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On Music, Shyness, and Vulnerability



People are often surprised when I tell them that I didn’t start singing until after my 20th birthday. And they’re even more surprised when I reveal that, until about four years ago, I was incredibly shy about sharing my voice. As in, won’t-even-hum-unless-I’m-sure-I’m-absolutely-alone shy. Why? Singing has always felt like the most vulnerable form of communication imaginable. It’s music in its purest form—unfiltered by an instrument, flowing straight from your soul, out of your mouth, and straight to someone else’s ears. It doesn’t get much more personal than that! I joined a few choirs in college and beyond, but I was firmly embedded in the ensemble. I craved solos, and even got a few, but oooooooh were they scary. Because to sing in front of a crowd, at least for me, was to be utterly exposed.


So many good things in my life come back to the Roanoke traditional Irish session. It’s where I first started feeling at home in Roanoke; it’s where I met and fell in love with Josh; and it’s where I learned to share my voice. For the first month or so, I brought my bodhran and quietly observed the music. Then someone asked if I knew any songs; I said yes and sang “The Foggy Dew.” The next week, they asked again. And again. And again. They were very supportive—inviting me time and again to participate. Eventually, I became comfortable bringing a song every week. And I realized that my songs had an effect on audience members.


Because music is a kind of communication. I feel so very close to the people who listen to me while I perform. And afterward, too, when someone tells me how the song made them feel, or about a near-forgotten memory the music summoned up. I’m so very privileged to be able to forge these connections with friends and strangers alike. The bond between us and the audience members is one of my favorite parts about Kinnfolk. Thank you all for letting me share my voice with you.


And to anyone who struggles with shyness…I believe in you. You have so much to give to the world, if that’s what you want to do.


~Julie

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