"What was THAT? WHO was that?" I asked. Everyone was looking at me with surprise except Miss Jones who just sat and smiled and said "That was our next soloist." You see, my voice had filled the church. It sounded rich and full and powerful (not perfect of course, but bigger and stronger than any of the others!) I couldn't believe it!! Ms. Jones started the introduction again and I sang the whole song. It was amazing to me! I never knew I sounded like that!! I was singing full out in a church with great acoustics and that was something I had never done before. When I finished Miss Jones was still grinning (evidently she pretty much knew what was going to happen), the other girls were clapping, squealing, and giving hugs, and I was astounded. After singing with other people for so long, I had always been working on blending and being part of the ensemble. But there in that little church in that little town, I learned that yes, I COULD SING!! Really sing.... I was going to Regional Competition as a soloist! Oh wow!
So Miss Jones and I started rehearsing the two songs I would sing. As the time grew closer, I kept getting more and more nervous. Singing in an empty church in front of a few of my new friends was one thing, standing in front of a musical expert who would JUDGE me was something altogether different and I was having long term anticipatory stage fright that just kept getting worse.
Finally, the day came for the competition. There were only three of us in the room, Miss Jones, the Judge, and me. Oh God, I was terrified. My throat was dry, my hands were shaking a bit, and I felt like I was going to throw up! Oh, help!! I would never survive this. I was supposed to sing now??? I could hardly breathe much less sing! All the competitors were to introduce themselves, give the name of their school, and announce the names and composers of each song. When I attempted to do that my voice was shaking and I was speaking in a whisper, but somehow I got it out. Then Miss Jones began the introduction and I was "on". I started the song and I was still nervous but I tried to concentrate on doing the best I could.
As I was singing the first song, I began to notice that there was something funky happening to my knees. My kneecaps were bouncing up and down....both of them! It was the oddest feeling! I kept on singing, but my mind was obsessed with my knees. I never knew that kneecaps could bounce! I just knew this was NOT GOOD. I kept singing. In my head, I started thinking, "Oh please, please, make it stop. Don't let me faint. Why are they doing that? Help!!! Oh wow, this is amazing!" I finally realized that I was at the end of the second song! It was over!! I did it! And I lived through it!!!
The Judge thanked me, made a few comments on what I should work on, shook hands with Miss Jones, and left the room. I starting jumping around, hugging Miss Jones, and talking a mile a minute about my bouncy knees! And I couldn't stop smiling and laughing. At that moment I didn't even care about the evaluation, because I did it!
After a bit of time my rating sheet was returned to us. Ms. Jones took a quick look and then handed it to me. My nervous tummy butterflies were back and I was afraid to look. She was smiling and said, "Go on", so I looked down at the paper. I'm pretty sure that I screamed and Miss Jones started laughing. There it was, up in the top right hand corner: Overall Rating: I - Superior! The highest rating you could get! Despite nerves and inexperience and and the tap dancing going on in the middle of my legs, I had succeeded! And I had written proof that, Yes, indeedy, I could sing!!
That event put me on a path that continued to lead me to more and more music in my life...College Choir with an awesome Director, Dr. E. Fissinger, (where I met the Big Guy), church choirs, singing with a trio for more than ten years, doing musical community theater where I worked my way up to principal roles in "Fiddler on the Roof", "Annie", "Carousel", and a lot of other shows. Eventually, I began playing roles in straight plays like "Steel Magnolias", "On Golden Pond", "Blithe Spirit", among others. I've active in theater for over 30 years now and have moved into directing as well. Even though I'm not involved anymore, theater has been a huge part of my life. And it all began by singing with my mom as we washed dishes!
So who should I thank for the music? I was remarkably blessed with the choir directors I encountered, each of them gave me a part of the package and it was a gift that I used practically everyday of my life!
So thank you Mom, I'm so grateful you loved to sing and taught me to love it too! Sister Rita Terese, Mr. Yost, and Mrs. Horne, thank you all for the "nuts and bolts". Jenna Jordan Jones made me see that I was better than I thought. Dr. Fissinger, every moment with you and the choir was pure joy! To all of you:
"....I say Thank You for the Music, for giving it to me."
Postscript: There is just one teeny, tiny little detail I need to wrap up. Those bouncy knees?? Never happened again. Stage Fright?? - gone. Nerves before performing?? Nope, nada, zip! Speaking or acting or singing in front of an audience (whether large or small)??? Totally comfortable and at ease!
Hey, if I could survive that first ordeal of competition with my bouncy, dancing kneecaps and still get a Level I - Superior Vocal Rating at the age of 16, I can survive everything else . Truly!! And I have!