Help? Can ANYONE Teach Me to Sing?

Please, please, can anyone tell me the secret of singing?

Years ago, my music teacher at school pronounced me 'a groaner' and told me to mime through every school concert and carol service. Fast forward through many miserable years of not singing Happy Birthday to friends and family, or joining in hymns at weddings and funerals. Sometimes I tried, but only a strangled groan came out.

Then the desire to sing took hold. Despite all my singing sweats and terror, I realized I longed, ached, yearned to join in and sing with others. I joined a 'Can't Sing' choir and, with the help of wonderful, energetic teacher, learned to pitch notes and sing with the choir in public. It was exhilarating. Sadly, she died. I joined the class again, but with a poor teacher, who played the piano with only one finger, quickly fell back into my old, tuneless ways.

I joined a local singing group, told that it was big and fun and 'no-one cares if you can sing or not'. Not true. One morning we had to come to the front and sing in small groups of three and four. I crumpled and fled.

I joined another class. Another wonderful teacher. Everything was going swimmingly. I realized that with enough noise around me I could sing lustily and maybe even in tune. Then, because lots of people in the class were actors needing to up their singing game for professional purposes, she said we all had to sing a solo. I somehow got through it, but it was, quite simply, one of the worst experiences of my learning life.

We moved to New York. I took singing lessons with a teacher whose schtick was 'everyone can sing'. She was encouraging, but I still hated the sound of my thin, toneless voice wavering around her apartment. Just occasionally, once or twice, I felt I connected with something deep within me that allowed my voice to come out strong and clear. It was thrilling!

But it never lasted, no matter how much I practised, and later, when I joined an evening class, run by this same singing teacher, my voice came and went exactly in line with how exposed - or not - I felt. So that later, when told we all had to sing a solo - why, oh why, do class singing teachers feel the need to do this? - my confidence collapsed completely. And took my voice down with it.

So here I am. I know I can, under warm and encouraging circumstances, sing approximately in tune. I know that, deeply buried, there is even something that could pass, on a dark night, for a half-way decent singing voice. Yet most of the time I can muster little more than a groan.

So my question is this: why can't I do what most other people seem to find so easy? Why can't I simply learn to sing, and then sing better than I did before? And hold on to it? Why, even though I now know lots and lots about how to sing, do I keep returning to the same old tuneless groan I started with?

Can anyone help me? I'm desperate to sing!