God Gave Me Skills
In response to The Daily Prompt
I Got Skills: If you could choose to be a master (or mistress) of any skill in the world, which skill would you pick?
There has been one constant in my life that has always been by my side. It has helped me to rejoice when things are going well, it has helped me to mourn something that has left my life, and it has picked me up and given me inspiration to move on.
That one thing, is music.
There are memories stored deep within my cells of me as a toddler singing Alfie, by Dionne Warwick, with my mother.
I remember sitting on the living room floor, with a mic in my hand, as my mother recorded me on one of those old reel to reel recorders. (I’m showing my age here.)
My mother was always so proud of me.
Perhaps she was living out her own dreams through me. She used to tell me stories of how she had such a beautiful singing voice and was told in school she should pursue a singing career. Her dreams were apparently thwarted by my grandparents. The claims were, they didn’t believe singing to be a suitable career choice.
I had always wanted to study music and learn the technicalities of the craft. However, life took hold and I was presented with other things I had to take care of. I won’t go into detail, but I had to grow up pretty quickly. Despite family troubles, I continued to sing.
My teen years did not help me gain confidence in singing. I have a high voice, and often times, I was teased by my peers. Slowly, my voice was becoming stifled.
At age fifteen I worked construction, over the summer, with my father . One day, Michael Jackson was playing on the radio. My father and his buddies had a conversation on how much he sounded like a girl. Yeah, “he’s a little faggot,” one of them said. I loved Michael Jackson, and often mimicked him. That comment severed my vocal cords for any public display. After that, I only sang behind closed doors. In fact, I didn’t even sing happy birthday at birthday parties. My lips would move but no words would came out.
I went through years with this fear of singing publicly.
Then, in 2005 something snapped. I was attending this church and loved the way the choir sounded. I decided to join. It was the most frightening thing I had ever done. I remember being grateful that I was tall. Tall people get placed in the back. I was able to hide.
However, my music director had different plans. She was very clever too. In an attempt to single me out, she convinced me to sing one word really loud. PEACE!! That was my first solo experience. I simply had to sing PEACE!! in the chorus, right before the soloist sang the verses to R. Kelly’s song peace.
Bit by bit I was presented with more words. Every time she stretched me I thought I would die. It was so nerve wrecking, but I remained open to the experience.
Then, one night, during choir practice, the music director told the choir we were adopting a theme song of sorts. Our Pastor wanted us to sing one song at all our appearances. She wanted it to be known as our signature song. The clincher was, she wanted me to take the lead. I reluctantly agreed.
I must have listened to that song a million times in preparation for our debut.
While alone, I could sing it just fine with the recording. But, at practices, I failed horribly. I realized things sound differently with a live band, and since I do not have any musical training, it was really hard for me to make the transition.
I almost chickened out a couple of times, but I did not want to let everyone down. Most of all, I did not want to let myself down. And, of course, I didn’t want to let the Pastor down. She had chosen this song with me in mind.
After, what seemed like an eternity, it was time to do it.
There I was, standing on stage, with a mic in front of me, for all to see. I was sweating bullets, my mouth was dry, and I felt sick to my stomach. I wasn’t happy with the quick “run through” we did before the doors opened, but it was too late.
When the music started, something happened. It was like I left my body. I could see all the faces in the audience, but I didn’t care. I was busy listening to the music. I was listening for the cues that I had made mental notes of. The cues that let me know when I had to sing the next line.
When I hit the last note there was an explosion of applause. I looked out into the audience to see everyone standing and clapping. The pastor got on the mic and said, “So, that is going to be our song.” “How do you like it?” More applause. “And what about Joe, wasn’t he amazing?” The explosion began again. That was the day my vocal cords grew back.
Since then, we have gone to California, for a symposium, where I had to sing that song in every situation possible. I sang it in the airport and on the plane itself. It was sang in the streets, on stages, and at charity events. At the drop of a hat, Melanie, my music director, would say, “okay, we’re going to sing our song,” and I had to open my mouth and let the words come out.
I’ve sung many solos since then.
I even sang Michael Jackson’s song, Heal the World, for a World’s Aids Day benefit. In fact, I’ve sung several of his songs. I do have to say, the most ironic solo I ever sang was PEACE!! Years after I first sung that one word, I found myself singing the lead to that very song. Funny how things go, huh?
Even though I’ve done this, it is still such a nerve wrecking experience for me. Why? Because I don’t know music. I can’t read music or anything. To this day, I couldn’t tell you what first part, second part, or anything is. I literally have to listen to the recording over and over again, only for it to be different when it’s played live. It’s a bummer.
So, that’s what I would like to master. I would love to understand what everyone is taking about when they gather around to discuss how to play a song.
I haven’t sung a solo in almost two years. I miss it so much. I know I’ll do it again.
I also believe that when I do go back, I’ll be better than before.
Why do I believe this?
Because God gave me skills, even if I don’t know music.
I Got Skills