My First Live Performance

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 ~

Today’s Musing: Teaching is a gift that gives forever

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Christina

    I love you. You have changed my life, for the better.

  2. Becky Wilkins

    I’m sitting here crying as I read this, Katrina. To know that I was able to influence your life so profoundly is humbling and joyful all jumbled up together. I love seeing secondhand on Facebook how you teach and encourage your own students, and listening to your original and very special songs as you share them. We shared some very special times together back then, and I feel privileged to be connected today.
    Love you, B

  3. Dana M

    Music has been such a lovely and wonderful part of Maggie’s experience and I – the one that talent forgot – couldn’t be happier with where she is musically. And you, Katrina, are a fabulous teacher! !! I love that you have striven to understand who she is so you can connect with her and by connecting with her you have been able to tap into how to challenge her.

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