More Than A “Dumb” Soprano

When I was in high school, one of our church members anonymously paid for me to have voice lessons.  I was a soprano and was interested in studying vocal music, so this gift was an absolute God-send for me.  I studied hard, practiced hard, and became the best teenaged soprano I could be.

Recently, I was invited to sing a couple of nights on the praise team for our denomination’s Camp Meeting services.  There’s only one problem: the Camp Meeting praise team needs me to sing alto. 

Now, if you’ll rewind, you’ll notice that I’m a trained soprano.  But when I got to praise team practice for the Camp Meeting services, I saw that they’d scheduled me to sing as an alto.  I raised my hand and said, “Rodney, I suppose now’s a good time to tell you that I’m a soprano.”

Rodney glanced up from his keyboard, unconcerned.  “I heard you can sing both soprano and alto.  I need you to sing alto.” 

And so it is that I am singing alto this week. 

When I was a teenager, my Uncle Jesse (a musician) told me, “If you’re going to be a soprano, at least don’t be a dumb soprano.”  What he meant was that because sopranos sing the melody so often, many sopranos never train their ear to hear other parts.  They can only sing melody and they’re unable to hear or sing harmony. 

Because my uncle challenged me to train my ear, I learned to listen to music with strong harmonies and to prefer music with strong harmonies.  Most of the time when I listen to music and sing along, I sing the harmony part– sometimes even tenor or baritone (usually men’s parts)–just for fun.  But until lately, I’ve never been asked to use my ear or my alto.

Tonight, I stood up in front of an auditorium full of people and sang a whole service–as an alto.  The band threw a couple songs at me that we hadn’t practiced and that I had never heard.  (There’s no adrenaline rush in the world quite like learning a song while singing into a microphone on a stage in front of a whole bunch of people.)  I was having trouble hearing the music in the monitor.  And maybe it was the nerves, but it seems to me that I had a little trouble getting my breath the way I should.  But I lived through the experience…  And I worshipped the Lord while I did it.  I guess I’ll call the experience a success.  And on Sunday night, I get to do it all over again!

On the way home tonight, I asked God His opinion about tonight.  He said, “Aren’t you glad that you’re more than just a dumb soprano?”  I laughed, but then I caught myself.  He wasn’t just talking about my singing.  He was talking about my life. 

I like to find things in my life that I’m good at or enjoy.  I curl up with them and ignore the world around me.  It would be so easy for me to say, “I’m a soprano.  Only a soprano.  I’m not trained as an alto.  I’ve never sung alto in public before.  I can’t do it.  I won’t do it.”  Instead, I faced the fear and uncertainty and did it.  That’s not always the case.

I like living life on “cruise control.”  I get into the routine of my life– work, church, home, work, church, home– and when God puts people in my path that need me to step out of my routine to bless them or minister to them, I don’t notice.  Why don’t I notice?  Because the routine is the melody and I’m used to it.  I haven’t trained my ear to the harmony– the little divine appointments along the way. 

If we sing melody long enough and refuse to learn the harmony, we’ll lose the sensitivity to be able to train our ears.  And if we get stuck in the routine and refuse to take God’s little divine appointments, we’ll lose the sensitivity for them.  And when we lose that sensitivity, God learns that He can’t use us.  We miss out on His blessings when we can’t be used by Him. 

In the beginning, it won’t be comfortable.  We might get taken off guard and stumble a little.  We may stutter and gasp for breath.  We may miss a few words or a few notes.  But at the end of the night, when the last note has faded and the spotlight has been turned off, you’ll be so glad that you tried it.  And so will the people who are better because you tried.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Neal Salter says:

    Lord, thank you for speaking to me today through Sarah. I love music and usually I lead singing, so I’m leading the melody. The choir needs men, so I have tried over the last five years to offer myself to sing in the choir. The real issue is they need me to sing tenor or bass–not melody. Though I can preach on a moments notice with only just time to pray and ask God what He would have me to say, it’s not that way with singing anthems and special music. I have to spend time–lots of time learning my particular part. You know that’s just one of the ways God gets our attention. He wants us know if we will offer ourselves to HIM–He can use us in a variety of ways we really have not been accustomed to being used. Thank you Sarah, I know your not just a dumb soprano!

  2. I only sing in the shower, but I could really appreciate this post. And the fact that you actually have an Uncle Jesse? Freaking. Awesome.

  3. I wish I could sing, but God has not given me that gift. Even though I can’t sign, your analogy made perfect sense to me. It’s all about our willingness to step outside our comfort zones. I have found that the most interesting life-lessons have occurred when I wasn’t afraid to try something new or learn something new.

    I bet you’re a beautiful soprano. I hope I get to hear you sing one day.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Good for you …. you are leaving your comfort zone and stretching. When we are weak HE is strong.

  5. This has been my theme this week! The Lord is using you to speak to me. I just read a quote from George Tilton that said “Success is never final and failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” Keep blogging sister!

  6. …and one day I’ll get to hear you, and harmonize! 😀

    Color me grateful at the friendship, and thanks for sharing this with me, Sarah!

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