Be Vulnerable and Grow

Last week I had a performance that was completely out of my comfort zone.  I performed without my guitar accompanied by a pianist I had never worked with before with only one good hour to practice right before the performance!  That alone might have been manageable, but there's a kicker.  The thing that really pushes this over the top is that I was expected to make up words on the spot -  as in IMPROVISE.  To improvise at home is one thing, but to improvise in front of an audience is a whole different thing.  I was beyond nervous and very vulnerable, plus feeling a little bare without my guitar. This show was a faith-based Art Discussion combined with a jazzy musical element (enter myself and the pianist) at a local prayer room called 24/7.  It was a very unique and revolutionary way to praise God.  I got involved because the person leading the segment is a very good friend of mine (we'll call her Kay for the purpose of this discussion) and she asked me to be a part of it.  Well of course I said yes, but Kay didn't tell me she was about to stretch me til' it hurts.  I thought I was going to do some worship songs with my guitar and Rob on percussion.  But she concocted something entirely different.

When I tell people I'm a singer-songwriter in the streets, sometimes they ask me to sing.  They think if I'm a singer, then I should be able to sing at any time and anywhere.  Well, that would be great and I wish I was that confident and prepared.  Unfortunately, that's not the case.  The reality is, I get very nervous when it comes to singing without my guitar.  My nerves get so bad that if I did sing something for them, they would be offended that I wasted their time.  For some reason my guitar is my safety blanket.  Without it I feel alone and bare.  And that's what Kay was asking me to do plus be prepared to sing made up on the spot prayers and exhortations.

So we get to practice and Kay directed us in what we should do which was good.  But my friend Kay was very clear in her vision and she had to whip us into shape big time.  It was kind of unsettling and made me feel even more nervous because I wanted to make sure I was doing it right.  I was afraid.  Very afraid.  I was afraid for myself that I was going to sing in the wrong key and say something stupid that didn't make a bit of sense.  I was afraid for the pianist that we might not be jazzy enough, and I was afraid of Kay.  I was afraid that she was going to beat me to a bloody pulp if I didn't do something right.  It was a tough situation.

We went through a couple songs and next thing I knew people started coming in and it was 7 o'clock.  EEK!  This was happening, and there was no stopping it.  I had to put my red shoes on and act like I knew what I was doing.  So we start with the opening song and we did pretty good.  This was a song I knew so there wasn't too much to worry about there.  But as we got into it and I started singing the improvisational stuff, my nerves started to rattle and something amazing happened.  As I took a deep breath and let go, my voice got louder and more confident.  I heard words and started to repeat them melodically and next thing I knew I was making vocalizations and praying while singing and it sounded good.  Kay showed the art pieces and gave a lecture on the meanings and interpretations while we backed her up musically and it was beautiful.  I have never seen anything like that.  Everyone said we did great.

The next day as I was on set for my music video, I was doodling around and found a nice groove on my guitar and I started singing and humming.  I made sounds similar to what I had done the night before.  It actually sounded awesome.  It was organic and melodically salacious, which is something I strive for with my music.  So, I now have a new jazzy improvisational element to add to my performances and I have Kay to thank.

Thanks Kay, for forcing me to stretch, put myself out there, be vulnerable and grow.