Into the Story
The #1 podcast to learn English with true stories
Episode 43: Finding your voice
Level: intermediate to advanced
In today’s episode of Into the Story, Jill Mitchell shares how a simple comment from her high school teacher inspired her to overcome extreme shyness and pursue her true passion in life, leading to a transformative journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Have you ever listened to that voice inside of you?
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[00:00:00] Bree: This is into the story, the podcast, where you learn English with true stories from all over the world. Stories that connect us and inspire you [00:00:15] to get where you want to go.
Hi there. It’s your host, Bree here Today we have a story from Jill Mitchell. [00:00:30] She is a vocal coach, singer, and author who grew up in Manitoba, which is a province in the center of Canada. Now, as a child, Jill was shy, like very, [00:00:45] very shy, but she had a secret desire of being in the high school musical.
[00:00:53] Jill: And I sang a song from Camelot that was our, our, our musical.
And I sang it and everyone [00:01:00] looks at me. Oh no. Like it’s bad. It must be bad. I think I can do it. I feel like it sounds good. I feel like it’s working, but everybody’s looking at me like I have two heads.
[00:01:12] Bree: It takes a lot of courage to [00:01:15] stand up in front of an audience and to perform. I think a lot of us can identify with that feeling.
I know I can. And today, Jill is going to tell us the story of going from being the shyest person to [00:01:30] performing in front of her entire high school. If you like this episode, will you do me a favor and follow into the story in your podcast app? It’s free and it means you’ll never miss a new episode. And thanks.[00:01:45]
Okay, now it is time to look at five words and expressions that Jill uses in today’s story. First to roll up somewhere. [00:02:00] So if somebody says, I rolled up to the movie theater, it means that they arrived at the movie theater, typically in a very casual or relaxed way. For example, [00:02:15] Bree decided to roll up to the party to see if any of her friends were there. To roll up somewhere.
Next Bitter sweet. So when something is bitter [00:02:30] sweet, it means that it has a mixture of happiness and sadness all at once. For example, graduation day was bitter sweet for Sarah because she was excited about the [00:02:45] future, but sad to leave her friends behind to be bitter. Sweet. Next to be buzzing. So if a person or a group of [00:03:00] people are buzzing, it means that they’re feeling excited and energetic and full of anticipation about something.
For example, the crowd was buzzing with excitement before the concert started. [00:03:15] Then we have the stakes were high. So when we talk about the stakes being high or it was high stakes, we’re referring to a situation where the [00:03:30] potential consequences or risks are significant. When we have a lot to lose or a lot to gain.
For example, in a championship game, the stakes are high because [00:03:45] winning or losing has a major impact on the team’s season, the stakes were high.
And finally a turning point. So when we talk about a turning point in our lives, it’s a [00:04:00] significant moment or event that marks a change in the course or direction of our life.
For example, if you moved to a new city and started a new job, this would be a turning point in your life. [00:04:15] It could lead to new opportunities and maybe personal growth, a turning point. Now it’s time for the story. And remember, don’t worry about every single word. What I want you to do is just [00:04:30] sit back, relax, and enjoy the story as a whole.
Okay? Let’s get into the story.
[00:04:39] Jill: Four words changed my life. It was don’t be a chicken [00:04:45] from my high school teacher. So I had started a new school in grade 12, and I had always wanted to be in the school musicals, but, um, I was very shy. Trying out for a musical was always a secret longing, a secret wish, but [00:05:00] I just could never get the courage.
[00:05:04] Bree: As a young girl, Jill was very shy, the type of person who didn’t like to speak much.
But there was one thing that she [00:05:15] loved and that was to sing.
[00:05:18] Jill: As a kid, I I was very, um, shy and I know a lot of people, say they’re very shy, but I was, I was very shy. I never, you know, um, spoke up in class. Uh, the [00:05:30] teacher called on me. Uh, I didn’t really speak to a lot of people in my life and. I just would rather, instead of after school, you know, going to play with my friends, I would go home and go in my room and just listen to music.[00:05:45]
What I didn’t know was that I was practicing voice because I would sing along and I didn’t really consider it that I would just have my music on and sing. So I’m in grade 12 and I’m 17, and I’ve been dying to try out for [00:06:00] musicals since I saw my first one in person in grade nine. Every year I said, this is the year I’m gonna do it.
