“Tzippy, pretend you’re in your bedroom and no one can hear you. Pretend I’m not even here and you’re singing to yourself”
hile the classroom was always intimidating to me throughout my years in school, including seminary, Hashem blessed me with many gifts that allowed me to express myself with a more creative backdrop. The stage.
I always loved performing. From the age of two, I danced and sang using mops as mics and stairs as my stage. My siblings and I would create mini concerts, and a fun Sunday activity included choreographing dance moves with my cousin.
There was one teacher in the ninth grade who lit a spark of confidence in me. I don’t know if she saw potential in me or just took pity on the shy student. She called me in to audition for a solo in the choir for the school’s annual Melaveh Malkah event. Automatically, I refused. That didn’t deter her. She kept asking me every day after class to reconsider.
“Please, just try out once and I promise I’ll stop asking you,” she begged.
So, I reluctantly gave in.
The audition was… scary. My fingers were white from clutching the desk beside me. My knees were trembling, threatening to cave in.
The teacher told me to sing. I glanced into her wide, hopeful eyes and folded my arms.
“I can’t…” I muttered desperately. “Please can I go?”
“Just try to sing something, Tzippy,” she urged. “Then you’re free to go.”
I opened my mouth to sing, and then I saw her staring at me with anticipation. I closed my mouth. Her shoulders drooped slightly.
“Tzippy, pretend you’re in your bedroom and no one can hear you. Pretend I’m not even here and you’re singing to yourself.”
Now that was some advice. I looked away and tried to imagine myself in the cozy four walls of my bedroom. I opened my mouth and began to sing. My voice sounded a little shaky at first, but then my throat opened, and I sang with all my heart, as if I was floating in a bubble, far, far away from the cold, hard desks and chairs of the classroom.
The moment I finished, I brought myself back to reality with a jolt of realization. What had I just done? My teacher was beaming from ear to ear. “That… was incredible!”
I couldn’t believe myself. A tiny petal of confidence bloomed inside me. It was a tremendous step.
When I got the solo, half of me wanted to reject it and half of me wanted to seize it before it got away, and I lost this opportunity forever.
My parents were thrilled and encouraged me to accept it. I did.
I’m not saying it was a piece of cake. Every rehearsal was a challenge to begin singing. I slowly got more comfortable with it and practiced regularly. I became a singing sensation in the shower. It felt good, like letting out all the trapped butterflies within me. It was a liberating feeling.
When the big Motzaei Shabbos arrived, I experienced major stage fright. I was sweaty, shaky, and full of goosebumps. My stomach was tied up in knots. I couldn’t eat, drink, or speak without falling over my words. I had no idea how I was going to sing my solo. If I was going to sing my solo.
Pep talks from anyone wouldn’t make any difference. I was just going to have to go up there on stage and do my thing. Make believe I was singing in an empty room. Easier said than done.
I saw the audience creeping in through the mahogany doors, catching a glimpse of my mother and grandmothers in the crowd. They waved and smiled at me. I waved back weakly. They were expecting me to shine tonight. No, I told myself firmly, they wanted me to shine tonight.
It was time. I walked onto the mini stage with my classmates and stepped into the limelight. I brought the mic to my mouth with trembling fingers and waited for the pianist to begin.
The room became flooded with music. My teacher, who was conducting at the foot of the stage, indicated that I should begin singing. I was a statue, frozen in place. I gazed up at the ceiling, blocking out the blurry audience beneath, and let my voice go.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 974)
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