Last night I was in the Provo Tabernacle accompanying our local Elementary School's Fine Arts Choir. And it made me sad.
But before I explain why and what and who and whatever, I need to give you my personal music history (and please forgive me if it sounds like I'm bragging. I'm not trying to brag. I'm not even trying to make me sound fabulous. I just need to show you what my strengths were so that you can understand the story--and my sadness--better):
It started the summer after 1st grade. My parents, both pianists themselves, were happy when I approached them and wanted to learn to play. I spent the summer playing Primary songs and basic things until I could get a piano teacher in the fall.
After three years, I begged to quit. Begged! My parents wouldn't relent. I was angry at first, but soon I hit my first "sprint" and I excelled very quickly. I never thought of quitting again!
By the time I was 14, I had to get a new teacher who could teach at my level and I was accompanying the school choirs and things at church. At 16, I was the ward organist and go-to accompanist for everything. At 17 and 11 months, I went to BYU to audition for their Piano Pedagogy Program.
And I was ready.
I had pieces by Kabalevsky, Beethoven, Bach, and Rachmaninoff prepared. My teacher said I was ready. I felt ready. I was ready! In fact, the year before I auditioned I had won the Junior Miss Talent Scholarship for performing the Rachmaninoff piece. But I knew BYU was going to be different --I would no longer be the big fish in the pond --I would be the little fish in the sea. But I was ready, dang it! And I really, really wanted it, too.
I remember, very distinctly, walking into the room and seeing three piano judges waiting for me. And then it's all blurry from there. I remember I forgot the names of my pieces. I remember having to start over once. Ack! I remember bombing the audition so badly that I cried for hours afterward (silently).
I was so humiliated!
The confusion I felt was amplified two months later when I won another scholarship with my Kabalevsky piece. I played it flawlessly!
This made me determined. I went to BYU and signed up for piano lessons so I could audition again in the winter. They put me with a teacher (whom I won't name for anonymity's sake) and she was not what I was hoping for --no desire to see me make it into the program, never complimented anything, etc. Plus, I began to realize very quickly that I did NOT want to practice 4-5 hours a day. I was barely fitting in my 1-2! And besides, maybe God was telling me something with the bombed audition? Maybe?
So, I never auditioned for the piano pedagogy program again.
I went home for three weeks at the end of my Freshman year. I spent my time at home substituting around the school district before going back to BYU to start my summer job on campus. I took the time to talk to my former music teachers at the high school and they both told me I needed to forget piano performance and get into teaching --in fact, my band teacher went even further than that. He set up an appointment with me to see the Dean of the School of Fine Arts at BYU (they had been roommates in college), and told me to explore my options. "Be a percussionist if you have to just to get in!" he said. "Then make a choice about what kind of music teacher you'd like to be."
(Side note: I was actually a percussionist in high school! But not very good. I couldn't play snare or quads, you know...)
Oh, I was so excited! I had never thought about it in that way. Fast-forward to BYU --I met with K. Newell Dayley (the Dean at the time), we talked about options. He set me up an appt. with Paul Broomhead (music ed. guy). He set me up with a voice teacher because I had said that I had always imagined myself as a choir teacher. I took lessons for over a year (her name is Martha and she was amazing!).
The next winter, I took a class from Broomhead that taught us how to get into the School of Music and what field would best suit us. I decided (with Brandon's input) that I needed to be a Secondary Education Choir Teacher.
I submitted my fabulously diverse portfolio (to quote Broomhead: "I had no idea how diversely talented you were! Band, choir, piano, drama... You have it all!"). I aced my interview (aced it, yo!), sang in the choirs, and auditioned to be accepted into the vocal department.
Was completely rejected by the Vocal Department.
Broomhead called them --begged them to let me in. "She will be an amazing choir teacher! You need to let her in, please?" I found out later he only begs for a few people every few years.
The Vocal Department's response? "She's not good enough. She's too big a risk."
I had aced everything but one vocal audition. And did they realize that I had woken up early that morning with a cold? And had three other people to accompany before my own audition? And was stressed out because I had recently been married and had another Open House/Reception that very night?
Wouldn't have mattered if they did know. Only the performance matters (which is how it should be, people. I'm hard-nosed, too).
Broomhead told me to consider options --take voice lessons all summer and audition for them in August! Try, try, try!
I was tired. I was married. I had a real future to think about. I had to pray.
I prayed hard.
And I realized I wasn't supposed to be in the School of Music. That there was a purpose for my failed auditions (the plurality of that statement still stings. Sigh...).
