The third time I went to the open mic, I felt that I knew what I would be dealing with. How it would feel, the nerves, the stiff cold fingers. I remember warming up by shaking my hands and stretching before I walked up to the stage.
Knowing what I would be dealing with, I still decided the best thing would be to up the ante, and challenge myself. I did this by picking a more adventurous, more complicated piece of music: a "tone poem" I had "written" the same month, called "The Doe." It is supposed be remind you of a graceful deer bounding through the woodlands. My deer seems to stumble at times, but eventually it gets there. I don't think it ended up like Bambi's mother.
I noticed that although I still hedge my bet in the introduction, I'm not as apologetic. Overall, I seem to enjoy the experience more, and I don't look at the microphone when I leave the stage as if it had made some sort of rude comment.
Of course I went back to the monthly open mic night at the Folk Music Center in Claremont the following month. (Always the last Sunday of the month.)
I thought this time, it's got to be easier. Well, it was and it wasn't.
One thing is true: It's amazing how far the distance is from your chair in the audience to that chair on the stage. How long it seems to take as you make our way up to the stage when it's your turn.
But I did make it up to the stage.
Then I did again what you should never ever do: apologize before you start. Doing so, is very very natural and people do it all the time, but it's a cheap way to hedge your bet, so if you screw up, you can say," I told you so, what did you expect?" And if you do screw up, or just think you did, well, you've set yourself up for it.
Here is another reason why you shouldn't: If your audience sees you as competent. And they will most likely think you are. Otherwise, why would you walk up on stage. That's a big deal. And people realize it. Well, when people think you are competent, and then you screw up, they will like you more. Your mistake makes you look human. And the audience can relate to that.
But then again, it is easier said than done. (Some people seem like naturals and never seem to worry about it, in fact they enjoy it, but you have to remind yourself that they've just been at it longer.) And so it takes practice, and sometimes even when you still manage not to "prep" your audience, you still feel like you should have, and you feel guilty, that not doing so was somehow dishonest. So I told the audience how the last time my fingers had turned to spaghetti and I hoped for better this time around.
And in my nervousness, I forgot to decide what song to play. I just fiddled around for a while. It seemed like hours, but it wasn't. Luckily the song I landed on had a "stiffer" beat, so I didn't have to fight my fingers so much to play it. And I got through it. And when I was finished, as I was returning to my seat, a woman smiled and told me "Well, your fingers didn't turn to spaghetti this time." I smiled my thanks.
Since that time, I've titled the song, an original, "That's Enough." Because it was. Oh yeah, I took my rings off and put them in my pocket before I played.
It's been about a year now, but I still remember the first time as if it was yesterday. I went to the open mic night at the Claremont Folk Music Center. (That explains all the different stringed instruments in the background.)This was the first time I have ever performed in public and it definitely shows.
After all the acting classes I've taken, I thought I had it covered, but my subconscious had other things in mind. The fight or flight part of my brain kicked in big time. A year later and it's only slowly getting better. You'll see the progress (or lack of it) in my upcoming video posts.
I thought it would be fun to share this experience so that if anyone is thinking about taking a risk, they might get something from my experience that will help them through it. And I have nothing but compassion.
So my hands got cold, the fingers got stiff and I told them what to do but it was a battle. I moved my mouth to remind me of the melody, I swore internally at my fingers, I got my leg going, and somehow I managed to get through the performance.
But that was enough. I think I tweeted something afterwards to the effect that you know you are doing the right thing when you screw up but still get a positive high and can't wait to do it again. Oh yeah, and my fingers shrank too, I tossed off a ring at the end of the performance. Luckily, the guy who caught it in the front row gave it back..