This story is by D.K. Fynn and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Dedicate It to Someone You Love
Little did I know that soon, I’d overcome one of my greatest fears.
You know, they say that one thing people fear most–other than death–is public speaking.
That’s not true. Try public singing. Not as part of a choir (although, that’s technically what I was doing).
I’m talking about singing alone. In front of everyone.
It all started six years ago, when I was twelve.
I was performing a solo spot during a holiday concert. Singing in front of an auditorium full of parents, and knowing that all of the other choir kids were there, made me feel like everyone was watching me. Heck…everyone was watching me.
Understandably, I was a nervous little boy with the whole world watching him.
So, there I was, singing my well-rehearsed solo spot…and then…it happened.
My voice cracked.
A high, soprano-like, nearly ear-piercing squeal.
At first, I didn’t know what happened, but everyone else sure did: I heard a few giggles in the audience, and the sounds of muffled laughter behind me.
I just kept singing like it was nothing, pretending that no-one heard anything, though everyone definitely did. My face must’ve been as red as a beetroot.
Ever since then, I’d always avoid doing a solo, or even a quartet.
And that brings me to this point, six years later. Here I was, a senior high school student, immersed in a virtual-reality rehearsal session. I was forced by circumstance to audition for the male solo spot at the annual holiday concert.
The final audition was two weeks away. If selected for the solo spot, I’d have to face an even larger audience–with selection judges–and my fellow choir members watching me in the background.
I know what you’re asking: What circumstances forced me to try out for a role I didn’t want to do?
I wanted to maximize my chances of earning a scholarship, or at least a bursary. I wanted to further my studies, and like a lot of senior high school students, I knew I was going to need as much financial help as possible.
The good thing was that this practice session was going well, but it was going well for a bad reason: It wasn’t a real-world session.
This was a “virtual” practice session, and though I was really singing, my voice was being recorded by the Virtice VR Singer’s Training System.
If my understanding is correct, Virtice is a combination of the words virtual and practice. Virtual practice. At it’s core, Virtice is a vocal feedback software that scores a singer’s pitch, volume, timbre, and other criteria.
It basically tries to make sure you hit all the right notes at the right time, and if you don’t, it tells you where you fell short.
But it does more than that. Virtice is a three-dimensional Virtual Immersion Experience. The building plans and acoustics of the Auditorium Hall, where I would be singing, were programmed into Virtice. That way, the physics and sound acoustics engine of the software would calculate how a singer’s virtual location would sound from any point in the Hall.
Virtice was quite a feat of programming. It’s VR Immersion headset was one of the finest in it’s class, far more advanced than most other VR headsets. So advanced, in fact, that one might forget they were in a virtual world. If a singer wanted, they could ask the software to populate the Hall with a virtual audience, with simulated, human-like reactions that reflected how well (or poor) the singer performed.
So, as I said, I was performing well, but these sessions had given me a false sense of security. I knew they were virtual, and knowing that there was no one really there to hear me, I had no fear.
And where there’s no fear, there’s great performance: I scored exceptionally high on pitch, timing, and other criteria.
I did good enough to win the soloist position…in the virtual world.
As my virtual session ended, I knew that my success would be short-lived: how would I do in tomorrow’s real-world session, with real people watching me?
I found out the next day.
Made a fool of myself.
It was a rehearsal where the entire choir was present, watching me–and the other soloist competitors–try out for the envied solo spot. Knowing that this was a real-world rehearsal, the nervousness I felt as a twelve-year-old came back.
Grrr! And here I was, a senior in high school, succumbing to something that affected me as a boy!
It’s interesting how we let past events have total dominance over us today, even when those events should have no bearing on our present-day experiences.
Understandably, my voice was a bit off pitch, and though it didn’t crack as it that time when I was twelve, I knew that my performance was lacking.
After school that day, I was feeling pretty down.
I decided that I’d go to the hospital and visit my mother. Although I didn’t want her to see me discouraged, I knew that I may not have many days left to see her.
So, as hard as it was, I visited her at the hospital.
“Hi Ma,” I said, trying to sound as enthusiastic as I could, even if I had to fake it.
My mother’s great. I could talk to her about anything. And, being as wise as she was, she always seemed to know the answer to everything I’d ask.
I relayed to her how fear was holding me back from giving my best performance. I told her that I knew I could do awesome–Virtice had indicated that. But, due to my real-world fear, my performance was being hindered.
“Dedicate your performance to someone you love, my son.”
Little did I know the deeper meaning of those words. But soon enough, I would.
That was the last time I spoke to my mother. She passed away shortly after that.
Not only because of the finances, but also because I wanted to make her proud. She saw me singing once…that time when my voice cracked. It seemed as though she was the only one who didn’t laugh at me.
The week after my mother’s funeral, the selection deadline was fast approaching: in only three days, the winner would be announced.
I had to perform, and I had to be able to sing in front of the judges without a hint of nervousness in my voice.
The day of selection finally came.
Before the final rehearsal, I had about ten minutes of free time.
What the heck, I thought. As the earliest choir members entered, I decided to go the Virtice console and practice one last time.
This time, what was different was I uploaded a three-dimensional, nearly holographic image of my mother to Virtice. She was the only one in the virtual audience.
Her final words sounded in my heart. Dedicate your performance to someone you love.
And right there, I gave my best performance ever. Yes, it was “virtual,” but I didn’t care.
And…I didn’t care who may have been listening–which I didn’t think would be that many people.
I dedicated this non-real-world session to someone very real–my mother. And I sung my heart out.
Caught up in the emotion, little did I know that I had lost the passage of time.
Crap, I thought. It must be close to rehearsal time.
Noticing how much time had actually elapsed, I panicked and abruptly ended the session. With enthusiasm and surprise in their voice, someone yelled out my name. I removed the Virtice headset to find that everyone was there, staring at me: the entire choir, the other candidates, and the judges.
“I haven’t heard anyone sing that piece that well in a long, long time. How come you don’t sing that well during rehearsals?”
In a flash of insight, I finally understood what my wise mother meant: Love overcomes fear.
I knew what to do. I was ready to bring my mother’s insight to the real world.
“I just learned what I needed to learn. I’m finally ready to rehearse.”
A few days after rehearsal, it was announced that I had been selected for the solo spot.
We had a great Holiday concert, at which there were a number of music staff from a few musical colleges and universities, looking for prospective talent to join their music programs.
A few days after the concert, I was invited to try out for a few college choirs, and later that year, I won two music scholarships.
Equipped with what I learned, I knew I had the heart to always perform flawlessly, and without fear. Find someone in the audience you love, and dedicate your performance to them.