Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tales of Soloing

I went to high school in town.  Any of the kids that were bused in from the mountain or the rural area (like me), were viewed as being less than worthy by the townies.  There were two very distinct factions in junior high and high school.

The townies stuck together, and the country kids stayed together.  It made for some uncomfortable interactions at lunch or gym class.  Gym class especially if you are a natural born no talent when it comes to any kind of sport.  The only sport where people actually wanted me on their team was during volleyball.  That damn ball never missed my chest!  The 'girls' had better targeting skills than either of my hands!  Might have just been the fact that I wore a D cup in eighth grade too...LOL!!!

Anyway, it took a year or two for me to become something of a bridge between the two groups of kids.  I developed friendships with townies, and they discovered not all country kids were dumb hicks.  I enjoyed the status of being called "mom" by my classmates, or "grandma" by the underclassmen.  I knew the secrets, and I kept them.  By the time I actually made to tenth grade, even teachers had started to call me "mom"...which was kinda funny.

Something else that raised my status with my classmates and teachers was the fact that I could sing, and I was good.  My ninth grade choir director even provided free voice lessons after school.  That was really cool.  He was using his own time to help me become a decent vocalist.  He had me learn old standards, like Moon River, and I learned some classic 70's stuff (he was a child of the 70's, lol).  I even learned to really like The Beatles because of that music teacher, having learned a few of their songs during my voice lessons.  It wasn't all scales and such.

Each year, the junior high school had a spring choral concert.  I would suppose in those years, most schools did, though many schools now don't even have music programs.  I had the only solo.  I probably should have been nervous, but I wasn't.  For our small school, the auditorium was SRO.  I sang a Carpenters song, Bless the Beasts and the Children.  I sang it well, and I loved the applause.  When I was done and went behind the curtain, that's when the nerves hit.  'What and the hell did I just do?'  While my friends were congratulating me and telling they couldn't believe that was me singing, I was bawling my face off.  My choir director hugged me, told me I had done beautifully, and all I could do was cry.  It was worst best feeling I had ever had.

The best part of the night was when I finally met up with my folks and my grandmother.  It was the very first time my father ever said he was proud of me.  That shook me to my very core.  He had never said that before, not that I had given him much reason - straight A's, high honor roll, advanced placement classes, etc..  I was the only one of his children to actually pursue music with any kind of heart or seriousness.  My mother told me I did a good job. (Thanks Mom.).  My grandmother had tears in her eyes.  She sang a lot in her youth, and at that time, still had a wonderful singing voice.  Grandma gave me the biggest hug.  If I close my eyes, I can still feel it, even now 35 years later.

Through high school, I sang numerous solos in our school concerts.  I got to sing solos that upper classmates had tried out for, but didn't get.  My senior year, I got a much coveted (well, coveted by other music geeks like me) senior spotlight during our spring choral concert.  There was always several talented seniors who received that one last chance to show off their ability to sing.

Two of the spotlights were duets, one vocal, one piano.  The other two spotlights were vocalists.  I was a soprano with a spotlight.  A friend of mine, who had a gorgeous alto voice, had the other spotlight.  She sang Memory from the Broadway musical Cats.  I sang something not quite so parochial.  I sang a classical piece by Bach called My Heart Ever Faithful.  It had a complicated accompaniment, so my choir director brought in a ringer to play piano for me.  It was really awesome because the guy that played for me was locally a very popular concert pianist.

If you have any familiarity with Bach vocal pieces (not that many people do), you know that his soprano pieces reach above the rafters.  I did it, beautifully...and collapsed into tears once I was done and behind the curtain.  Many of my choir geek friends knew I could hit high notes, but not like I had when I sang that piece of music.  It was very awesome to see the looks on their faces, because they couldn't believe some hick like me could sing like that.

If I stop for a moment and think about it, I can still remember some of the words and the melody to that piece.  I remember feeling very happy in those moments after, even though I was shaking from head to toe from nervous release.  That night was the second time my dad said he was proud of me.  My mom was amazed by me.  Both of my grandmothers were there, and both had tears in their eyes.  My one grandmother actually had brought a small cassette recorder with her and she recorded my solo.  It wasn't a great recording but up until she died about seven years later, she listened to it often.  My grandfather, who was also there, just smiled and shook his head.  I guess this little redhead surprised him.  He always knew I had a big mouth, just not how big I guess...LOL!!!

I've continued to sing on occasion, but not like I did.  Normally now it is for family and friends at weddings, and my grandmother's funeral.   Mostly I sing for myself, because it lifts my soul to somewhere other than here.  Not that here is bad, because it isn't, but because there are times when here is not enough.

Singing, even for my own enjoyment, is something that makes me feel more alive, more a part of the overall universe.  No, I will never sing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House.  No, I will never sing in the footlights of a Broadway theater.  That doesn't matter, since they were never really goals of mine.  If I wanted it now, I would need voice lessons again, because time and bad habits have changed my vocal range to 3 full octaves, not the four octaves I had in my youth.  I would have to work for it, not that working for it would be problem.  I've learned recently there is great satisfaction in reaching hard fought for goals.

I have friends that did pursue music in some form after high school.  Several are teachers.  Some even went on to pursue performance careers.  I think they are amazing for going on.  I should have, and could have.  I didn't want to leave home to go to school, and thirty years later, I'm working to get an associates degree in business admin.  Yes, I've kicked myself numerous times.  I might have made it to Broadway or The Met if I had pursued music.

Well, I can have regrets, and I do.  I'm not going to give in to regret.  If the chance presents itself, I might try voice lessons, maybe become a locally known talent again.  Who knows?  I can do anything.  I've already proven that.


  1. you did an amazing job singing at my son's wedding! :)

    1. Your son is my family...right?? I loved singing at B2's wedding!! It was one of the most beautiful days I have ever had the pleasure of being part of...they are great kids!