Sometimes I feel like an imposter in my own life.
This evening, my rockstar husband and I are playing a gig at our beloved Mariposa Cafe to raise money for the St. James Drop-In Centre, a wonderful community resource that supports members who are coping with homelessness, addiction and mental health issues. Our friend, Antonella, volunteers in the art therapy program there and her enthusiasm for the program and compassion for its members convinced us to support the cause.
It is less sold out closer to showtime but for a few weeks it was!
We played a similar gig nearly a year ago, selling copies of our self-funded cd of cover tunes and raising close to $1500. This year, all proceeds from the $15 cover charge will be donated to the cause.
I’ve come a long way, baby.
From music teacher Mrs. Bloomer with the chinny chin hairs and frightening side part insisting I draw what I feel while listening to Chopin’s funeral march in primary school to Mr. Hay, my high school music teacher, snatching the tenor sax from my poor, hobbit hands and replacing it with a mid-sized clarinet when I told him my fingers didn’t reach the keys, and forever marking my failure as a sax player by taking aim with a stubby piece of chalk (he later claimed he was aiming for the student behind me, as if that made it okay), throwing it overhand, and hitting me smack-dab in the middle of the forehead. Owie.
Then there was the time my friend and I auditioned for a high school variety show, singing You’ve Got A Friend, only to have the the cheeky grade 11 student judging our audition tell us to come back when we’d practiced.
Or that time in my early 30s playing in a guitar quintet, when I sat for several minutes on stage tuning my classical guitar down to drop D, before realizing that the other four people in my group, not to mention the conductor, had already taken their bows and left the stage. I can only imagine that the members of the audience were holding their collective breath waiting for my rendition of Passacaglia by S.L. Weiss. It is much more likely however, they were politely waiting for me to leave so that they could go home.
Sometime in between the above, I think I was in grade two, I begged my parents for a guitar. Miss Rona, my teacher, used to play and sing for us in between lessons, songs like Jamaica Farewell and Yellow Bird. Those singalongs transformed me. I was smitten. It also didn’t hurt that Miss Rona was beautiful and had two eyebrows instead of a single V-shaped one.
“And if your eyebrow goes straight across your head, you will most likely become a murderer.”
“Oh, my God!” someone shrieked, touching their face.”
— Elaine McCluskey, The Most Heartless Town in Canada
She also didn’t throw chalk at me.
I got my first guitar at the end of the school year. It cost $20 and came in a cardboard box from a bottom shelf in the “music” department at Miracle Mart.
Fast forward several decades that include hundreds if not thousands of hours of lessons, probably a gazillion hours of solitary practice, a romantic interlude with a 3/4 violin, and back to the guitar, an acoustic mini now, and here I am playing music again.
And singing. Way out of my comfort zone. With an untrained, reedy warble reminiscent of George Harrison ( i like to think). Into a mic. In front of an audience. Next to a gifted music teacher. Gifted because he inspires everyone to sing and encourages them to sing with their own unique, authentic voice.
If there is one thing I have learned is that music is to be shared. It is community. Musicians need listeners and vice versa. The best music is about heart and not ego. So just play or sing or do both. Find a safe and welcoming place, take a deep breath and let the song out.
“To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.”
— Ludwig Von Beethoven