The saving grace for me was that I started a new school in grade 12 and nobody knew who I was and I was still shy. But I [00:06:15] realized too that I didn’t have to be who I was at my old school. I could be… it could be fresh, it could, it could start anew. And I wonder if maybe some of that spurred me to, to try out to the musical.
So, [00:06:30] um, I did, it was that afternoon and in that moment when I’m sitting in the hallway outside the audition room, Because I was too scared to go in. A teacher walked by and said, are you trying out for the school [00:06:45] musical? And you know, I said, uh, I don’t know. I don’t know. You know. Um, and she said, come on, come on, don’t be a chicken.
And it was just playful and it was just in passing. And she walked by and it meant it wasn’t a big moment for her, but in my moment [00:07:00] it was humongous. And I don’t know what it was inside me, but that seemed to light a fire. For me to stand up for what I want in my life, which was music.
[00:07:14] Bree: Jill has [00:07:15] taken this comment from her teacher as a personal challenge. She wants to show that she’s brave enough to try out for the school musical. And then her name is called, she stands up and walks into the [00:07:30] addition room.
[00:07:32] Jill: And of course I rolled up into the audition and it was just in the music theater, uh, room at the school, and everybody’s taking their solos and I’m sweating. Why did I do this? What am I [00:07:45] thinking? I can’t sing. I’ve never sang before in front of people. And I sang a song from Camelot that was our, our, our musical. And I sang it, and then everyone looks at me. Oh no, like. It’s bad. It [00:08:00] must be bad. I think I can do it. I feel like it sounds good. I feel like it’s working, but everybody’s looking at me like I have two heads right now, so I don’t know.
And so after the audition, everybody came up to me and said, oh my gosh, you’re gonna get the lead role. [00:08:15] And I couldn’t believe it. And I was like, maybe that’d be so cool. But I, you know, I haven’t, haven’t really sang before, uh, in public. Like, this will be the first time and I sure enough, I did. I [00:08:30] did get the lead and bittersweet because yay. And oh my gosh, they’re gonna find out. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m a fraud. I’m a fake.
[00:08:44] Bree: Jill has [00:08:45] gotten the lead role. She’s going to play Queen Guinevere in Camelot. But she’s feeling imposter syndrome. She’s feeling like a fraud and like a fake, like everyone else thinks she’s [00:09:00] more talented than she actually is. But rehearsals go really well. Jill feels really comfortable and supported by the cast, which is the team of other actors. And then comes the day for the dress [00:09:15] rehearsal. The day they’re going to practice the entire play without an audience.
[00:09:22] Jill: I got dropped off at the theater and we were going to do a dress rehearsal, and so it was real. We were, [00:09:30] you know, the stage, the lights, the costumes. We were about to get, uh, costumes on, and I snuck away downstairs to the washroom and got sick because it was all so overwhelming. When I [00:09:45] put the dress on, I was queen Guinevere, so the, the, the queen of Camelot. And I’m putting the big dress on and I’m about to go out and my mind tricked me that I didn’t know any of my lines or any of my lyrics or any of [00:10:00] anything.
I’m walking up to the stage and I’m walking to the spot. I’m supposed to stand on the X, if you will, on the stage, ready to deliver my first line, because it’s just the line. It’s not a song yet. And I’m still walking up to that X and I still don’t know my first line. [00:10:15] I still don’t know what I’m going to say. Even though I practiced and I know these like the back of my hand, I know them really well.
I walk right up to my castmate and I still don’t know my line, and I just stand there feeling sick and feeling overwhelmed and having a hot flash [00:10:30] and this beautiful, huge, queen-sized dress. And I was just like, okay, well just go. I don’t know. Whatever happens, just open your mouth.
[00:10:43] Bree: Jill opens her [00:10:45] mouth and the words are there. She knows her line. She feels so relieved, and the rest of the dress rehearsal goes wonderfully. And now it’s time for the big [00:11:00] day. The real thing, she is going to perform in front of a live audience.
[00:11:06] Jill: I remember walking to the change room, dropping down my bag, and uh, we had some time, so we were just talking.
