Friday, November 19, 2010

Fame

Once upon a time I had a dream of becoming a lounge singer. I love to sing and I thought that my voice was unusual enough and good enough to make a go of it. For now, let’s ignore the fact that I’m not the best at memorizing songs and the chances of me making a living at this were remote. Don’t ask me to explain why I think smokey Chicago blues bars are romantic. It seemed reasonable.

This nugget of a notion must have started when I was in Treble Choir in High School. 2nd Soprano, sometimes the Alto – how come they rarely get the melody? I should have been turned off of singing altogether given the scaring that took place at our concerts. Imagine singing “Fame” and “Bye Bye Birdie” in a lemon polyester dress that was knee-length with a sweetheart neckline. When was that fashionable? Never. Nor was the set of lime-colored dresses that matched. Just in case you’re wondering, we did have dance moves. I’ll leave that up to your imagination. Our choir teacher was a little loopy and so were her Lee Press-on nails. As she played the piano at any moment one could zing off. Her playing style was flamboyant so the combination was Liberace-esque. I remember we had to act out a play of some sort (why we did this in choir, I don’t know) and my friend and I decided to mime planting a flower. We wore button down shirts and ties that were “in” for a millisecond in the 80’s. Matching outfits and mime! Nothing finer. We’ve been friends ever since so it served its purpose.

The dream didn’t die and at some point I purchased a beautiful Martin guitar in Dickson, Tennessee (I was there on business). The sound that comes out of this acoustic guitar is just incredible. Every quality lounge singer can also write their own songs and strum the guitar as well, right? Once I had my guitar, I thought I should learn how to play it. I’m terribly logical that way. I went to a local music store and had weekly 1-hour lessons. My teacher had shoulder-length blond hair and a solid gig at a local coffee shop. He even had CD’s of his music. He was a sweet man and very patient. One day he asked me if I wanted to prepare a song for a recital. Oh sure, why not? We chose “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King. A classic piece – timeless. I would play the melody and he would play the chords (or as I like to call it, the “hard part”). We practiced every week and I felt confident that this would go well.

The day of the recital my husband and I arrived at the music store. They had set out chairs, cookies and punch in amongst the pianos and racks of sheet music. It was an intimate setting – just like a lounge! At some point, I realized that I was the oldest person that was going to perform – by about 2 decades. The parents of the kids were younger in some cases. I was towards the end of the program (best for last!), but that’s not the best place for me to be in a program. I started getting a pretty decent case of stage fright. I listened to a pre-teen play her flute with her CD of the theme to “Aladdin” – “A Whole New World” playing along and a few piano pieces followed. The one that struck me and I will never forget was the young boy who was playing the timpani drum to the “Back to the Future Theme Song”. His teacher left him out to dry with no accompaniment. He only played the drum part, which wasn’t the melody. So it was a combination of him hitting a couple of bars and then bobbing his head to count for the next time to come in. It was painful. But when it was done, his dad was so proud – his eyes shining with pride, clapping loudly and shouting “Great job!”. I thought, “I can do this.” My teacher and I sat next to each other in high stools, just like the pros. It went really, really well until the end. I kind of just lost it and my teacher finished up the last chord. I don’t think anyone could really tell except my teacher, but you know, that happens – even to the seasoned vets. Whew. I got a red ribbon at the cookie/punch table. I received many compliments from the parents, “Great job. Great sound. Terrific.” I nodded and thanked them. We went to the nearby China Buffet to celebrate. Not the grand splash I had once dreamed of, but you had to start somewhere. The best part of this gig was the fact that my husband had videotaped it. When we got home, we hooked it up to the TV to watch. Only one problem (or was it?) – it was taped in night vision. My husband had gone out shining for deer with his buddies that week and left it on the night vision setting. Darn it! Guess we can’t save that!

This dream ended when I heard Eva Cassidy. She was 33, long blond hair, pretty. With her haunting voice and the way she mastered the guitar, my dream was complete even if it was embodied by another. Her expression of “Over the Rainbow” is such an unusual heart-felt translation. Here is a link on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NL-9JlSCNOQ
I bought all of her CD’s and immersed myself in her music. When I started looking into who she was, what her story was. I found out that she had died that year. It just didn’t make any sense, but death at a young age rarely does. In any event, I’m still content with giving up my dream for another. Life has taken a different course and doesn’t have space for that notion too. I can only be devoted to so many endeavors at once!

I’ve realized that dreams do come in handy when you are having a rough day, question what you’re doing at your current job, and just plain wonder what you’re doing on the planet. And I can still sing and play the guitar whenever I need to dream.

2 comments:

Terri said...

OK, this is my favorite by far! I want picture proof of the yellow dress. My brush with fame came as part of the 8th-grade all-girl choir called Rainbow Connection (picture Kermit & Miss Piggy).

And I totally relate to the deer-shining snafu, that definitely can happen when you live in small town Wisconsin!

The Dad said...

I just what to know what the heck shining for deer is. Sounds like cow tipping.