In Junior High School, somehow I found myself in choir. I would have preferred practicing basketball, but alas gym class didn’t last forever. I mentioned to my music teacher, Mrs. Wilkins that I played the guitar, not good, but a little. She asked me to bring my guitar to school, I did and she said that she could see me performing at Pops Concert. It motivated me to practice even more. I wasn’t good in choir, problem was/is that when someone is singing off key near me, I go off key. In much the same, if standing next to a soprano, I sing soprano.
Mrs. Wilkins soon became my favorite teacher, a face and place to go when I needed a friend and mentor. She was cool, kind and gentle with a girl suffering the angst of teenager. She was putting on a school musical, I had volleyball practice, I ran in for my audition, looked at her and another teacher and said, “Is this it?” Still today, so many years later, I think that’s why I didn’t get the lead. It wasn’t so much that I was trying to be rude; it’s just that I was a stupid kid.
I was a star athlete, averaged 29 points a game in Basketball, had a 750 batting average in softball, beat the boys in many contests. The baseball coach looked at me and said, “shame you’re not a boy.” My school counselor voiced the same opinion, back in the 70s’ girls who wanted a career in sports had little options outside of becoming a gym teacher.
I wasn’t a cool kid, not pretty or popular in the sense of the girls who liked to stand before the bathroom mirrors during school applying make-up. They talked about things foreign to me, like having fathers and expensive purses. The only place that I felt I belonged was on a field or court, facing an opponent.
Then Pops Concert happened, me playing guitar for a couple of songs for the choir and then my solo. The lights in the gym dimmed, I got my guitar and took my place, sitting on the edge of the dark stage. I started to play and blacked out – I kept playing but so scared that I literally emotionally left. Or maybe it was something else, all I know is next I knew I was halfway through the song, looking out into a sea of faces.
Afterwards, people said they had no idea that I could sing, that I sounded like Janis Joplin. Janis Who? The next day, I ran to the record store and bought “Bobby McGee” by Janis, listened to it and cried. I wanted to sound like Karen Carpenter, Barbara Streisand, Judy Garland, and Helen Reddy. It didn’t occur to me that singing a blues song at the concert had anything to do with what was happening.
I think back to my 15-year-old self, who eventually gave up balls and bats for guitar strings. I wish I could go back and tell her that so many exciting things were just down the road, that everything was going to be much better than okay. I came so close so many times to walking down the wrong road, but with the grace of God and teachers like Mrs. Wilkins, strayed into the light.
If interested, here’s a link to the song I sang back in Junior High by James Taylor ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxORQVMjafI
Today’s Musing: Teaching is a gift that gives forever