Everyone has something that scares them, or at least makes their palms sweat a little bit as they face the task at hand. For me, it isn’t heights, cats, dogs, snakes, public speaking. Spiders give me the shivers, but I will take them down if they make the mistake of being in my house.
Lately it has been singing in public that has had me nervous down to my core. I have been singing with a jazz group on campus for two years now, but in that setting I am one of a couple of singers with a four or so member band backing us. I have become more comfortable in that scenario. But every so often Harvey, the “leader” of our little jazz group, and someone I have come to call friend, will invite me to spread my wings a bit more and I have sung with him at Ryles Jazz Cafe in Cambridge a few times. Recently he suggested that he and I along with our bass player Matt, could form a trio and work up a repertoire of music and try to get a regular gig. I feel RIDICULOUS even writing the word “gig” but that is what it is. We have not worked very hard at getting one, so it hasn’t happened yet, but we did perform for an hour at the retirement community attached to campus here at the college two weeks ago. One whole hour. Of just ME singing in front of what turned out to be Harvey on a beautiful Steinway, Matt on his upright bass, and one of our students, Brett who is a genius on saxophone. 10 songs.
I have never been so terrified, and that includes when someone was about to cut my abdomen open and pull a baby out. OK, I was on some pretty good drugs for that, so maybe these are not comparable experiences. But seriously, I have never, even in my college days of doing theater, been so nauseatingly petrified. I did not try to go it without some lyrics handy. I have discovered that in this setting my brain freezes up and if asked to sing a song, it is as if I have never ever ever learned any song ever in my life. No Happy Birthday, no national anthem, nothing will come to my brain. My voice works, my brain doesn’t. So I created a small cheat sheet of lyrics, and really didn’t need it most of the time, but the fact it was there made it better.
I decided not to record it, but to just let it happen and leave it to the universe and those present to remember it. It went really well. I flubbed a bit on Fly Me to the Moon, which I can sing in my sleep, but for some reason had a hard time hearing and finding the tune at the beginning. I seem to do really well, oddly enough, with tunes that fall into the Latin category. Two of them I had never heard before Harvey introduced me to them, Beautiful Love and Black Orpheus, aka A Day in the Life of a Fool. They seem to be in my wheelhouse range wise, and suit the quality of my voice.
What I learned is that I can do things that scare me and not only survive it, but conquer it, maybe even kick a little ass in the process. It will make the next time that much easier, and maybe by the time I am 60 it will be old news. By then I will have something new that will be scary to worry about – Cooper will be about college age by then. That is if I survive him being 4. But that is another blog post for another time.