So I Thought I Could Sing…

August 26, 2014 by Michelle

2am at the cat's pajamasWhen I was nine years old, I thought I could sing. This could possibly be because my mom put me in the local children’s choir. At the time, I didn’t realize that anyone who was willing to pay the fee and wear the lovely khaki skirts and navy sweater was allowed to join (and no, you won’t see any photos of me in that getup). I’ve since figured out the truth.

My mom put me in the choir for … well, I’m not sure why. Maybe it was “the thing to do” in the area where we’d just moved. Maybe I begged to do it because my best friend Leslie Field (oh Leslie, I wish we’d never lost touch when you moved to Washington!) was in it. Maybe it was because my mom just wanted me out of the house and under someone else’s supervision. Who knows.

Regardless, I thought I could sing. At the time, singing to me meant being loud. And I have some lungs. I’m the girl who can hold her breath under water for over a minute, so no, volume wasn’t an issue. The good news for everyone around me is that I wasn’t totally off key, but really, I wasn’t good.

I didn’t know this, however. When Leslie got a solo singing a verse of “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz (our musical theme that year), I was part of the chorus singing about representing the Lollipop Guild. I thought I was awesome. I loved being on stage. It never dawned on me that the choir director may have been trying to hide me. The same holds true for the annual Christmas children’s choir at church. I sang my heart out every year, and I never did understand why it wasn’t until I was in the sixth grade that I was finally allowed to sing a solo on the fourth verse of “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Yes, I still know all the words.

In junior high, I was still at my very small Catholic school. And when I signed up for the drama class, I was thrilled that we were doing The Sound of Music. Lucky for me, there were only maybe 30 people in the class. And at least half were guys. And most weren’t really interested in it. So when I got the part of Liesl, I knew that proved my awesomeness. Not surprisingly, Leslie played Maria, but apparently there weren’t all that many people who were interested in being in the play.

The next year, I moved to the public school by my request where suddenly there were more than 40 people in my grade. A whole lot more. And there were plenty who were interested in being in the play. Sadly, they chose You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown that year, which really has only six parts in the entire play. Everyone else? Chorus and dancers. Apparently the director had some low expectations.

Me? I was thrilled. I was so going to rock my audition for this. I memorized the script – one of the only people to do so. I had the perfect song selected. I even figured out the dance steps. I nailed my audition, and really the singing was just the icing on my incredible acting performance from the lines I delivered perfectly without a stumble.

I was cast as a dancer. Because everyone who wanted a part got one, you know.

That may have been the point where I realized that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a singer. No one was suggesting that I receive private singing lessons like Leslie – who is the one who taught me about tea and honey and not drinking milk before a performance. I wasn’t the one in our school’s choir who was asked to demonstrate anything. Or sing any solos. Or duets. Or quartets.

Slowly, oh so slowly, I realized that there were plenty of people who were actual singers, and I wasn’t among them. When I went to high school, I put my choir days behind me. I had other interests, and I was fine with it.

I still love to sing, however. And I just might be the one you’ll catch at the stoplight singing my heart out. Just don’t tell my choir teacher.

This post was inspired by the book “2am at the Cat’s Pajamas” by Marie-Helene Bertino. I received a copy of the book as part of the From Left to Write book club where we write posts inspired by the book rather than traditional reviews. All opinions remain my own.

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  • Jenn

    I love it! I sang in the choir during elementary school (Catholic school) and was stuck in the chorus in high school when I realized I’m pretty mediocre.

    But I can belt it in the shower and in the car, much to my son’s mortification. Keep singing, friend!

    • Michelle

      Oh, it was totally Catholic school 🙂 And our local children’s choir. I’m thinking maybe we should share the fun of car singing, however… Those are some of my favorite road trip memories – singing (off key?) with my friends!

  • Tara R.

    I was in my middle school choir, and had to audition for a spot. No one was more surprised than I was that I was selected. I think the director just needed more contraltos and I had a low register. Never did get a solo, though when I’m alone in my car, I still belt out a tune, cranked to 11.

    • Michelle

      Rock on for winning a spot via audition. I’m guessing that might not have happened for me. I’m a dime a dozen soprano. But sing it, Tara!

  • Janaki

    I’ve been singing in choirs since I was 11, and singing harmony and rounds with family since I was small. I still sing in a choir, and I love singing in any setting, preferably with other people, whether they can carry a tune or not! Keep singing, and breathe deep!! It’s life-giving and soul-restoring!

  • Thien-Kim

    But you loved singing and it made you happy! I’m glad you were able to sing in all of those great shows.

  • Lisa - Hannemaniacs

    I thought that I was a good singer in grade school and junior high, but I WAS NOT and am still terrible. BUT, I was singing very quietly in the car with the kids a while back and one of them asked me if I was singing… so instinctively I stopped. But then he insisted I keep going because he liked it. Ever since then I belt it out with them in the car. Their opinion is all that matters.

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