(Sorry for the lack of postings for a while; life intervened. Here’s just one of the ways in which it did…)
I have come to realize that in order for me to grow as a person, I need to do things that aren’t necessarily comfortable. I find that while this process may be good for me, it’s really hard for me to do. It’s so easy to not challenge myself and be complacent. But there was this one nagging idea I’d had that wouldn’t go away….
About 2 years ago, I had a wild (delusional?) idea that to celebrate my 50th birthday, I wanted to have one moment in the spotlight – where I could be a rock star. Clearly this idea occurred during one of my less-than-lucid moments; how do you transform from a meek, middle-aged housewife to a rock star? (I may be about Sheryl Crow’s age, but I sure don’t look anything like her…)
The other fundamental problems with this plan are: 1) this is completely out of character for me; I’m not a performer. 2) I’m definitely not a singer, and 3) I haven’t regularly played the piano in 35 years.
I mentioned all of this to my friend, Chantelle, who is a gifted music teacher/choral director/all-around awesome person, and she didn’t even bat an eye. She just replied, “Count me in!” I was encouraged, but then I proceeded to do virtually nothing about this for the next year and a half.
By Spring, 2012, I started to wonder if this was really an endeavor I could pull off. I had a tentative set list of songs that I liked (some of which had special meaning for me), and asked Chantelle if I was being completely nuts in even thinking about this. She thought I wasn’t nuts (!!) and then proceeded to line up backup singers, accompanying musicians and even tentative rehearsal dates within a matter of about 20 minutes. I was blown away.
Then I realized I needed a venue. I had waited too long to book our local synagogue and discovered that I had waited too long to book a LOT of places. Panic began to set in.
The more I thought about what I needed to do, and all the logistics involved, the more I thought about backing out. It all seemed way beyond what I could do; I didn’t have a venue, and it just seemed to cause undue stress. But that’s when my friend, Lucille, stepped in.
Lucille and I have been friends since we built a sugar cube castle together in 3rd grade. We know each other far too well, and when she realized I was completely thrashing, she suggested that we have the party at her house. Her comments were, “Just have it here. Parties are easy. The only part you have to figure out (besides the music) is how to get people up and down the driveway.”
You see, the driveway isn’t trivial. It’s 1/3 mile long, and the house sits atop a fairly sizeable hill. But there was plenty of room on the property, so we just had to figure out logistics of getting guests up and down the hill. Enter younger daughter, who called up some of her friends and they graciously agreed to form a shuttle service (as well as help out with food).
Various friends also stepped up to help out with providing chairs/tables, schlepping all sorts of items, baking my birthday cake, etc. My friend Kent agreed to photograph the event (and even provide backup videography). My family continued to be amazingly supportive. (I am still in awe of elder daughter’s organizational lists.) Both of my girls agreed to sing with me – and younger daughter even wrote a song. Even my sister-in-law, Ilene (a professional singer) agreed to sing while I attempted to play the piano.
But I still felt grossly inadequate to the task. Because it really was all about the music, and my skill set was at best incredibly rusty. It doesn’t help that when it comes to music, I am a perfectionist. I may not have that great a voice, but my ear is good enough so that I can tell exactly when I go off key. The 35-year-hiatus in playing the piano regularly made me feel like I was using someone else’s hands on the keyboard. And there was always the underlying worry of embarrassing myself in front of all of my friends. What was I thinking, trying to be a performer when I’d never really done so before?
I had voiced some of my concerns to my friend, Grant, who also happens to be a professional musician. He reminded me that I needed to acknowledge that the journey is just as much a part of the reward as the concert itself, and to just appreciate each moment as it occurs. If any mistakes occurred, it would just be part of the process and I needed to just go with it and move on. These words of wisdom sounded great, but I wasn’t sure if I could actually implement them.
And so the day came. Rehearsals had gone well (and had been a LOT of fun), but I had barely rehearsed with Ilene and realized that playing the piano with an audience was much different than practicing on my own. Mother Nature also decided to throw a monkey wrench into the mix by having the one heat wave of the year occur then. (The temperature had been in the low ’80s, and that weekend hit the upper 90’s. Heatstroke, anyone?)
It really did end up being all about the music. Despite the extreme heat (and my melting in the sun), the attack of nerves that made my hands shake uncontrollably during the piano pieces I played, and even missing the right notes vocally, it was glorious. And what an amazing thing it was, to look out at the audience and know that every single person there wanted me to succeed. I am still incredulous at the love and support I experienced that day, let alone the fact that we’d all pulled this off.
Who knew that a 50-year-old middle-aged housewife could be a rock star for a day? Apparently my friends and family did, even when I didn’t.
Maybe next I’ll try archery.