When Natalie was a toddler, she didn’t talk: she sang. In fact, she narrated whatever she was doing or feeling in song, kind of like an ongoing improv opera from her carseat. “We’re going to buy shoes, we’re going to buy shoes,” she would belt out at age 2 or 3. As she got older, she started writing her own songs and soon learned to accompany herself with a few guitar chords or on the piano. She even performed some of these songs at the annual recital of her then voice and guitar teacher, Marianne Carter.
It’s no wonder that today she sings regularly, having immersed herself in many choir opportunities throughout junior high and high schools. For the last who-knows-how-many years, Ken and I would creep like mice to her closed bedroom door to spy on her practicing. We both loved not just her voice but the little grace notes and nuances she came by so naturally.
Last night, she sang “Why Don’t You Do Right,” a jazz standard, as part of her final recital with Vanessa Thomas, her voice teacher for the last three years. Sunday, I drive her to St. Paul to study jazz vocals at the McNally Smith College of Music. What she’ll do as a singer is as mysterious as moving toward any art that calls us, but I love that she’s following her voice, which also reminds me of Gayle, a college friend and roommate.
Gayle sung constantly, and especially loved the song “Landslide.” When she died from cancer our senior year of college, I vowed to give her name to any daughter I had. So I named my only daughter Natalie Gayle, and just as I write this post in a coffee shop, Stevie Nicks’ version of “Landslide” comes on to remind me of the power of voice, how it can take you up an mountain and bring you home again, and how the song lives on and on.
Pictures: Cultivating her jazz diva with Forest many years ago, and last night with Vanessa.