Going On in Music...

by Nancy E. Harris
26 May 2015

I just had a dream that was so powerful, it woke me up at 3:21 a.m. with the determination to write it down. In this dream, a young teenaged girl, perhaps 14 years old, wanted to sing a solo at a tribute to an alumna of her high school. I said yes, apparently having some control over who would perform, and the evening arrived. In the waiting area, she stood calmly waiting for her time to go on, but her parents and an additional adult male friend were also there. The friend was calm, her father was calm and solidly supportive, but her mother was overwrought, peeking out of the door often, highly agitated, and going on about what a terrible idea this was. her husband tried to calm her, but to no avail. That is when I stepped in and said, “This is highly inappropriate at this time. It serves only to disturb your daughter, who will be going out shortly.” And then I gave her the following spiel:

“What is it that you are afraid of? If your daughter decides to go on with music in college and then tries to become a performer on Broadway, ultimately, it is her choice to do so. And she will either succeed there or she won’t. But, after age 18, she will be making all of those decisions. Even if she becomes a performer in college, it is no guarantee that she will go on after graduation to be a professional performer. I’ve known many students who changed their majors as juniors or even seniors to entirely different paths. And, when I was still teaching college, of all of the applicants accepted to medical schools, 67% of those applicants had music degrees. In my own family, a young cousin spent high school in the theatre department, only to decide to become a neurologist when he graduated. A niece who was a flautist and became head of the school marching band is now in law school. Both have confidence to burn from their experiences, plus the mental development that music provides to take them wherever they want to go.

“At the worst, performing as a vocal soloist gives a student poise, grace under fire, and an ability to stand in front of other people and present well—all necessary skills for success in any form of business or volunteer work. Think of the many people, the majority of us, in fact, who would rather die, literally, than give a speech. What is singing in front of others but an opening of the heart, a willingness to be vulnerable, a taking of chances that the ordinary person will not and cannot do? You should be proud of your daughter and her lack of fear. These types of experiences will only make her stronger, not weaker.

“In the past, I performed in five professional local shows with a young lady, starting when she was 13, who decided to go on and become a professional on Broadway. She wanted it and achieved it and is now up for an Emmy for Best Actress, after winning other awards, earlier. She is happily married and doing what she loves. She figured out what she wanted and went after it with a very single-minded purpose, but not every performer will have that same dedication and focus. It can be done, and a very few will do it. It is not for us to say who will or won’t succeed, but I must say that having that kind of desire and focus was wonderful to see in one so young, whether she ultimately succeeded or not. It encouraged her to complete high school with high grades at the age of 16 and to find one of the best schools in her chosen field in NYC to repeat that success with, launching her career at the age of 21. But, even had she changed her mind and not gone on, she would have succeeded in any field that she chose.

“This strength that comes from performing is a special gift, one not to be prevented out of fear of the future! Your daughter will go out and give a loving and heartfelt performance in honor of a deserving person, and we will all be the better for it. Why are you afraid? And, is it really for her, or for yourself?”

The dream ended there because I was now wide awake with the urgency of writing down my own words. At 3:21 a.m.! Now, perhaps, I can return to sleep, and now, perhaps, some parent’s heart will be more at ease.