Adult Beginners: Ellen Burstyn

In her memoir, "Lessons in Becoming Myself," Oscar-winning actress, Ellen Burstyn, writes about learning to sing again as an adult for her starring role as Alice in the movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.

"One of the tasks of adulthood, in my view, is to look at what has been laid down in our brains early on and decide whether we want to keep that as a part of our worldview. Certainly anything that got programmed as a limitation of our possibilities needs to be examined and consciously kept or ejected.

"For instance, I was in the glee club as a schoolgirl and was often asked to sing solos. When I was around 12, I decided I'd like to take lessons and perhaps pursue singing as a career. I told this to my mother, who said, 'Let me hear you sing.' I went to the piano in the dining room and opened the sheet music for 'If I Loved You' [from the musical, Carousel]. I played the opening chords and sang the first line. From the kitchen came my mother's voice: 'Awful!' "

"That was it. I couldn't carry a tune after that. My ear went dead."

"One of the things I wanted to accomplish in Alice was to reawaken my ability to sing. I didn't have to be great. Alice wasn't a great singer. I just wanted to be able to stay on key and deliver the song as best I could. I worked on it for months. The final recordings were a patch job of different takes of my own singing and piano playing. I did it with a lot of help and augmentation. But I did it."

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