Me and my [00:11:15] castmates were talking, and that helps when you can remember you have a team supporting you. That helped. So the nerves came down a bit, but I was still sweating, like really bad, and the costume was not forgiving in that way. So I had to. [00:11:30] Sometimes I had to pull my shoulders down and arrow out my armpits because it was so bad.
And so I’m there and I’m waiting and I’ve got somebody walks, uh, up and knocks on my door, gives me the cue that [00:11:45] it’s, you know, two minutes to showtime. I can hear that. I need to start making my way to the stage because of the dialogue. I can hear that. And I’m walking in this beautiful dress. I’ve got my big wig on with my crown and all the jewels and everything.
Walking up [00:12:00] to the curtain, to the wings, and there’s curtains there, and I’m standing there watching my castmate on stage, just a few steps out of the spotlight and realizing, okay, this is it. We’re doing this. This is real now. Like this is real. Your parents [00:12:15] are out front and they’ve never heard you sing, and there’s lots of other people out there and oh my gosh, if you mess up, like the stakes are really high.
And so I’m walking to my X again on stage, my spot. Of [00:12:30] course I convinced myself, I don’t know my lines. It didn’t go away. I’m feeling it now. It didn’t go away. I didn’t know my lines, um, but I walked up and I said, okay, just open your mouth and see what happens. Just [00:12:45] say the first line. And so I opened my mouth and it was fine.
[00:12:49] Bree: Jill is feeling good. She knows her lines. She’s got this. She reminds herself that she’s practiced this, so now she [00:13:00] just has to be in the moment and perform. But then she’s singing a song and it happens again.
[00:13:09] Jill: So I’m in uh, uh, Simple Joys of Maidenhood song and I’m dancing, and it’s a [00:13:15] dance break in the middle of the song. And I realize, I don’t know the next verse. I, I couldn’t in the moment think fast enough to sing the same verse again. So I tried the just open your mouth experiment and saying, I didn’t [00:13:30] know the words coming next. So I sang la la la. You’ve just gotta keep going. It’s like when figure skaters fall, you’ve gotta get up again and do the triple axle because the show is not done.
You have to get up and keep going. So I [00:13:45] messed up the line, but I knew the next one and I kept going through the song. There was so much joy in realizing that here I was, I stepped up and I did it.
[00:13:56] Bree: They finish the play, the curtains go [00:14:00] down and Jill is feeling both relieved and elated, which means extremely happy.
[00:14:07] Jill: It felt fabulous to hear the applause and people were so complimentary and [00:14:15] so gracious, and I can actually tr like track this journey to this moment right now talking to you. It was the turning point in my life where I realized that being shy, I maybe years later I learned this, but the being [00:14:30] shy part was learned.: It wasn’t who I, who I actually was. It was who I learned to be in life. Right out of that musical. I got a job as a karaoke host in university. I got another musical. I, [00:14:45] I started my very first band. As a backup singer. Then I started as a lead singer in another band where I met my husband, who was a drummer.
And since then, he and I have done music together. We wrote songs together. [00:15:00] What I’ve learned through this journey is how to stand in your power of your voice and stay authentic to yourself. And I coach other people to do that too, and that’s really part of this voice journey is: if I [00:15:15] can save people from going through this, doubting yourself and not going for that thing, that internal nudge that you know you need to go for, then Commiss Mission accomplished
[00:15:27] Bree: Today, Jill coaches people on using their [00:15:30] voice and using that power to live their life’s wholly and authentically. She’s learned from famous vocal coaches and she created the Voxsana platform to help people understand their voices. [00:15:45] Jill says that there are certain things that everyone can do to improve their voice, and it’s important, so here are a few exercises that she has for us.
[00:15:56] Jill: I’m a voice nerd, so I [00:16:00] always suggest to everybody that, everybody can warm up their voice, so I liken it to if you are going to go work out, You want to stretch first, right? So you can do it in the shower. Just some simple sounds. [00:16:15] So the, um, I love the vocal fry. It just cleans up your vocal cords together.
And I’ll show you in a second. It cleans up your vocal cords and if you think of them like a zipper, it takes out the holes in your zipper. So it’s a nice clean zip. Uh, and if you can [00:16:30] do these warmups in the shower, the steam actually is the only way to get direct hydration.
[00:16:37] Bree: So let’s give this a try. The first exercise sounds like this.
