When I was a wee lad I was very active in the musical programs in my high school. (A gay teenager, active in the music programs, go figure!) I was in the concert and marching bands playing tuba, I participated in all the choruses I could singing baritone and I was in the yearly high school musicals. I even ventured out on a limb once or twice and participated in community theatre as well.
My high school band director was a notorious perfectionist. An amazing musician, he demanded the best performance possible from all his students and had no qualms with dismissing those that weren’t making the grade. He was fair but very demanding. I had the utmost respect for him and looking back I guess I learned a great deal from him, which shaped my personal demand of perfection when it comes to performing. I think that’s why I’m so critical of today’s vocalists and I can’t watch American Idol anymore, audiences are all too eager to give standing ovations to mediocrity these days.
On the flip side of the high school music program, we had three different vocal directors during my school years. I found one to be considerably more demanding than the other two and I think she made a considerable impression on me in the perfection department as well. She didn’t believe in putting mics on us when we were on stage, we were to fill the auditorium with our voice and sing to the back wall. A tank of a woman, she also had no problem telling you when you weren’t fitting the bill. I’ll never forget the time that she told me to “butch it up and walk like a man” in 10th grade during a rehearsal as a knight in “Camelot”. Mortified, to this day I still suck in my gut and square my shoulders when I walk.
I’ve been doing some random searches of high school and college stage performances on YouTube, more specifically “Godspell”, “Fame” and “Pippin”. Wow, there’s a lot of crap being performed on stage these days and yet audiences are going wild. Now I’m not saying that what I sing or play is the bees knees of high school performances. I was never destined for Broadway. While my hearing is pitch perfect and I can sing a song in the proper key without a pitch pipe or accompaniment, I know my limitations and accept them and that’s why I often choose not to perform when prompted by family members. If I can’t make it perfect, I’m not going to do it.
I am quite content on my educational path to a civil engineering degree and have no desire to teach music on a regular basis (been there, done that, no thanks), however, I can’t help but think that there must be way for me to contribute to the musical arts in the community. The Alumni Band (up to 20 members so far!) is one step in that direction. But looking at these performances on the internet, I think I’m alarmed that what could be excellent performers are instead floundering performers that have no sense of the time signature of a piece while they bounce around the melody doing idiotic “runs” that would make Randy Jackson swoon and Paula Abdul giddy. I think it was Barbra Streisand that told Rosie O’Donnell, as Rosie was blaring out a tune like a fog horn, that “less is more” when it comes to singing a song.
Where am I going with this thought? I have no idea. I do know that when I performed “We Beseech Thee” from Godspell for an audition at SUNY Fredonia in 1987, it was much better than this (he says, with a smug look on his face).
Perhaps when I go for a community theatre gig, someone can post my performance on YouTube so I can inspire someone else’s blog entry and critique.