So, remember how I suck at ukulele?
Well, it became clear when the faculty folk band began rehearsals this fall that my summer lessons actually worked -- I really had gotten better than I was in spring, even though I didn't practice nearly as much as I should have or meant to.
And what a fun fall of rehearsals we had! Almost every Friday afternoon, we meet in the chorus room, gather with our instruments around the keyboard that resides there, and play for an hour or so. It really is a fabulous way to end the week -- about as much laughing and wisecracking as there is playing.
We had to give our annual "concert" (during the 15-minute all-school meeting we have in the mornings) earlier than usual this year because the two central members of the faculty band will be gone in the spring, for sabbatical and paternity leave respectively. So we were under a little more pressure than usual this fall, and we made our set list a little easier than usual. Plus there was the added complication that we were going to share the stage with the student rock band and perform one piece together. It was funny rehearsing with the students in the last week; they clearly thought it was weird (a) to hear us call each other by our first names, rather than "Dr. or Ms. or Mr. So-and-so," which we kept forgetting to do in front of them, and (b) that we took rehearsing seriously. Sure, we may laugh a lot, but by gum we practice hard and work to get our pieces really tight, whereas the students take a more lackadaisical attitude toward their music.
During our performance last year, I kind of hid at the back of the stage, sitting down behind a music stand and other musicians. This year, I had learned to play the uke standing up (a little harder than it seems, since there's no instrument strap as there is for a guitar or banjo), and I had the music memorized (although the banjo player and I did have the sheet music on a stand in the corner, just for that feeling of security), so I found myself standing right up front on the stage -- not by plan, just the way we ended up blocking things.
And I felt so confident up there! Last year, right before the performance, I was feeling kind of sick to my stomach, and once we started playing, I couldn't really see anything beyond the first row of the audience; my vision narrowed, and I think I was having shortness of breath the whole time (which, of course, was only a quarter of an hour). But this time -- I just had a blast the entire time!
Plus, here's another bonus: The photos from last year's performance were the moment that it became clear to me just how overweight I was. It really appalled me; I was mortified! Within a month, I'd joined Weight Watchers. For this year's performance, I was 25 pounds lighter than last year, and I wore a shirt tucked into my jeans for the first time in several years. I felt awesome -- strong, healthy, talented, fun -- it was excellent.
And wait, there's more: For one of the songs we played, the entire band sang the chorus. The banjo player and I were both over the moon at getting to sing as well as play; a colleague laughed at us the night before in our final rehearsal, saying that the look on our faces when we were singing was hilarious, we were both clearly so happy; she called it a "folk-gasm"! We laughed and admitted that she was exactly right. We were getting to stand on a stage and sing and play in front of an audience -- it was totally my performance fantasy come to life.
And indeed, during the performance I had the experience that I rarely have, of being entirely present in the moment. And when we were singing that first song, and I was playing my uke and singing out during the chorus, I was entirely happy and was completely aware of how happy I was in that moment. Plus, the students love the faculty folk band -- and of course there was the added bonus that we were playing with the student band -- and they were screaming and cheering at each song. Really, the whole thing was great!
So there's the reward for being willing to suck -- I got to live the dream one morning this week!