Sweet. Bitter. Better. / by alec vanderboom

The last 24-hours have been extremely bittersweet.  Here’s the story:

The Sweet Side
This morning, I found out that my album, Aanalog, has been nominated for the Western Canadian Music Award for “Urban Recording of the Year”! I was stunned when I got the news, but two pretty awesome moments followed once the word got out:
·      My wife’s grade 2 students yelled, “Congratulations!” while on speaker phone. I laughed a lot and I teared up a little—I’ll get to the reasons for the latter in a bit.
·      My mom asked, “What does the category ‘Urban’ include?” I told her, “Artists who were born in Meadow Lake or equivalent.”
As I write this, I honestly still don’t know what to think; I don’t know what to write. I’ve been sitting here for the last hour trying to figure out what this all means to me, and why I didn’t jump through the ceiling with excitement when I got the news. Actually!! Why the heck am I thinking so much about this in the first place?!?! Don’t get me wrong! I am totally grateful, honoured, ecstatic, and supremely thankful all at the same time (check out a blog from a few weeks ago here http://aaronadair.blogspot.ca/2014/04/my-baby-is-1-today.html). I’ve been reflecting on all of the hard work and equally hard lessons that went into the process of writing, recording, and releasing the album. Again, I’m grateful for all of the learning experiences that I’ve had along the way. However, I’m very aware that the somewhat bitter side of this story also has something to do with the mixed emotions I’m experiencing after today’s great news.

The Bitter Side
            I’ve been working out lately. Not the type of workout where you’d see me at the gym—in fact, stop trying to picture that, please! As with some people, a tipping point occurs in life where something pushes you toward commitment to having to better yourself in some way. This point for me came when I made a frightening discovery a few weeks ago. I was driving to Collective Coffee for my daily Americano, when for the first time in weeks I tried singing along with a song playing on my stereo—I believe it was “PS I Love You.” The problem was, I couldn’t sing. WHAT THE HECK WAS HAPPENING?!?!?! I have always been able to sing! Well, I suppose there is the exception of my pubescent audition for the musical Cinderella in elementary school (picture the bag boy in the grocery store on The Simpsons), but since then I've been able to sing! Singing is a skill I've worked hard to develop. I've got to admit I've taken this skill for granted from time-to-time, but not now!
            For those who don’t know, over the past few months I have had surgery and undergone treatments to help cure Thyroid Cancer (some details are in my past blogs: http://aaronadair.blogspot.ca/p/soldier-against-cancer.html). When I received the official diagnosis on February 28th, one of the first questions I asked was, “Will this affect my singing voice?” I was told I'd be ready to go by the time the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival came around. Some may feel that I’d hold some kind of resentment since it looks like what I was told may not turn out to be true, but I don’t. It’s hard to resent anything anymore since I’m alive and getting healthier each day. Losing approximately two octaves of my vocal range has added yet another challenge to my plate. Not being able to sing like I used to is not a doctor's fault; it's not a card that's been dealt to me from a deck that's unfavourably stacked. Again, I'm alive, and today's awesome news is affirmation that there is so much that I've got to be grateful about.
Last month, I teamed up with Anastasia Winterhalt to help rediscover and redefine my voice. When I first talked with Anastasia, I told her, “I need a vocal personal trainer,” and that’s the focus that we’ve been working with for the past few weeks. I haven’t been trying to sing complete songs until this week. Like rehabbing a sports injury, I can’t jump back into game shape right away. Until a few days ago, I’ve simply been breathing (imagine that!!!) and doing basic exercises within the octave or so that remains of my vocal range.
You know what? I just realized something. During our first meeting, Anastasia described the celebration that occurs when we sing. After all, singing is an expression, a release, an exclamation. I wonder if the recent lack of singing in my life has precipitated the muted celebration at today's nomination news? Either way, that brings me back to the last 24-hours.
Yesterday afternoon, I sat down to practice songs for my upcoming shows, and I discovered that things are not getting better quickly. I knew I wouldn’t recover fast, but there's a lot of ground that I need to cover before I am recovered. The falsetto voice that some say is a signature on Aanalog is gone. This means that for now, my amazingly skilled and talented friend Meagan is going to have to take the lead on many of the tunes. The keys of some songs will have to be redefined. Some songs may need to be reworked completely. But, regardless of the point that I’m at when June 20th comes around, I will keep working to reach my target. 
What is that target? Hmmmmmmm. Well, it’s not to get back to where I was before the surgery. I think it’s to get to a point where I am comfortable with my voice again. Maybe this will open new opportunities for writing for different people, or for singing in a different style. You know what? I’m kind of excited to see where this leads!

The Better Side
Phew! The last few paragraphs were cathartic! I think I can move on now to being totally excited about today’s unexpected news. Aanalog just isn’t going to be the same, and that’s okay with me. Right now, I can’t wait to perform in a few weeks! AND, I can't wait to go to Winnipeg in October! Time to celebrate! Time to get to work!