So, I graduated with a degree in MFHD (marriage, family, and human development) and I minored in music. And I had a baby...and more...and became a piano teacher. I'm still the go-to accompanist in all things in my ward, I can play the organ, I was the choir conductor for a few years, I can teach children to sing, and I enjoy incorporating music into my life when I can.
But I always wonder what would have happened...
Which brings me to the Elementary School Choir. When their music teacher asked me to be the accompanist this year, I was elated! It's been a lot of fun to do something public again (and not church related), and it's pretty easy music to learn. But the last few weeks --and especially last night --have been very hard for me. Here's why:
1. Our choir has had a student teacher --and she's great! She's fresh from BYU and about to graduate (thus the student teaching). She uses techniques from Broomhead I remember learning, and she's full of energy and excitement!
2. The Provo School District had a Elementary School Choir Festival (that was last night's performances) and we had a huge practice for the combined numbers on Monday morning. The choir director they picked for the combined numbers was a former El. school music teacher who stopped teaching when she had a baby. She is also a friend of mine! She worked with Brandon and I the summer of 1998 when he and I met and started dating. Can I tell you how fun it was to watch her in her element? To see her mold those hundreds of kids into one voice and make them laugh and get them to be serious? It was amazing. Amazing! (side note: It's incredible to see how far we have come from silly 19 year old girls to women of 30...). She didn't even know what she wanted to do before her mission (college-wise) and here she is --the top-choice musician to lead the choirs (although I do remember she was an accomplished flautist).
3. I was asked to sing with the music teachers for one performance (they did three very silly, but way fun, barn-yard folk songs) and I accompanied our choir for their one performance. But I still felt...odd. As I sat there watching the performances, I realized why:
I was The Outsider.
I didn't have a degree in Music Ed. I wasn't a professional. I really didn't deserve to hob-knob or laugh or commiserate or socialize with these people. I was some lady in the neighborhood who happened to play just well enough to accompany the choir. And please don't tell me, dear reader, that I DID deserve to be there and what-not, because I knew the feeling! I knew what it was like to be one of them! Back in College! I was almost one of them.
And the difference was staggering, between then and now.
What made it worse? I couldn't see the conductor, so I couldn't seem to stay in time with the choir. The piano was up on the balcony (anybody been in the Tabernacle and know what I'm talking about?) and the risers for the choir were down below near the ground floor. I felt so dumb. I already felt out of place, but to not even accompany correctly? Oh, sigh, sigh.
Luckily for me? Everyone else was out of sync/time, too. So... you know... :)
So, suffice it to say, it was hard for me to see all these music teachers and to realize what I could have been. And I know, I know --trust me, here, I KNOW --that I shouldn't waste time on "what could have been" and "what if" and "woe is me" because it won't help. But I seriously couldn't stop myself from wondering what it would have been like if I had been a music teacher in one of these schools. Or better --in a high school nearby, taking my kids to Carnegie Hall (the Provo HS Chamber Singers were singing in Carnegie Hall just recently!) and molding their voices and sounds to perfection. Teaching music theory (AP class!) and preparing kids for solo and ensemble festival. Teaching kids how to be top-notch accompanists, and teaching voice lessons in the summer. You know, becoming like Mrs. Mann (my HS choir teacher)!
Sometimes I flirt with the idea of going back to college in 10 years (or more?) and trying again. Other times, I convince myself that having music in my life is good enough --I don't have to make a career out of it. I mean, I'm elated with the idea of only having 6-8 piano students next year instead of 17 (elated, I tell you!) and I'm even more elated I'm giving myself a 4 month break from teaching this summer. How would I feel about having my five children and working full time? And let's not forget my desire to be a writer...and a Marriage and Family Therapist... and...
See? It doesn't fit. And I really believe Heavenly Father knew what was best for me. Staying home with my brood has been the best thing for me, and I really do love it! I mean, my mother has taught 2nd grade for 30+ years, and she has loved that, too (and it was what she was supposed to do). So, I know it's not about my motherhood and "giving up" something for motherhood (it's really not, dear reader. I know you may disagree with me, but that's not an argument I want to get into right now because I don't believe my mother gave up her motherhood for a career --she was fabulous at both).
I'm also sure God will let me know eventually (or soon, or already?!) why I wasn't allowed to excel in this area of my life, but that doesn't stop my longing for something that could have been...or living vicariously through my kids.
Haha! Just kidding.
Have you ever had dreams that you never saw fulfilled? Do you ever wonder why they weren't fulfilled? Do you think they are "fulfill-able" in the future? Do you ever feel like The Outsider when you had once been The Insider? Or have you fulfilled all your dreams? And if so, what the heck does that feel like?