Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Singing for the Smile

My Dad was the first of his generation in his large family to graduate from college.  He worked the night shift at the steel mill, spent a few summers as a garbage man, but he paid his own way and graduated with a degree in education from Kent State University. Education was really important to Dad.

He wanted to make sure each of his kids had the opportunity to attend college as well, and did everything he could to encourage us.

For me, this involved visiting three schools in particular: Ohio State (Dad is an ENORMOUS Buckeye fan and tried his best to sway me in that direction!), Syracuse University, and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.  The latter two required not only to be accepted academically, but also to pass a singing/dancing audition before being considered for their Musical Theater departments.   Dad freed the time from his ridiculously busy teaching/coaching/refereeing schedule to drive Mom and I to both schools the summer before my senior year.

I really liked Syracuse from the moment I arrived on campus.  The theater professors were welcoming and genuinely nice.  Each potential student was called individually into a small mirrored room to sing our selections and perform a short dance routine to a small panel of teachers, smiling behind a table.  I left feeling good about my audition and hopeful for some positive results.

Then came the trip to Cincinnati.  The CCM campus was quite large, the staff a bit stiff and unsmiling. Immediately upon arriving, approximately 30 of us auditioners and our parents were corralled into a large room and told to sit in the uncomfortable plastic chairs that faced the front, where a giant piano sat.  Just in front of the piano was a long table, where there were seated several music/drama/dance professors, all sporting unfriendly scowls.  The auditioners were asked to take seats in the chairs nearest the front, the parents were to remain in the back.

An older, white-bearded man arose from the table, mumbled a few words of greeting in a forced british accent, then called the first boy's name to begin his vocal audition.  The boy arose, gave his music to the accompanist at the ginormous piano, then nervously took his place on the "X" marked on the floor as instructed by Mumbles.  He began his number, revealing a lovely tenor voice, and as his fear seemed to subside a bit, a delightful personality emerged.  The kid was really nailing it!  Nailing it, that is, until Mumbles held up a hand and yelled, "STOP!"  The boy, mortified and shocked, stopped mid-note, and looked down at his accuser with worried eyes.

Then this pompous old bearded jerk proceeded to tell this sweet boy all of the ways that he had failed with this particular piece.  He gave him fierce criticism that was far from constructive, then told him to start again. Shocked and shaking, the boy began again.  But it was hopeless. Fear had returned to stay, and the man finally cut him off once again with a "Thank you.  That is all."  Defeated, the boy exited and sat down.  His face was so red it permeated to the tips of his earlobes.

I watched as, one by one, this man berated each young applicant, always with a great deal of mock exasperation and stinging words. Every once in a while, he'd decide he liked someone, and would let them finish their number.  This, however, was rarely the case.

Looking back, I'm pretty shocked at my reaction to all of this.  I didn't crumble in fear.  I think I was pretty sure by then that I didn't want to attend this school, with this group of hostile teachers.  I already knew I wanted to go to Syracuse, if they chose me.  So, I honestly had no anxiety.  None at all.  I liked my prepared song, "Cockeyed Optimist" from South Pacific.  It had an easy range, and gave me a chance to show a little personality. And besides, there was a full audience of parents out there for which to perform!  I decided to focus on that and forget about the pompous jerk who would most certainly be cutting me off!!

When my name was called, I handed my music to the accompanist and walked calmly to my mark.  I smiled at the crowd, and nodded for her to begin. As my intro was playing, I looked up and spotted my Dad, standing, in the back of the room.  He stood out, not only because all the other parents were sitting in chairs. Dad stood in the back, arms crossed, leaning against the wall, with a look of intense FEAR on his face.  He was terrified!

I flashed him a quick smile before beginning my number.  It was the best I could do.  I was proud of it.  Mumbles DID, in fact, stop me, about three quarters of the way through my song.  He gave me a few notes, then asked me to begin again.  I did. This time he let me finish.  I was satisfied with that. But as I turned to walk off, I glanced back at Dad.  He was still standing, arms crossed, leaning against the wall.  But on his face was the biggest, warmest, proudest smile I'd ever seen.  I put it there.  Dad was proud.  Really, really proud.  Can I tell you how amazing that felt?

I didn't get accepted at CCM.  I did go to Syracuse University, where I performed in many shows, as well as some after graduation.  Dad attended almost all of them.  He always offered a big hug and a "nice job!" after each one, always telling me he was proud of me.  But none of those reactions were as wonderful as that day in Cincinnati.  That's the day when I not only calmed my Dad's fears, but I made him believe in me.

Thanks for Reading!!

34 comments:

Jessica said...

Just lovely. Thanks for sharing.

KathyB said...

Never heard that story before, Joan. So glad you have that wonderful memory! :)

Linda Myers said...

Lovely! I remember once my dad drove me clear across the state of North Carolina to attend the state finals of an oratorical contest. I placed second. On the way home Dad said, "You were good, but he was better." And it was true.

