Being the competitive creature that I am, I’ve always played to win. Not that I’ve always won, but I will never put myself in a situation where there’s a possibility that I will come in last. I’ve been known to not study for a subject that I’m certain I will fail in, just so that I can say it’s because I didn’t study, instead of having studied and still failed. Some people call it pride; I call it plain stupidity.
Yet my appetite for new experiences sometimes puts me on a collision course with my competitive streak. Afterall, one can’t be good at everything. So when a friend invited me to be part of a band to play in a celebrity-studded Christian concert before an audience of some 3000 people, I jumped at the chance. Classic example of fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
My friend has never heard me play but assumed that I could. I, on the other hand, mistakenly thought that I could probably manage the keyboard since the piano does the heavy-lifting and no one really hears the keyboard anyway.
The first rehearsal turned everything on its head and my friend must have thought he’s made a most terrible mistake. I couldn’t play, especially when measured against everyone else in the band. Everyone else is a professional musician – producer, songwriter, arranger…. I am the only amateur. And not even a good one at that.
I had six weeks to learn how to use a program called MainStage for its sound patches, transcribe the keyboard parts from 28 songs, and commit them to memory. This was on top of my very full-time job, plus my very full-time volunteer work. Oh and it probably didn’t help that my memory’s like a sieve with huge holes.
I was ready to give up because I hated being the weakest link. I didn’t like being the only one who couldn’t get the chords right and the one that the entire band had to wait for while someone helped me fix the reverb or delay on my sound patches because I was so clueless.
But I abhorred giving up too, perhaps only slightly more than being the “loser”, so I buckled down and worked my butt off. I practised daily if I could, and I tried to find time to memorise the chords at every chance (though I must say that driving and recalling chords don’t go very well together). I even put my practice before the latest Grey’s Anatomy episode – that was how serious I was!
Having to confront my own ineptness at every rehearsal is both frustrating and painful, but it’s taught me to be a kinder person. I hope I will always remember to be patient and encouraging – much like how the other band members have been to me – to those who struggle in areas that I excel in.
It’s one week to the concert now, and I’ve only just started telling friends that I’m involved in it, simply because I live in constant resignation that I will be voted out of the band. The last time I checked, I’m still playing. So this is my tongue-in-cheek prayer:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your concert come, your will be done at the hall as in heaven
Give me this day my daily chord
Forgive me my wrong notes
As I forgive my fingers that betray me
Lead me not into forgetfulness
But deliver me from all nerves.
For yours is the music, the rhythm and the patches
Forever and ever