Today, a moment came while watching my 8 year old daughter attempt a back bend without a spotter. She's been reading and watching the American Girl story of McKenna - the 2012 doll who is all about gymnastics. My daughter has found inspiration to become a better gymnast through her story. Who would've thought a toy could have such impact?! Today was my daughter's first day in a Level 3 class. She was nervous about being the only one not able to do a back bend. Before class this morning, she practiced with great determination. After numerous attempts, she finally did it! I was so happy and proud of her. I was filled with this great mom pride and joy as I watched her participate in class. It was then that I realized she has found a true passion, not by my interest or persuasion. She really has come to this sport on her own. I love that!
It then dawned on me why I enjoy playing with my band so much. Bear with me as I take you through the back story...
For as long as I can remember, I've loved music. My mom says I started singing as soon as I could talk. By my prodding, my mom let me start piano lessons at 5 years old. By 8, I had decided I was going to play the cello (or "chello" - as I misspelled it in my 3rd grade diary) when I got into 5th grade. I fell in love with the rich, deep tone of the instrument and thought nothing of the size and future expense. In almost all others area of my life, I was timid and shy. But not when it came to music. It was a pure passion, a pure love and enjoyment where I felt no fear or hesitation.
Things started changing in high school when all of the sudden I was getting judged for my performances. It wasn't enough to just love to play or sing, I now had to reach some seemingly unattainable goal of perfection. I think there's nothing wrong in striving for excellence, but the fear of missing the mark and getting harshly judged was ruining music making for me. This fear continued to grow as I studied music in college and became rampant after graduation. I still loved playing and singing, but now had developed full-fledged stage fright. I tried to fight back by forcing myself to perform anyway and that backfired miserably. My heart would pound so hard I thought was going to faint and the butterflies were so nauseating I felt sick. Finally, I backed out of all public solo playing and singing. If it didn't involve a group where I could blend and hide, I wanted nothing to do with it. Sadly, music had lost it's fire and joy. Ya know, making music is like that "if a tree falls in a forest" thing. I could pour out my heart and soul in my music as long as no one else was listening, but then where was the joy and what was the point?
So I lived and struggled with this internal battle of feeling like I needed perfection to be considered a real musician. I kept hiding in large groups and was deathly afraid of doing anything solo. However, little by little, God began helping me through my fears. I started getting involved in the children's music ministry at my church. OK, I thought, I can do this. Kids don't judge as harshly as adults. While I really enjoyed working with the kids, eventually my repertoire felt limited. I wanted to sing and play songs with mature messages and not always have to do signs and move around the stage.
After several years and countless prayers, I started getting involved with my worship team at church. This felt pretty safe; it's a group of people after all. By the grace of God, I was asked to play in a wedding with a few guys from my church. They were already part of a group and I was added mainly for my cello, but I got to sing some too. Well...we had so much fun playing together, we decided to form a band. I had never been in a real band before. As a cellist, I've only been in large and small ensembles, mostly classical in nature. Now I could say I was in a BAND that plays contemporary music. How cool was that?!
We've been together a little over a year now. In that time, we've decided on a name - Up Past 9 - and have played at church, a coffeehouse, and a bookstore. I don't know what the future holds for us, but I do know I feel incredibly blessed to be able to play with this group.
Because of our band, I have rediscovered my pure love of music and finally have the confidence to sing and play in front of others, as I have in private all of my life. With the constant encouragement and support of my band mates, I feel free from the fear of judgement and can trust myself to explore and enjoy music again. It's a blessing to be a part of a group without inflated egos, without harsh judgement or criticism, and with others who simply enjoy playing and singing together to glorify God. Thank You, Jesus! And thank you to my sweet and fun band of brothers - Cliff, Craig and Tim - from the bottom of my heart, for giving me wings to soar and helping me find the true love of music again!