That's the only time I can remember my dad and me doing something together, just us. He died in 1979, and I still think of that drive across the state.

We live in a Zoo! said...

I LOVE this story, what a good dad!!! :D

Rebecca D said...

There are so few moments like that in life. hank you for sharing yours, it reminded me of a couple of those moments in my own life...

Eva Gallant said...

What a wonderful story. You were fortunate to have such a supportive Dad.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Aren't dads the coolest? I miss mine. His sense of humor was outstanding. Thanks for letting us in on your time with your dad. Nice to remember them, the really fine moments.

Jaime said...

that's a great story. i didn't get into acting. but i did play sports. it always meant so much to me that my dad would leave work early and show up to my games.

Sylvia K said...

How fortunate you were to have a Father so supportive, so "there for you"! 'I'm sure with your Father's health problems just now, these memories are all quite poignant. I hold good thoughts for you both. Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a lovely evening.

Sylvia

Joanie M said...

Oh, how I remember the audition process for college! So scary for the parent, waiting! Both of my girls went through it.

The monologue that Gina chose turned out to be the EXACT same one the girl before her also chose to do! They ended up sharing a house her Senior year, and they were always up for the same roles (the other girl had bigger boobs... she got the lead in Cabaret their junior year.)

Six years later, I was doing it again with Dani. She wanted to go to Point Park University in Pittsburgh so badly! The other kids were practically professionals! She didn't get in (her dad and I were secretly glad... we didn't like that school!) She got accepted at Indiana University of PA and got cast in a play her first week or school! Dani has since changed her mind and is going to cosmetology school this year instead of back to college, but she's happier!

jon said...

Really great story.
Thanks so much.
Cheers,
Jon C

blueviolet said...

You turned the tables. You allayed your dad's fears! That was quite a story. I'm in awe that you were able to enter into that audition with such a calm demeanor.

PS. My daughter just graduated as a Buckeye. Your dad would be proud!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Great story!

I've never experienced that so you got a piece of what every kid wants but most did get a chance to receive.

hey how's the move going?

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

oops, I meant - "most kids want but most don't get a chance to receive"

Mumsy said...

What a great story I enjoyed it very much. Hugs

ReformingGeek said...

I love the way your tell your stories. I felt your happiness when your dad smiled.

Great job and I'm glad you were able to attend a school that was supportive and accepting.

I felt very sorry for the first guy to audition, though, as he had no clue what to expect.

lifeshighway said...

A great story and a great tribute to your Dad. I'm glad you have such warm memories.

A girl needs 2 Talk said...

That was absolutely beautiful! I am so very glad you wrote, today!

I love this story. It made me cry for a bit, but I tell you, I love the bond you share with your Dad.

I have a little complaint. I half expected you to post the video of your performance. I so want to see it now!! :) :)

Red Shoes said...

A parent believing in a child is one of the most empowering things I can think of! Furthermore, a professor believing in his/her students is also empowering!

When I sense nervousness in my students, I feel it's part of my responsibility to help to alleviate that fear... that stress... that nervousness...

Your Dad is a winner! But, then you knew that!!

~shoes~

Looking for Blue Sky said...

Loved it xx

Jen said...

What a terrific Story :) thanks for sharing your precious memory with us xo

Kyna said...

Great story :D I'm glad you didn't let the judgement of a pompous old coot rattle you. Confidence is a wonderful thing. I don't know if I ever saw fear in my own dad's face...the best way to describe him is 'bulldozer' lol. I'll have to write about him sometime.

George Miserlis said...

Joanie!

I'm a virgin to your web site and so happy to have read your delightful and heartfelt article about your loving and caring father. What a great man!

And what a talented woman you are and always will be.

Much love always,
George Miserlis

THE OLD GEEZER said...

Hello Joan

I also have some great memories about my dad. Sadly many people can't say the same.

~Ron

Chrystal said...

It's so great to have a good daddy. Love your blog! :)

Bossy Betty said...

Sorry I have not been by lately!!! Loved reading the post about your dad! So wonderful!

Shan said...

Lovely story!

Momma Fargo said...

That was an amazing story! Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

Helena said...

Your Dad will continue being proud of such a wonderful daughter. 'Families Are Forever!'

Eternally Distracted said...

Awwww, that was just lovely :)

The Urban Cowboy said...

Wow, that sounds frightening...yet a wonderful memory came out of that experience. Awesome.

Rhonda Schrock said...

What a great memory! That took guts. The payoff, though, was wonderful.

DAVID McGRIEVEY said...

I remember Tab, I had an Irish dad who sent me to Syracuse University. I was in the fine arts dept., I wonder if we have ever met?
Continue writing, you do it well.
David

Kakka said...

How wonderful, thanks so much for sharing. I have never felt that from my father and I have stopped trying. But my heart is swelling with happiness for you. And that jerk - I hope karma got him in a big way.

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