“Don’t sing until you’d die if you didn’t.” – Amanda McAllister

“Don’t sing until you’d die if you didn’t.” Giovanni Battista Lamperti

I’m in seventh grade, a nerdy, clumsy, awkward kid wearing oversized glasses. Music has always been
my favorite class, and this year I get to be in orchestra AND choir. I am very excited. During the first
week of classes we are asked to sing for the choir director so she can place us in ‘sections’. I am feeling
so grown up. I walk in to the classroom and meet the choir director, she plays some scales and songs
for me to sing. I open my mouth, sing the scales and my best “Happy Birthday.” “Well, I am excited to
have a voice like this in my choir”, says the director. My mind goes blank. I had always loved music, but
it never occurred to me that I was actually good at singing. But now someone thought I was good, and I
liked the way that felt.

Flash forward ten years. I’m finishing my undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance. I ask my voice
teacher, “What’s next for me? What should I do now?” And she replies, “Honestly Amanda, you might
want to find something else to do. You’re not a bad musician, I just don’t know if you have what it takes
to be successful in this business.” I am devastated. After graduation, I enrolled in a speech pathology
degree program hoping that I could mix my love for the voice with knowledge that would help me make
money. I was miserable; I had wanted to be a singer for 10 years. So, I decided to get a second opinion
on my singing ability. That’s when I met Dr. D. I explained what I’d been told by my previous teacher,
and asked her to give me her opinion.

I finished singing through some pieces and very thoughtfully Dr D. looked up and said, “Amanda, what
do you think would happen to you if you physically could not sing anymore?” I thought about this
horrific possibility for about two seconds before I looked her straight in the face and with tears in my
eyes said, “I’d die. I would just die.” “Well then my dear, I think you’re destined to be a singer.” I
worked with Dr. D for two years before I moved to California. She was my first mentor, the first person
to take me under her wing, she helped me to discover the limitless potential I have within me. She sent
me out on auditions and pushed me to my limits.

My first assignment in her studio was to learn a very difficult set of Debussy art songs. After struggling
with the assignment for a couple of weeks, Dr. D sat me down. “Amanda, you have to know that if
you set your mind to do something. I mean really decide that you can do it. If you decide you can
do something, you will make it happen. Decide right now that you will learn this, that you CAN learn
this.” She taught me to take my mind away from the problem and to focus my thinking on finding a
way forward. To me, that is what a great mentor does. They challenge you to look within and find the
strength and courage to achieve your dreams.

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