I wasn’t always afraid to sing or perform in front of others, of course. Phobias aren’t delivered when we are. “Congratulations! It’s a girl . . . with Friggatriskaidekaphobia, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Ablutophobia, so good luck with her first bath.”
**Friggatriskaidekaphobia – Fear of Friday the 13th. Ablutophobia – Fear of washing or bathing.**
Like all newborns, I was fearless. So, of course, I wasn’t afraid of being heard. I wanted to be heard. If I had something to yell, or cry, or laugh, or squeal, or grunt, or coo about, I opened up my mouth and let it fly.
And so it was with singing for the first decade of my life.
Midway through my third grade year, a new job took my mom, and consequently me, sixty miles south of my birthplace. I arrived at my new school just in time to sign up for the annual talent show, and I was thrilled. Finally, a chance to sing “Tomorrow” from Annie for an audience larger than my dog Daffodil.
I auditioned for the music teacher, Mr. Sump’n-or-’nother, in front of my entire class. And before agreeing to let me sing for the show, he gave me this advice: “You’re trying to sing this song like the actress in the movie sings it. Sing it like you instead.” It was the first voice lesson I ever received, and some of the best advice I still take to this day.
Performance day was just three weeks into my stint at this elementary school. And in front of a gym-full of unfamiliar parents, teachers, and students, I sang with pure joy and enthusiasm. Was I any good? I don’t know. I don’t remember how I sounded. I only remember how that moment felt – and it felt great! I also remember, and remember well, how my mom was in total awe of my courage. “Who is this brave kid?” she wondered aloud.
It was as good a start in performance as anyone could hope for. If only it had lasted. . .
Another move at the beginning my fourth grade year took me to a school with lots of opportunities. My music teacher was kind, competent, and thanks to her, I was progressing as a musician. I remember in choir rehearsal once, she told the group, “Someone besides Anita needs to start singing out! She’s the only one I can hear.” Shyness was clearly not my issue yet.
My mom decided that singing was not a phase I was going through. I had found my “thing,” and she felt that I needed a private voice teacher. She had a lot of trouble finding one that would take a nine-year-old student. I’m glad for that because it eventually led us to the person who would be my teacher, mentor, and big-sister-type for the next ten years of my life. No one else would have been as good a fit for me.
After a school-year of voice lessons, my teacher hosted a vocal recital for her students. Like every other opportunity to sing and perform up to that point, I was excited about it. I was prepared. I knew the song. I was ready. So it came as a total surprise to me, to my voice teacher, and to my mom when I got on stage, and completely froze. I opened my mouth to sing, and nothing came out. Not a sound. My throat choked. I had my first panic attack. There was a roaring in my ears that I can only compare to the rush of an avalanche. My vision went blurry, my muscles went numb, my skin was stinging, and I stumbled forward.
What happened between my third grade and fourth grade years that initiated my stage fright from – what felt like – out of nowhere? In a word – awareness.
– Anita, Noted in Nashville
TO BE CONTINUED . . . WHEN? Depends on how much the sun shines next week. 😉
*This is part of my “Fear Itself” Series. To catch up on past posts, click here.