To observe any given dance floor when Flo Rida starts belting out through the stereo is to observe one of the great wonders of our culture the ability of music to tap the emotions of its listeners.

Symphonies have moved royal courts to tears and still do, as the New York Philharmonic’s visit to North Korea proved. ‘American Idol” consistently crushes any shows competing in its time slot, not because we want to see the up-and-comers fail (after the first couple of weeks, anyway), but because we cherish the unparalleled performances. Stadium crowds will cry over a beautiful rendition of our national anthem, not because of the inherent patriotism, but for the power behind Francis Scott Key’s score and words.

But woe to the singer that butchers it each of us understands the horror of a poorly delivered song and, indeed, while culture teaches us that anyone can cook (‘Ratatouille”) or that anyone can love (‘A Christmas Carol”) or be loved (‘Hitch”), the same culture sends a very acute message that no, not everyone can sing.

I myself have some singing experience. I performed in a choir in my elementary school years, and it became a staple of life in the fourth grade (partly out of my own desire to go further with it and partly out of the fact that my older brother had done it, so I should do it also). The rest of my musical experience comes down to the obligatory piano lessons (thanks again, Dad) and realizing in sixth grade, upon pursuing the trumpet, that it’s hard to earn the same respect as Louis Armstrong when relegated to last chair for years in a row. In high school, despite my Thespian roots, I shied away from musicals in favor of, oh, let’s pretend, studying. Arguably, my musical life demonstrates that experience doesn’t matter nearly as much as ability.

Reminiscing on this over the past few weeks, I believed that, despite my absence from music for a while, I would put my years of singing in the shower to better use. In such a spirit, this past Friday, I sought to reclaim some of my former semi-glory.

UR, the musical capital of northwestern New York (as proclaimed by me), has dozens of musical groups glee clubs, orchestras, jazz ensembles, a cappella troupes and the like. I sought out one that would oblige me even for just a few minutes, and then here we’d go the audition of a lifetime! And I luckily found one willing brigade last Friday, a group of people with exceptional talent and class, to whom I will always be grateful.

Most lives are not lacking for awkward or terrifying moments, but mine is rich in them, and waiting outside an audition room alone really helped to bring all of them surging forward the fifth-grade spelling bee, the SAT, that first date oh the humanity! What was I doing? I’m not a singer! The wait the unbearable wait of five minutes! eviscerating my poor heart. If anything, I was prepared to crawl onto the floor, curl up into the fetal position and bawl my eyes out.

The chance never came. A nice gentleman ushered me in to audition. I received a warm welcome which I soon realized was part of a carefully crafted, time-tested plan to make someone feel comfortable (and I’ll be damned if it didn’t work).

I began with a short interview, not only for their benefit, but stunningly for my own, as I remembered who I was and what at all qualified me to be there. This progressed suddenly too suddenly! What, we’re starting already? Can’t I answer more questions? Please!? to performing some basic scales. They told me after the exercise that I managed to hit a high A sharp (in retrospect, that was the highest note I could reach on the trumpet, mangled though it was). But, it wasn’t actually so bad.

Then the hard part came. In all of five minutes, like a missile you can’t dodge, it came: the solo. Earlier in the week I envisioned singing something with a little pep, but, inspired by ‘The Wizard of Oz,” I switched last minute to ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” If Judy Garland had been alive to hear it, my performance wouldn’t have helped any of her problems.

Yet they applauded me warmly and, after one final exercise, sent me on my way, sweating and mentally exhausted, so that some other possible star could have a crack at the big time. The elation at feeling the fresh air almost made me double over. It was finished.

Harboring illusions about my chances at being a singer would only hurt me, but I enjoyed the ride, and as I walked back to my room singing merrily to myself, I felt I could handle anything. The same music that wrenched my gut also soothed me, as only music can do.
The hardest part of singing might be less about the act itself, but rather the performance (stage fright is the second biggest phobia in the world) which explains the plethora of shower singers.

Can everyone sing? In the greatest sense, perhaps not. But everyone should. Music is too good to deny yourself a solo every once in a while.

Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.



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