Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dear Listener: A Disclaimer

I don't know why particularly I was struck this morning by a feeling of severe anxiety and insecurity over this, but I was.  I even feel embarrassed.  Maybe it's just a doppelgänger of post-partum blues.  Whatever it is, I feel like I can't get over it until I say something:

I know I'm not an amazing performer.

There I said it.

Somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that a good performer never makes excuses for themselves.  If you hit a sour note, forget your lyrics, or squeak on your high notes, you don't say a word about it, you just move on and pretend it didn't happen.  But what if you're not a great performer?  What if it's painfully obvious that you're not?  I am so afraid that ignoring my obvious failings will be perceived as blind conceit, that it will appear as though I think I'm all that when it's clear I'm not.

Now, the only reason I find myself in this awkward situation is due in large part to the fact that I'm married to someone who is without question firmly planted in the category of "amazing performer."  Those of you who know him, or have heard and seen him know what I'm talking about.  His voice is out of this world.  He's dashing, tall, handsome, poised, regal, with an endearing dash of little boy in him--just enough to keep us all from feeling entirely inferior.  He has performed in the best-known musicals of our day, in some of the best-known roles, and wowed the socks off audiences across the country.  Of all the women out there who swoon at his melt-your-heart voice, I am the lucky girl he calls "sweetheart."

I have also somehow managed to elbow my way into his limelight.  I've had the opportunity to share the stage with him and some of his amazingly talented friends.  It has been a real treat for me in many ways.  I do love to sing, and I love to talk about the things I hold dear to my heart.  I love to try and uplift people through music and speaking, sharing some of the life lessons my husband and I have learned through our unique experiences.  It is delightful to have those opportunities.

However, there has also been this growing fear that I don't quite belong here.  To my dear, lovely friends who have invested time and money, blood sweat and tears into becoming the talented incredible performers that you are and then patiently shared the stage with me, the amateur, I thank you so much for your graciousness, your love, and your generosity.  It's you I have felt most embarrassed to impose upon, and I especially want you to know, I know I am not your equal.  It was my deepest honor to stand with you.  It was absolutely more privilege than I deserved.  To those who were in the audience, whether at concerts or listening to recordings or broadcasts, thank you also for your patience.  My greatest fear has always been that I would disappoint people with my singing, after hearing how wonderful my husband's is.  So many times after a concert we shared, people would line up to meet him, and I totally understood.  He was amazing.  And since I was standing right there next to him, there was the occasional obligatory, "You were good, too."  I just wanted to disappear.  I didn't want anyone to feel like they had to think of something nice to say about me, like I would feel left out if they didn't.  Really, I didn't care.  I didn't need validation.  I was just happy to hear them gushing on about my husband.  And furthermore, don't anyone dare post anything to try and validate me now, because I will delete it.  That's not what I'm asking for.  I simply want the world to know I do NOT consider myself on par with my husband or his professional caliber friends and associates.  I know I am severely lacking.  Whatever I have tried to contribute came not out of vast training or experience, but a great desire to inspire people the same way they do.  I hope that desire makes up in part for my flat notes or failing breath support.  I will never be my husband's artistic equal.  There's just no way I can invest in the kind of training he has had, let alone conjure up the same pure, natural talent he was blessed with.  But there is one thing he has taught me that I hope I can apply in a way that people can recognize.  When it comes to performing, giving the gift is paramount.  The gift I give may not be as pretty, but I can give it with just as much love, and hopefully that is enough.

But if you want REAL talent, go to people like this:


  1. I just want to say that I love you. :)

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Rachel. As I've had the chance these past few months to have another talented performer, Michael Ballam, living near us these past few months, I've admired how he pours sincere praise on anyone's musical efforts. He always makes a point to thank everyone who does a musical number in church, always thanks the Sunday School teacher for the lesson, always so positive! And so, following his example and without trying to validate you, I will say THANK YOU for every single time you've had the courage to perform. I love to hear in your voice what's in your heart. It makes me smile to think of all those Sundays that I dragged you away from whatever else you were doing and made you sing with me, and now here you are on stage with all of these great musical theater performers! Love you, Rachel! Keep singing!

  3. I love you, Rachel. You are not lacking in any of the REAL talent that makes singing worth listening to. It all comes down to "giving the gift" in love, as you mentioned, and you do that consistently and often better than I do. That's why I love singing with you. I'm so grateful I'm married to someone I can make sweet music with, both literally and figuratively.

  4. Oh, and you are a SPECTACULAR photographer. Has anyone told you that? I look at the photos on your blog and say "WOW! These pictures are worth way more than a thousand words."

    1. Ha ha! I can't take credit for all the photos. Jim did some of the family ones, and this one is by our friend, Phil Porter. But thank you! Depth of field is my best friend. It makes any photo look cooler. :)

  5. Nicely said Rachel. and i'll leave it at that ;)

  6. Speaking of REAL talent, I think you'll find plenty of that here: http://www.ladyrachelsgarden.com

    It's too bad they don't do concerts of water coloring or sketching or something. You'd totally rock those. :) Software writing concerts would probably never fly, so I'm also out of luck.

  7. This was a post that resonated so deeply with me, but for a completely different reason. I see auditions come and go and a piece of me yearns to be there, under the lights, in costume, singing away. I miss it. The rehearsing, the blocking, the memorizing, the waiting, the fabreeze liberally applied to the armpits of costumes worn over and over during a long run.

    Nothing professional, mind you. Just the local, volunteer, squeeze-every-ounce-of-time-out-of-you type theater productions.

    But I made a choice. I have two young boys and I chose to be their mother instead. I know there are people who do both, and do a beautiful job of it, but I don't trust myself to do it. Frankly, I'm distracted enough as it is. One day I'll show up at a local audition. Probably when they're on their missions or in college. And until then I'm content to send my voice students to auditions and watch their shows.

    I guess I feel like there will be plenty of time for that later. For now, they're growing up, and I don't want to miss it.