soprano she sang at many events in New York City, including one at Carnegie Hall. Almost incomprehensibly, however, people attended her performances primarily to laugh at her, since she was well known for her lack of rhythm, unreliable pitch, unprofessional tone, poor pronunciation, and generally poor singing ability.

Florence had a notoriously bad musical ear, so she could not hear the poor quality of her performances. When audiences laughed, she dismissed them as “hoodlums, planted by her rivals. Perhaps to compensate for her musicianship, she often wore elaborate, self-designed costumes—sometimes involving wings and tinsel—or threw flowers into the audience.

Most of us live as Florence sang, convinced of knowledge and life skills we do not actually possess. It’s not our lack of ability that’s most problematic. We all fall short in a wide variety of ways, as Florence did musically. What really holds us back is our refusal to SEE our flaws, because then we can’t ever do anything about them. We’re stuck with repeating our mistakes over and over.

We don’t have to agonize over our mistakes. Florence didn’t need to feel guilty that she didn’t possess an ability found only in a very few operatic stars. We need only recognize our flaws and learn from them.

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