Happy birthday, Dad. (Yep, it’s New Year’s Day, and it’s my dad’s birthday.) It’s a milestone year for him. I think he will deeply understand some of the things in this post, although he won’t have felt them in exactly the same way.
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I have this running battle with myself — having to do with putting a foot forward, or not. It’s not a battle I win, lemme tell you. . . .
I suppose this goes way back to high school, when I began to be viewed by peers as musically talented. I could play and sing stuff that others couldn’t, including the Peanuts theme song on piano, lip trills on my horn, and various things “by ear.” Sight reading was also a particular skill.
But I was never one to put a foot forward, forcing myself to be the center of attention.
Lately, I was in a small group attempting to sing a couple of new songs. I was trying not to put my foot forward or insert myself as “leader” in any way, although, if anyone had much idea of who I have been, who I am, and what I can do, the whole thing would have gone so much better. But, as I said, I’m reluctant, for multiple reasons, to put my foot forward.
In this small singing group, someone asked me a question– in a friendly, affirming way — whether I might help/lead the song the group was trying, vainly, to sing. He asked this, with a smile (a smile I could hear but not see, since I was holding my head down, not inserting myself into the situation):
“Let’s see . . . how about you, Brian. You’re a pretty good sight reader, aren’t you?”
For basically introverted me, it struck me as perhaps the most starkly uncomfortable situation of this nature that I’d experienced in a while. There was only good intent on the part of the guy, and the group, and a door was open for me.
But my foot was stuck.
I honestly didn’t know what to say.
Now, I sight read vocal music better than anyone I’ve ever known or been around personally. (I’m in the top 10-20% for instrumental music, which is interesting since I’m primarily an instrumentalist, but instrumental music is typically more complex, and instrumental musicians as a group are usually better sight readers.)
But what do you even say to such a pointed question that has (to me) such an obvious answer, without wanting to look a) falsely humble or b) stuck on yourself? (Most others probably won’t even get why I fell face-down in the snow over this situation, but it was a very real thing for me, all happening in three seconds . . . and in the mental, emotional aftermath that is part-and-parcel of who I am. Other melancholy introverts may understand.)
Possible answers to the question (about how good a sight reader I am) include these:
- I suppose so.
- Other people have told me I am.
- In fact, many people who stood near me in choirs hated having me around because I sight read well and could hear others’ mistakes.
- Aren’t most professional musicians good sight readers?
- Well, duh . . . yeah!
I opted for the simple answer: “Yes.”
And then I proceeded to pull the foot back to myself.
[ To be continued . . . . ]