Two feet in the snow (1)

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.

~ ~ ~

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:

  1. I suppose so.
  2. Other people have told me I am.
  3. In fact, many people who stood near me in choirs hated having me around because I sight read well and could hear others’ mistakes.
  4. Aren’t most professional musicians good sight readers?
  5. Well, duh . . . yeah!

I opted for the simple answer:  “Yes.”

And then I proceeded to pull the foot back to myself.

[ To be continued . . . . ]

2 thoughts on “Two feet in the snow (1)

  1. Steve 01/06/2015 / 2:00 pm

    Memories…. being in Mona Moore’s Ear-training and Sight-reading class in the mid-70’s…now that was a hoot! Everyone in class had played an instrument–for 10-15 years. I played the radio, no instrument…just sang. But…I had a good ear and I could out-sightread the best of them, having been taught in my single-digit days how to read music. If and when someone comments about my sight-reading, I simply say: “I do enjoy singing…and I guess I’m just really lucky to hit all those notes that go up and down.” 🙂 But I’m afraid if one doesn’t play an instrument in today’s world, sight-reading is becoming a lost art among the vocal folks. Not much training being done congregationally anymore–sad.


    • Brian Casey 01/07/2015 / 8:10 am

      I still have my Music Lit themebook, in which are hand-copied themes from among Mona’s favorites. Congrats to you on beating the instrumentalists! This is a very heavy matter to me, because of where I’ve been in church (leadership positions and otherwise). I wish I could simply let it go and sit there like a useless tool in the pew, but it seems I have two choices: 1) absent myself or 2) lead. Since I’m afraid to lead much (I get too invested and/or come on too strong and/or put way too much time into something that doesn’t end up making any difference), absenting myself is the better choice right now.


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