A part of my life appears on the verge of repeating itself.
Maybe I should begin at the beginning.
In what I think was an attempt to deal with overcrowding, my high school back in the day offered to juniors and seniors what it called open campus. This enabled the upperclassmen to leave the building during the times of the day when they would have otherwise been sitting in a study hall.
There was only one catch: Parents had to sign off on allowing their sons and daughters to have open campus and my mom, for some reason, thought it was a bad idea for me. Well, this predictably upset me and I vowed to not spend the time sitting in a boring study hall. The only problem was that Mr. Milledge, my school’s guidance counselor, wouldn’t let me take another class because I already had a full academic schedule. Or, maybe he just didn’t think I was smart enough.
Anyway, he finally gave in and told me I could take an extra class so long as it was in Home Economics, Industrial Arts, Vocational Agriculture, Instrumental or Vocal Music.
Given that I have virtually no ability to fix or build things, I perhaps should have taken an industrial arts class or classes. To this day, I still don’t know how to iron a shirt or sew on a button, so home economics also would have been a good idea.
But for some reason, I decided to show my mom and I joined the choir. I couldn’t sing a lick, but I liked Mr. Deatz, the teacher. Eventually, I learned to sing a little. And my joining the choir may have even influenced one of my brothers and my sister — both of whom later joined the choir, learned to play guitar and way outperform me.
But I did get brave enough to sing a few solos and then I sang for three years in the college choir and in many church choirs in the years since then. I even took weekly voice lessons in college, where my instructor told me I should switch majors, study voice and fully utilize the “big body cavity” with which I was blessed by working to become an opera singer.
I didn’t believe in myself enough back then to do that — at least in part because I couldn’t read a note of music and sang entirely by ear.
And then, several years ago, I just stopped singing. But that may change soon — especially if Lori Carroll reads this, which may happen since she used to be a regular reader and commenter on this blog. Lori teaches vocal music in the Louisa-Muscatine School District. She is also the choir director at Trinity Episcopal Church in Muscatine.
A year or so ago, Lori offered to teach me how to read music and help me relearn how to sing harmonies and all of that IF I would join her church choir.
I started to think about that offer Saturday night as I listed to Billy Strings and Don Julin perform at River’s Edge Gallery in Muscatine. It made me think of the many times Janet has asked me to sing to her, which, I have generally avoided because I need a reason to practice and a way to regain some confidence when it comes to signing.
So, Lori, sign me up if the offer still stands. I’ll definitely do it if it means I will not only learn how to read and understand music, but could also relearn how to sing and maybe could even learn how to plunk out some chords on a guitar. I don’t expect to be another Billy Strings. But the time has long since passed for me to stop putting off something I’ve long wanted to to do.
For anyone who happened to make it this far, the photo is of me as Frank Butler in a Chariton High School production of Annie Get Your Gun in 1985. Luckily, I know of no recordings of me in this production, but I believe the photo is of the scene in which I sang this song.