It happened again yesterday, and when I say "it happened" what I mean is that I ordered some vocal sheet music online expecting to do a vocal performance because someone asked me to, and as I practiced, there was a solo instrument part thrown in there randomly, like a big betrayal. But I'm pretty chill, and not easily offended by sheet music, so I thought, "cool, not a problem. I'll just do both."
But what I didn't count on was the fact that my brain has decided to become terrified of the violin. Like, seriously 100% I-might-die terrified.
Have you ever seen anything so terrifying in your life? Me neither.
I don't really understand what's happening to me.
Let me break down the irony of this for you.
I started playing the violin when I was 10 which, admittedly, is a little late, but now that I'm nearly 32 it means I've played for 22 years. (This is also evidence to the fact that I was the biggest nerd possible in my teenage years.) I spent hundreds if not thousands of hours practicing the violin during my youth. My parents, who weren't rich, let me take lessons for years. I was in symphonies, and went in tours. I was often a section leader in the groups I was in. I bought albums of the best players playing the best songs. I wanted to be really good. I cared. Violin was a big deal to me. I got a music scholarship, a talent award for violin, as I entered college, but then decided to major in English instead. But I was still in all the groups, and took lessons, and it was a huge deal to me, and I minored in music.
Not only that, but there's this really huge family legacy with the violin, too. My great grandpa played. My grandpa played. In fact, he learned how to make violins as well. Whenever I went to his house, I'd find him in his shop trying to perfect replicas of Strad and Guarneri (for the uninitiated, those are two old dudes who made really amazing instruments hundreds of years ago that now sell for millions of dollars and if I ever get to play one, I better not get all stage frighty and nervous because I'll be pissed, and also if I dropped it it would cost a LOT.)
What I'm saying here is that I have spent a lot of time practicing, obsessing, poring over violins and learning how to be a violinist. Probably my culminating moment was when I was asked to play a solo for my graduation at BYU. Me, the Marriott Center, and rows and rows of people. It went perfectly. As one might hope with how much I've put into it. Also I took drugs*.
Conversely, singing is something I decided to do as an afterthought. I have spent no time whatsoever cultivating my voice or learning any technique at all. As a senior in high school I offhandedly decided to join choir groups because I was bored and could read music and where I moved they didn't have an orchestra, and then I ended up winning the big choir award at the end of the year much to my surprise. I learned to do vibrato as a big joke, just goofing off. It was not something I took seriously at all.
And now it's the main thing I do. Most people who know me from church would probably say something like "oh yeah, Josh Weed sings. Oh, and doesn't he play some instrument too? Like the banjo?"
I kinda don't know what to think about this stuff.
Anyway the irony was never more pronounced than yesterday, where during this vocal performance I had to play literally two lines of very, very easy melody. We're talking this is no big deal. It's less than no big deal. I can breathe, therefore I should be able to do this. I haven't lost a finger to a hack-saw or had my neck excised in a freak accident, therefore I should not have a problem.
Yet, there was a problem.
It kind of sounded like I had learned how to scratch out a tune on a fiddle that I picked up for the first time last week and that I had decided to try it out for the first time in front of an entire church congregation. Or like a hive of buzzing bees had been disturbed and was now all vibraty, hovering above the audience, waiting to sting them. Except that makes it sound more compelling than it was. It was actually just... well, it sounded like poorly played violin, which if you know anything about violins and poor violin playing (any parent to a violin student should relate) you know that it is really really not beautiful. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite of beautiful.
So there I was singing a song like a vocal bad-a, not a care in the world, only to lift my violin, the treasured instrument I've spent years and years honing my skills on, and start FREAKING OUT because I suddenly had stage fright so bad my leg was shaking like it had a life of its own, and my vibrato was all weird and bouncy-sounding, and it was just really... awkward. For everyone. Mostly for my violin (which my grandpa made with his bare hands), who felt violated and cheapened by the experience.
Thankfully it was only two lines, and then I was back to singing, which, for whatever reason I'm totally comfortable with.
Why? Why is it that the thing that should come as naturally to me as breathing makes my brain all haywire and freaked out and makes my hands sweat and my legs tremble in fear, and the thing which is new and I have literally never had a lesson for or really practiced at all comes as naturally to me as if I were standing in front of a congregation taking a leak?
(Go ahead and visualize that one. It's an amazing image.)
"Wait, Lorna, is that man urinating on stage?"
I don't know the answer. All I know is that next time you see me playing the violin, make sure to check my seat to see if there's any frightened urine-spatter you need to clean for me. Because I probably peed myself, is what I'm saying. Not because I decided to take a leak in front of an entire church congregation.
Because that would just be uncomfortable for everyone, except for me.
Don't you hate it when you write a blog post about music that you can't get to be funny enough and you feel like it's kind of sub-par, but then you have to post it because it's Monday and that's the day you post a blog post no matter what?
Yeah, I hate that too.
Oh well, it wouldn't be the first thing related to the violin that has been sub-par for me this week.
Passing the torch. She'll be a vocal star in no time!
*Not REAL drugs. Just blood pressure medication. Given to me by my surgeon uncle. To calm my nerves. Wait, maybe there is a hint here somewhere?
Photo attribution here and here