Walk That Artsy Walk

December 3, 2018

Saturday night, my wife and I went to my old high school to see my nephew in a performance of Legally Blonde, Jr: The Musical! As someone who not only supports the arts, but his family as well, I was excited to see him in the musical. It was his first performance like that, and as a kid who hasn’t been big into choir or plays, he actually had a decent part with a short singing piece as well. That’s great, because I know a lot of kids in that situation who would just end up in chorus.

It sparked a lot of thoughts and feelings seeing him, though. Nothing negative against my nephew, please keep in mind. He actually did good! I’m not just saying that as his childless uncle, but as someone who was in choir and musicals himself. Also, compared to a lot of those other kids…yeah, he was awesome.

So anyway, I keep thinking about when I was his age (12), and how little confidence I had in myself. I never really thought about it at the time, but there were so many factors that led to it. My parents, of course, constantly putting me down, immediately laughing when I said I wanted to sing a solo, instilling fear into me when I mentioned getting in front of a crowd and making me belive that everyone was going to laugh at miniscule things. After all, they sure loved commenting on every minor thing whenever someone spoke in church or at a performance. So perfect, my parents were!

Yeah, right. No one is perfect, but when you’re attacked on all sides and can’t get out of your head that you’ll never be good enough, in addition to the fact that your choir directors and play directors have their little pets that they give all the good parts to, it makes you feel like theater and singing isn’t your strong point.

Hey, maybe I wasn’t a great singer. I mean, I never really did get good parts, and I had one solo my entire time in high school—at graduation, and that was because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. But it wasn’t just that, it was lack of encouragement.

That’s the other thing that’s been weighing heavily on me. I like acting in plays, but none of the directors, my parents, siblings, friends, NO ONE ever mentioned acting classes. No one mentioned auditioning for local playshops, or anything like that. They didn’t even advertise those local productions at our school!

How was I supposed to know about it? Because I wasn’t “in” with anyone.

My last few years of high school, I got big into playing bass guitar. I wanted to be in a band, but I also wanted to be a studio musician, I wanted to play on a cruise ship, I just wanted…something.

I asked my choir director, even the guy I was taking private lessons from, and neither gave me encouragement. Neither said anything about what I should learn, how I should set priorities for myself, none said to practice for at least an hour every day, even if it’s just scales…nothing.

Sure, I could have done this on my own. But if no one else cares, why should I? That was how I felt, directionless and hopeless.

So I got over it. I moved on. (Yes, I know I’m writing about it but I truly am over it. I’ll always hold onto those memories and do everything I can to move past it and be better than I once was, but they’re not going anywhere.) Should I have continued with playing bass? Taking voice lessons? Auditioning for plays despite knowing I’d never get a good part outside of chorus? If someone had just said, very calmly and not accusatorily, “If you start small, like in the chorus or with one or two lines, you’ll eventually build your way up to something bigger. Don’t expect the best parts right away, even if other kids get those. Some people have that natural thing about them, while others have to work for it. Put in your time, and it’ll be even more rewarding,” then maybe I would have continued. No one ever did that. Sure, I should have known, but without encouragement, why would I want to continue. Don’t miss the opportunity to encourage others who show some spark of an interest in something.

I always hear people say to support the arts, support your local scene, support this and that and everything else and all that happy horseshit. But you know what? I don’t see them actually doing it. Sure, it’s easy to go on Facebook or Twitter and talk a big game, but when it’s time to put your money where your mouth it, can you do it? Have you bought a small press publication? Did you go see your friend’s band? Sit through the entirety of your nephew’s terrible junior high musical?

Support your children, siblings, nieces and nephews, parents, cousins, friends, neighbors, anyone. If someone shows interest in something, encourage them to pursue it, don’t be an asshole like some peoples’ fathers and laugh at them or criticize them mercilessly to the point where they feel like garbage. Help them understand that practice makes perfect, and that some things are worth spending a little extra time on. If they seem clueless about how to proceed with something, give them advice, point them in the right direction, or just sit and listen to them express their interest. Every little bit helps, even if you don’t care. People didn’t listen to you? Well, two wrongs don’t make a right, so don’t stifle someone’s creativity just because you never had that chance.

If you’re not careful, that chance for someone else might end with you.

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