Becoming an Alto

The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?


Waiting in line at the gleaming grand piano, I listen to repetitive scales. Each girl in the choir takes her turn singing along. After each ascent and descent of the duet, the director announces which voice part she will sing in the choir. The room buzzes with tension and anticipation. This moment will completely determine my identity in the choir for my second year of participation.

For someone involved in choral singing, the differences between the voice parts are evident. In a choir of girls, there are three parts: soprano one, soprano two, and alto. Soprano one, the highest voice part, receives the melody in every song. Soprano twos are similar yet slightly lower, enjoying intricate harmonies, countering the song of the soprano ones. This leaves the alto part, the deepest of the female voices, reduced to simple, low monotony. From these stereotypes, a hierarchy emerges. If the sopranos are the upper class, then the altos are the peasants. They struggle to be heard among the sopranos, often consisting of the rejected sopranos and inexperienced singers. Any self-respecting soprano would never stoop so low as to sing alto.

My heart races as the line draws nearer. Though I have been performing as a violinist since the age of...

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