I am just a teenage girl who aspires for greatness
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Written By: Melliot
February 17, 2015
I can see the tiny particles of dust floating in and out of the spotlights. The freezing temperature backstage sends chills up my spine. My goosebumps develop not only from the temperature, but from the unsettling fear that is welling up inside of me as the seconds tick on and on, closer to the moment yet to come. I rub my fingers on my neck, wiping away the sweat.
My fear intensifies inside of me as the strike of the third chorus returns in full circle of the song the musicians were currently playing. The drummer looks at me stage left as he bounces his sticks on the drum heads. In mid stick flip, he passes me a thumbs up in encouragement before catching the drumming utensil in his hand once again. It isn’t helping much.
I grip the neck of my bass, stomach churning and hands perspiring. I wiped my fingertips on my snow white dress, attempting to regulate my heavy breathing. 1,050 people were coming to the show tonight. I considered who was in the audience, waiting for me to enter the light. Five of America’s top horn players, two of America’s most idolized blues singers, two famous radio show hosts, and three of Americas most aspired and influential bass players. They were all waiting for me to enter the stage, seeking a single moment of amateurity from me.
A raging applause filled the theater as the song came to a close. The sound engineer and the host of tonights show give me the green light, preparing me for my cue. My stomach hurts and my chest begins to heat up. I ball my hand into a fist, close my eyes, and let out one more single breath.
“Please welcome, my daughter, Mikayla!” My dad exclaimed in the microphone. The crowd screams in response. He looks at me stage left, nodding with a smile as his sweat drips down his face after playing an hour of saxophone.
Back straight. Walk with grace. Tilt of the head, flick of the hair. Avoid cords. Tripping is bad. Remember to breath. Smile. Smile. Smile, is playing on repeat in my brain. I walk briskly, yet with grace. I walk in my heels with a slight bounce, to give a cute, fluffy effect in my dress and curled hair. I flash my radiant spotlit smile towards the audience. “Awws”, whistles, and cheerful screams are given in return with an applause.
Everything before this moment has been practiced and rehearsed with constant critique and revision. I have played numerous shows before this one over the past 4 years, and have been given plenty feedback of how I should create a certain “presence” on stage in this industry. “You look too nervous!”, “You need to put your body into the music!”, “Why do you always look bored when you play?” have all been said to me far too many times. But there was something different about this year. Something about me. I have grown in strange ways over the years. Not just a person, but as a young woman. My perspective on the world and of life have not only changed me, but my music was well. I have learned, and I have prepared.
My father had once told me, “Your presence creates an impact when it comes to performing music in the Jazz industry. You can play the most intricate, most beautifully written piece in front of an audience, but if you do not put your emotions and your passion into your music, it will never be perceived the way it is meant to be. Your audience won’t respond. You need to become the notes. You need to become the song itself, the instrument itself. You need to be the music, Mikayla. Pass the passion, love, and emotion you have through your music, and your audience will perceive. That is how you become a true musician. ”
The applause and screams cease. The stage lights turn into a blue hue, setting the mood for the solo song I am about to play for my audience. I am front center stage, under the single spotlight. Although I can only see shadows under the light, I feel all 1,050 pairs of eyes on me. I close my eyes, and take in the moment of silence. One. Two. Three. Four.
The song, ‘A Remark You Made’ by the old 80’s band Weather Report is a rare specimen. Weather Report was a Jazz Funk fusion band, lead by the legendary bassist Jaco Pastorious. Jaco wrote his songs with such intricacy, detail, and with so much emotion, that it is practically impossible to duplicate as how Jaco played them. A Remark You Made was one of the most deep and intricate songs Jaco had ever written. The song was a ballad that contained so much of Jaco’s sadness and anger he had over the entirety of his life. All of Jaco’s depression, worries, fears, anger, repent, and remorse were all compiled into one song, creating a masterpiece of human emotion transcribed into music. It could never be played the same as Jaco, but tonight I was going to try.
All of my fear and worries dissipate by the strike of my first note. I am entering my own world now. The audience and their expectations are all white noise. I connect myself in harmony with the pianist, drummer, and my dad playing the saxophone as I slide my fingers up and down the neck of my bass, releasing the humms and growls of my instrument. Through my every note, I express myself. I talk about my sadness through the first chorus. Through the second and third verse, I talk about the paths I have taken throughout my life, the decisions I have made in my younger years. Into the fourth verse, I tell stories of my failures and losses. I talk of conflicts and arguments I have shared, how I have thought about giving up. As I reach the fifth verse, I depict the waves of emotions, my ups and downs, and how I had to bring myself out of the dumps from time to time. Though once I reach the sixth and seventh verse, I begin to tell stories of my small triumphs. I tell of my hopes as I tell of my fears. When I finally reach the final chorus, I tell the tales of my dreams and aspirations. I tell of the love I have, my passions, and the happiness I contain. I express my gratitude and my humbility of life and everything itself, and of how nothing can bring me down in this world because I will always reach for my goals. That I will break down every obstacle and wall, and will finally reach that finish line. That nothing will stop me from reaching that spotlight.
My eyes are still closed as I play the final note of my 7 minute ballad. As my eyes open, tears roll down my cheeks. The room is silent for only a few milliseconds. I look over at my dad on the stage. His smile is ear to ear. I look down at the audience members. Everyone in the front row are dabbing their faces with kerchiefs and tissues as tears streamed from their eyes. Actually, most of the room has tears in their eyes. Everyone’s smiling as they cry. The room begins to roar. Everyone is standing, hands clapping in the air. I can hear my name being shouted throughout the crowd, followed by whistles and cries of joy. I turn to my band members, who are all smiling and clapping along with the audience. I flash my smile, but this time it held no fear, only true, real happiness. I trotted to my dad, giving him a tight, sweaty hug. My tears roll onto his shirt as I hear him say, “You were beautiful, honey.” The applause continued as I walked of the stage, wiping my tears as I smile to the audience.
Music is the universal language. It is something that everyone in the world can connect to. Stories and lessons can be told of all sorts through music, and it can always be understood when given the emotion and passion to provide the music the soul and life that it needs. The artist needs to become one with their music they play. That night, I became one with my music. Even though I was not legendary Jaco, I played that song with all of my life and soul, giving the song a new meaning to the audience. Through my passion, I was able to touch the hearts of my listeners. They could understand the stories I told through my music as clearly as spoken language. I still experience the fear of the petty things. The fear of messing up a note, or the fear of looking scared or uncomfortable. Though none of that matters as I play. I become so immersed into what I am playing, because I am passionate about my music. No matter how much I mess up, or how amateur I am, music is a part of who I am and who I always will be. All I can do is grow on my mistakes, because in the end, I will always be in love with music. The spotlight in my heart will never fade away.