Uh, okay. Give it a [00:16:45] try.
Okay. Good work. So Jill recommends to only do this one a couple of times. All right. What’s next?
[00:16:55] Jill: Breathing, getting out of the chest and getting into the ribcage. [00:17:00] Oftentimes it’s really hard to get a deep breath. So I like to start clients with exhaling it all out first and building off that energy. So if you, and really stretch it out, all of it, then you take a really deep breath.[00:17:15]
[00:17:17] Bree: Okay, so warmup number two is to breathe. Now, you might be saying, Jill, I know how to breathe, but what Jill recommends is doing big belly breaths. So you imagine [00:17:30] you have a balloon in your belly and you exhale all the way . And then you inhale through your nose. Okay, go ahead and try it. [00:17:45]
Okay, good work. Breathing. So by inhaling through the nose instead of the mouth, we’re making sure that the vocal [00:18:00] cords don’t get dried out and dry vocal cords are the enemy of a strong, solid voice. Okay, let’s take a listen to the last vocal warmup.
[00:18:12] Jill: So, the nice deep breath. [00:18:15] The vocal fry to clean up the chords and then some sounds.
So you might make what I call and what a lot of vocal coaches call a siren, which is just an oo sound from low to high and back down. And the siren exercise sounds like, let me do it for you. Here we [00:18:30] go. Woo. Not hard. We start from a low to a back down, uh, to a high and back down. And we just make it speechy.
It’s not singing woo woo. And then flip them. Woo. [00:18:45]
[00:18:45] Bree: Okay, go ahead and give it a try.
So this last warmup is stretching our voice to give it more melody, and that’s [00:19:00] what we want when we’re speaking. We want to go up and we want to go down to keep things interesting. Thank you so much, Jill, for those three wonderful warmups. I promise I will be using them before I record every podcast.[00:19:15]
Jill lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and two children, and this summer 2023, you will get to hear their first single from their band Echo Drop. We’ll [00:19:30] leave you a link in the show notes. Okay, that’s all for today. I hope that you loved this episode as much as we loved making it.
And if you want to support our show, please share into the story with [00:19:45] any and all of your English learning friends. You just press the share button, it’s usually at the top of your app and send it on over, and thank you. Okay. Until next time, we hope you have a good time or at least a good [00:20:00] story to tell.
Quote of the episode
“You’ve just gotta keep going. It’s like when figure skaters fall, you’ve gotta get up again and do the triple axle because the show is not done.”
– Jill Mitchell
Words & expressions mentioned
To roll up (somewhere)
To arrive at a place, typically in a casual or relaxed manner. Example: She decided to roll up to the party and see if any of her friends were there.
A mixture of happiness and sadness experienced simultaneously. Example: Graduation day was bittersweet for Sarah as she was excited about the future but sad to leave her friends behind.
To be buzzing
To feel excited, energetic, or full of anticipation. Example: The crowd was buzzing with excitement before the concert started.
The stakes to be high
Referring to a situation where the potential consequences or risks are significant. Example: In a championship game, the stakes are high because winning or losing has a major impact on the team’s season.
Words & expressions (in chronological order)
A secret longing/wish: A deep desire or wish that is kept hidden or not openly expressed. Example: Jane had a secret longing to travel the world and explore different cultures.
To speak up: To express one’s thoughts or opinions openly and confidently. Example: If you disagree with something, don’t hesitate to speak up and share your perspective.
To be called on (in class): When a teacher or instructor selects a student to answer a question or participate in a classroom discussion. Example: The teacher called on Sarah to solve the math problem on the board.
To try out for (musicals): To audition or attempt to be selected for a role in a musical. Example: Sarah is going to try out for the lead role in the school musical.
The saving grace: A redeeming or positive aspect of a situation that helps improve it or makes it more bearable. Example: The saving grace of the rainy day was that it gave me an excuse to stay inside and read a good book.
To be spurred to do something: To be motivated or encouraged to take action. Example: The inspiring speech spurred her to pursue her dreams and start her own business.
Don’t be a chicken: Don’t be afraid or timid; be brave and take risks. Example: Don’t be a chicken, go ahead and ask your crush out on a date.
To be humungous: To be extremely large or massive in size. Example: The elephant at the zoo was humungous; it was much bigger than any other animal in the exhibit.
