This past weekend I trucked it to Nashville to fulfill a promise I had made a few months back; to both myself and to my dad. The idea behind the commitment was multifaceted as most are, but seeing as Nashville is only a short 6 hour drive (6 hours is short when you've driven to North Carolina twice in 6 months), I couldn't pass it up. I was going to audition for The Voice. At first, I felt as though I was succumbing to the majority; as I have always thought the show to be a bit staged. And of course soon after the idea perked my ears I had begun doing much research and found that most winners on the show have gone on to being bound by a really awful record deal. Lastly, I still remember Dave Grohl give a speech at an award show a few years back about how no judge sitting in a chair should ever be able to tell you how good you are or whether you're worthy of a record deal. He said good was defined by the passion and hours of sucking until you transitioned into it. Enduring was necessary, and though I feel I've endured quite a bit on this journey, it was hard not to think I was giving in and attempting a short-cut.
Of course, this is assuming I'd even make it past the initial audition. I had prepped a lot despite getting married, honeymooning to the Dominican Republic, doing four Christmases, and spending New Years in Nashville with good friends. But as I headed toward the audition city I thought about the songs I had chosen to sing and how I actively created hours of space each day to warm-up my voice, and rehearse these 6 songs. I thought about the advice a new friend I made in Winston-Salem gave me about the process, as he had made it all the way to being casted for the show. I thought about the other side of the audition; daydreaming of performing on the Live show, building an audience, and the things I'd do with that kind of platform.
I arrived two hours prior to the time I was to sing nakedly in front of a producer from the show and nine other strangers. I say nakedly because rarely do I sing without my hands being on a piano, guitar or microphone. This was not such an occasion for hand occupancy and A Cappella was the route. I moved into the room and prepared to sing, obsessively humming the same 3 notes over and over again in my head. If I started too high, there was no saving that performance. Too low would be a safer route, but probably not as impression-making. Though I had prepped for months I was given 45 seconds to sing: roughly a verse and chorus. They called my name second and I walked up to the green line much like stepping into a batter's box. In an instant I was rolling into Hallelujah, and though there's no way to confirm, I am about 99.98% positive I landed in the right key. It was probably the best I had sung it to be honest; at least it felt that way. My high school football coaches used to say before the games and at halftime, "Leave it all on the field!" -- it felt as though I had accomplished that much.
I finished and she said thank you. Then told me I could take a seat. The last in our group to go was an elderly gentleman by the name of Daren. I would peg him somewhere around the age of 70 or so. Daren wore suspenders, had a hearing aid, and bore a hat with "Jesus Loves Me" in bold colors across the uneven velcro strap. He no more stepped up to the designated green line when he began to speak, "yes, ma'am my name is Daren. And I'm going to sing you an original song. I composed it myself after I got saved by Jesus Christ. And, well, I love to sing so here it is."
I specifically remember reading in all capital letters on their audition page NO ORIGINAL SONGS, at any point in the tryout process. Obviously Daren had not gotten the memo and the producer just nodded with a smile. I truly do wish I remembered it; however, with absolutely no offense to Daren, it reminded me a bit like that moment in Elf at the Christmas store where Buddy proves to Jovie that ANYONE can sing. If you haven't seen the movie, then I'm sorry, but plan accordingly next Christmas. I know I was smiling at the courage Daren had shown paired with the lack of awareness or care if it was against the rules or not. He had come to sing because, well, he loved to sing.
None of us were given callback cards, and it would suffice to say that I was feeling a little defeated for obvious reasons. I mean, the hours of practice, the daydreams I entertained, and the sheer number of Facebook friends and family that responded to my posting that I was giving it a shot overwhelmed me all at once. A good friend texted me and said, "you've got a lot of people rooting you on." I wanted to come back with good news for him but my hands felt rather empty. And as I was leaving the room, over my shoulder, I caught Daren breaking yet another rule as he approached the producer's chair while being told "Sir, you are NOT supposed to pass that green line to talk with the producer." I heard him say, "Well I just want to know what she thought of my song!"
My first takeaway post-audition was to embody Daren-like determination this year despite losing this round.
While I felt like a failure, it beckoned the question: what about this process was actually failure? Truth is, despite not getting chosen to come back, my worth was not about to be decided by a young lady who had been sitting in a chair listening to hundreds of people sing for the last 9 hours. Obviously I had high hopes going in, and coming out, I still do. All too often on this musical journey I have resorted to wallowing in the wake of No's. Where words of affirmation do wonders for my ego, rejection has torn it to shreds all the same. My point in typing this whole thing up is to uncover a bit more about me, which I hope you might find yourself connecting to:
-Every time I fail, the odds for success go up.
-There is much to be learned when I don't succeed. In fact, the greatest gains I've experienced happen here.
Practicing nearly every day for a month and a half has me feeling more confident about my voice than I ever have; I mastered more cover songs in this short time than I have in all the years I've been singing, and you best believe writing hasn't slowed one bit. Though I didn't make it on to The Voice this time around, I see it as one more puzzle piece locked into place in this big-ass mystery of faith; one more stepping stone on the path from birth to death. I have not the slightest what Daren's path was, but in the brief minutes of his life I witnessed I could tell you that he auditioned because he could, sang because he wanted to, and he did so with reckless abandonment (breaking a few rules along the way).
Perhaps choosing a vocation for the right reasons is a good step - not because I want to but because I get to. Not for me; but for you.