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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Asia's First Shot

This past week I was invited to a talent show put on by a middle school close to where I live. One of my newer guitar students, a young girl named Asia, was going to give her first performance ever and her excited parents gave me a ticket to the event. They were surprised that she had chosen to do a performance since she had always been so shy and reserved and it was a big deal for them.

So last night I was thinking that I might rather enjoy a nice glass of wine at home, but instead I dressed up and headed out into the blustery darkness.

Asia has been coming to guitar lessons for a month or so, but she actually taught herself quite a bit beforehand. The first time she sat down with me, as nervous as she was, I could see that she had that built-in ability and a good ear. She had picked a song by Taylor Swift (really big with the young girls these days), called "Teardrops On My Guitar". She found a version on the internet before our lesson, so we went through it and I showed her a few extra chords that would spruce it up a bit.

Her parents didn't want to come into the room the first time she had a lesson with me because they wanted to see how she would do on her own. As it turned out, we hit it off very well and over the next few weeks we worked on that song pretty hard. I sang it with her at first, but during the last lesson we had before her performance, I pulled back and let her sing it by herself. In spite of her jitters, I knew she was going to be just fine :-).

The event was held in a church auditorium not far from where I live...dozens of tables were decked with flowers and lit candles, coffee cups and plates set for a delectable dessert. There was a silent auction and door prizes, and as we went in, I was handed the program for the evening. I think my jaw dropped as I realized that there were 37 performers and Asia was second to LAST. Not that I'm a particularly cranky type, but 37 performers...

It's been a long time since my girls were in school and we had to sit through those school performance nights. For the most part, I enjoyed them tremendously, but sometimes they were a bit tedious and dragged on. Why are the chairs in school auditoriums always so bloody hard and uncomfortable? And you're either too hot or too cold, or some excited father with his video camera stands up in front of you blocking the view, screaming in excitement as his kid muddles through some song or dance.

Okay, okay, I admit there were times when I whistled a little too loud as my kids performed something, or teared up because they were so darned cute. There were certainly some highlights during the performances last night. One boy chose to play a rendition of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It" on clarinet. I imagine that's the first and only time Twisted Sister has been played on clarinet, but I could be wrong. Some of the kids were clearly very talented, those many years of piano, string or voice lessons in evidence. The majority of them were just up there for fun, and you can't beat that. The music they chose was everything from Bach to Oasis, Beatles to, well, Twisted Sister.

One of my favourite performances was from a tiny girl on a trombone at least as big as she was. She played "Bear Necessities" with her mom accompanying her on piano, and her sister on drums and brother on bass. Somehow or another she managed to move that slide all the way down on those low notes, even though it was clear that her arm was not nearly long enough!

There were a number of small groups of giggly girls who got up and sang to backing tracks of popular songs, half hiding behind each other, occasionally swapping nervous smiles or looks. One boy played the ocarina, a beautiful ancient flute-like instrument, and another group of about 6 boys on various brass instruments played the theme from Peter Gunn, complete with sunglasses and attitude :-) Outside of a few flubbed notes and occasional equipment problems, they all made it through their performances with flying colours. Some ran awkwardly off stage after their performance just happy to have it over with, others politely took their bows, and then there were a few hams who did an extra dance or waved and grinned broadly at the audience.

It was almost four hours before Asia had her moment in the spotlight. The poor thing must have been sick with nervousness waiting all that time, but finally it was her turn. She walked out as two other kids moved a chair and a couple of microphones to the stage for her. There were a few awkward moments as they tried to position the mics properly, but then she began. Her sweet little voice rang through the auditorium clearly, her guitar playing was nice and confident and her eyes were stuck securely on the music stand in front of her.

I knew she could do the song in her sleep, but having it in front of her helped. She did a great job, of course, even though I'm biased! I realized by the end of it that I was probably as nervous for her as she was. How many times have I spent hours sick with anxiety before a performance of my own? I never got over that. She remembered to take a bow after her song, and then there was one more performance from a group of four boys in a band as the evening came to an end.

I hurried to the back room where all the kids who had performed were running around and screaming with excitement at the evening's events. There she was quietly putting on her coat and packing her guitar away. She didn't recognize it was me at first, but I gave her a hug and told her she did great, and we started to walk back to where her parents were. "Thank you for coming," she said in her sweet little voice.

Well, that pretty much made the evening worth it for me. Good for you, Asia.

IJ