To look at someone like they have two heads: To stare at someone in a way that shows surprise, confusion, or disbelief, as if the person has two heads instead of one. Example: When John told his friends that he could speak five languages fluently, they looked at him like he had two heads because they found it hard to believe.
To light a fire: To inspire or motivate someone or to ignite enthusiasm or excitement. Example: The coach’s pep talk before the game lit a fire in the team, and they played with great determination.
To stand up for what I want: To defend or support one’s desires, beliefs, or opinions. Example: I will stand up for what I want and negotiate for a fair salary at my job.
To roll up (somewhere): To arrive at a place, typically in a casual or relaxed manner. Example: She decided to roll up to the party and see if any of her friends were there.
To get the lead/lead role: To be chosen as the main character or protagonist in a play, movie, or performance. Example: After auditioning, Mark was thrilled to learn that he got the lead role in the school play.
Bitter sweat: A mixture of happiness and sadness experienced simultaneously. Example: Graduation day was bittersweet for Sarah as she was excited about the future but sad to leave her friends behind.
To be a fraud — to be a fake (imposter syndrome): To feel or believe that one is not as competent or capable as others perceive them to be. Example: Despite her accomplishments, she often felt like a fraud and doubted her abilities.
The cast: The group of actors who perform in a play, movie, or television show. Example: The cast of the play rehearsed their lines and blocking for the upcoming performance.
Dress rehearsal: A full rehearsal of a play or performance with costumes and props, usually done before the actual show. Example: The dress rehearsal allowed the actors to practice their scenes and make any necessary adjustments.
To get sick: To become ill or unwell. Example: I caught a cold and started feeling sick yesterday.
(To know something) like the back of my hand: To be very familiar with something or have detailed knowledge about it. Example: After years of working in this neighborhood, I know the streets and alleys like the back of my hand.
Hot flash: A sudden sensation of intense heat, often felt in the chest and face.
To be buzzing: To feel excited, energetic, or full of anticipation. Example: The crowd was buzzing with excitement before the concert started.
To be forgiving (“the dress wasn’t forgiving”): Describing clothing that is not flattering or accommodating to one’s body shape or size. Example: She decided not to wear the tight dress because it wasn’t forgiving and made her feel uncomfortable.
Make your way somewhere (“I can hear that I have to start making my way to the stage”): To begin moving or traveling towards a particular destination. Example: The performer heard the announcement and knew it was time to make her way to the stage.
Wig: A head covering made of artificial or real hair, typically worn for theatrical purposes or as a fashion accessory. Example: The actor wore a wig to portray a character with long, flowing hair.
The wings (of a stage): The areas on either side of a stage that are concealed from the audience’s view. Example: The actors waited in the wings for their cue to enter the stage.
To mess up: To make a mistake or do something incorrectly. Example: I was nervous during the interview and ended up messing up a few of my answers.
The stakes to be high: Referring to a situation where the potential consequences or risks are significant. Example: In a championship game, the stakes are high because winning or losing has a major impact on the team’s season.
People were complementary: Referring to individuals giving praise or expressing positive comments about someone or something. Example: After her performance, people were complementary about her singing voice and stage presence.
A turning point (in one’s life): A significant moment or event that marks a change in the course or direction of one’s life. Example: Moving to a new city and starting a new job was a turning point in his life, leading to new opportunities and personal growth.
Stand in your power: To confidently assert oneself, assert one’s authority, or take control of a situation. Example: She decided to stand in her power and assert her opinions during the important meeting.
How much of the episode did you understand? Take this quizz to find out! Choose the right answer and press the arrow to move to the next question. At the end you’ll see your results. Listen again to the episode if you need to, it’s a good practice.
Jill Mitchell playing and singing with her band.
Jill posing for her podcast Voxsana, dedicated to empower people to use their voices.
Jill Mitchell is a talented singer, coach, author, and supporter of the power of the human voice. She learned from famous vocal coaches and created Voxsana a platform to help people understand that their voice is connected to their whole self and how to use it authentically.
Jill is currently writing a book called “The Singers Survival Guide”. Also she performs music with her husband Sean in the band “Echo Drop”, and they live with their children in Victoria, BC, Canada.