If I were one of my readers, I would be pretty angry right about now (for argument’s sake, we’ll just pretend that the majority of the hits on this website do not, in fact, come from me reloading the page just to see the site stats change. Because I never do that. For reals.).
Here you are, you stick with me for years while I get ready to start teaching, I actually get done with stupid classes, start teaching– and I don’t say a single word about it. I’m sure you’ve all been perched on the edge of your seats.
About ten years ago, I was getting ready for my first vocal recital. I was a freshman in college, in the Wayback Times. In the Long Long Ago.
My vocal coach was a nice lady who was a very talented soprano, herself. She was relatively new to the college…. and I have some suspicions that she may have had a little bit of performance anxiety. So when it came time for our first recital, she was very nervous backstage.
I was the first singer. I was quite literally puking in my mouth. I’m a good singer– you won’t ever hear me say that I’m not– but solo singing has never been my strong suit. I would much rather sing in a choir. Team player, turns out. Who knew.
So I’m standing there, waiting for my cue, when my coach comes up to me and says,
“Okay, I’m going to go out there and say a little welcome, there will probably be applause, and then you come out.”
I nodded. And then she said,
“No wait. I’m not going to say anything. I’m just going to go sit down. So wait like, fifteen seconds, and then go.”
I nodded again. My legs felt like steel rods being held together by balloons full of pudding. And then she said,
“No, I’ll welcome them. So wait for applause.”
And then, without waiting for my reply, she left me backstage by going out into the hallway. There was no applause. Nothing happened.
I turned to my accompanist, an enormously talented man that I had no business singing in front of, and stared at him like maybe I might have forgotten his name. Or what he was doing there. And also, what I was doing there.
He said, “Are you okay?”
He said, “Are you ready?”
I paused. Then shook my head.
He walked resolutely to the stage door and flipped it open. He came back to me, put his hands on my shoulders and told me to take a deep breath.
Then he shoved me out the door and started clapping.
I stumbled, righted myself and walked onto stage. I pulled myself together, and sang very well. I mean, for a girl raised on rock and roll and being forced to sing opera.
That’s kind of how I feel about teaching most days. I feel totally ready, I know that I can do it, and then I stand there and watch all the kids come in and my brain just kind of locks up. I have no idea what is going to happen from day to day. I have no idea if I’ve prepared enough.
And, to be honest, I don’t really have a clear objective. Some days I have to remind myself that I am a student, too, and I’m there to learn. Some days I have to remind myself that I am also there to teach. Every day, I know– and it’s gut wrenching– that no matter what I am there for, its possible that I could be the only positive interaction they have all day. Even though the lessons I am teaching them are a part of my education, they are also a part of their education.
Sometimes my mind gets kind of fuzzy and quiet.
And then I feel the push, and that I can’t explain. It’s not like my recital, where I was physically pushed out of my fear and forced to realize that I could do it.
But I take a deep breath, and all that hard work comes back to me. All the books I read, all the studying I did, all the training I had. Plus, you know. The mojo part of it. Kids and animals, man. They just get me.
I’m learning a lot, I’m loving a lot. I’m crying a lot, too. It’s a lot like I thought it would be, and a lot harder than I thought at the same time.
But I’m doing good. Well, I mean…. as good as a girl raised on rock and roll and forced to sing opera. Technique, tradition, dedication….. and soul.