Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The Boy Who Refused to Sing
And so it went for a while, until eventually she no longer paid attention to me. While the joyous sounds of the eighth grade choir raised voices in song, I sat there reading, writing, or just wishing I weren't there. I figured I had fulfilled my part of the deal, now she had to give me the good grade that I was expecting just for being in the class.
All seventh graders were required to take a general music class. Mrs. Toomb took an immediate liking to me when she discovered that I played violin and I participated in one of her choir programs. Later that year one of my musical compositions was featured in a musical Mrs. Toomb produced with the combined efforts of her classes. In the same program my next door neighbor and I presented a juggling act. I became almost like the proverbial teacher's pet.
At the end of that school year she convinced me to take choir as an elective class the following year. Somehow I got the impression that as long as I was in the class I was guaranteed an easy A grade. What I didn't realize was that I was going to be expected to sing. As far as I was concerned I was not going to sing. I stubbornly stuck to that throughout the entire year.
Looking back, I'm not sure why I was so stubborn at times when I was younger. Sometimes I would just adamantly refuse to do something if I didn't want to do it. I was goth before there was goth. It was early mid-sixties and I was typically dressed in black pants and black turtleneck. I was often absorbed in reading or writing. I did what I wanted to do and singing was not on my list. Or so I tried to convince myself.
The truth is that I was just afraid to let anyone hear me sing. I loved singing then and I like to sing now. Mrs. Toomb gave me my A for the first grading period, but thereafter she gave me Cs. I guess she figured that she had talked me into choir and didn't want to fail me like I deserved. I decided not to sign up for ninth grade choir class.
Not long after that I began writing many songs. I would often hide myself away in my bedroom quietly singing the songs I was writing. As the years went by, I would occasionally make crude recordings of some of my songs. At gatherings with some of my musician friends I would sometimes add vocal harmonies in our jam sessions together.
When I was in my forties I began singing in the church choir. A few times I sang solo parts in choral presentations. On a few occasions I even performed duets with a friend before the entire congregation. I was nervous, but it was an exhilarating experience to sing before an audience. I couldn't help but think of my old eighth grade choir teacher. Sorry, Mrs. Toomb, but you knew what I needed and I just didn't recognize it at the time.