Thursday, February 07, 2008

Everyone Needs a Toni

I woke up this morning and lay in bed thinking about American Idol… more specifically, wondering how they saw talent in individuals who clearly had none. Now, I know for certain that I can’t sing, but am I, no, is my whole family so musically un-inclined that what sounds hideous to us can actually be unpolished raw talent?

This led to me thinking about my own musical shortcomings, and my gratitude to Toni O. See, I can’t sing. And I use “can’t” in the strongest sense of the word here. I can’t find the tune, let alone carry it. Tragically, I have always loved to sing… and since you really can’t evaluate your own skills in this area, I sang more frequently than I probably should have… because very few people (besides Simon Cowell) are willing to look you in the face and tell you the truth. And unfortunately, if you love to do something, you tend to overlook the subtle clues that should dissuade you.


In sixth grade, I tried out for the Glee Club. Everybody tried out for the 6th grade Glee Club… and everybody made it. Except for me. Now let me ask you, how bad does one have to be to not make the 6th grade Glee Club? During practice session, I would sit in the classroom with 1 or 2 other kids and so homework while the rest of the class sang somewhere else. This really should’ve been my first clue. But I didn’t get it.

I went on to participate in the school chorus for 7th and 8th grades (it was a class, they couldn’t kick me out) and even sang in a trio with two of my best friends at a church pancake breakfast. We spent many, many afternoons with the church’s choir director practicing the song she had selected for us, I Don’t Know How to Love Him, from Jesus Christ Superstar. In hindsight, the question of the song selection for a nice Presbyterian church event, let alone for three 12 year old girls makes for some interesting discussion in itself… but it was the 70s.

It wasn’t until late in my 8th grade year, when, still undaunted, naïve, and clueless, I tried out for a solo in our year-end chorus production that I was painfully confronted with the truth. The messenger of this truth was one Toni O. Toni was a year younger than me but tough as nails and exactly the type of gal that a gifted student and member of the honor society like myself feared. (I still hesitate to print her full name for fear that she’ll find this in a Google search and come beat me up.) I will never forget the moments that followed my solo audition (in which I stood up in front of about 70 of my peers and sang my heart out). I sat down, full of hope and confidence, and Toni turned around and sneered, “That sounded like sh*t.” I think that might’ve been the only time she ever talked to me. And I have never forgotten it. Ever.

Of course I was mortified. It was one of the worst moments of my young life. But, that said, I am grateful. I am grateful that she had the guts to tell me when I was young, in a relatively private setting, so I didn’t have to hear it on national TV. Because if I have learned nothing else from watching American Idol, it’s that friends and family are either universally tone deaf… or they lie.

So please remember mothers… love is blind, not deaf! Our children deserve the truth. And if you aren’t honest with them now… someday Simon Cowell will be. And they’ll never forgive you.

12 comments:

Auntie Pudentaine said...

I think we were separated at birth, you and I. For fear of writing an entire blog post in your comments, I actually think you have gifted me with a post of my own...I have to decide if I will share my shame. How to make the still painful memory funny?

Hope you are all feeling better!! Really do mean that!

Julie said...

OK, what's up? You and I have the same exact singing experience. Except my mom was the Toni O, and I didn't believe her.
Good thing I can sing better now, cause I sing loud in chuch! What???! I don't sing better now....akkk!

Olga said...

When I watch some of those people up there I think they are plants to just bring some comic releif to how BORING Simon and his gang actually are. And maybe make the ones with talent really shine.

Lynda said...

Oh my goodness. See, I'm one of those people who think they can hold a tune and do okay, nothing great, but not offensive, but it is my greatest fear that I'm one of those sad American Idol fools who are sure they can sing and can't! I spent 3 years singing alto in the choir, where I kept asking for reassurance... "are you sure I'm on key? - or do I just think I am. Tell me the truth..." They always said I was doing great, but...

So, I guess I'm one of those who actually can sing, but doesn't believe it convinces herself she really can't!

Michelle said...

You know, I am constantly amazed by the many things we have in common! In fifth grade, I was singing my heart out in choir practice, when my best friend beside me turned and said, "You sound awful!". It was like a knife through my heart!

How are all of you feeling?

sophanne said...

As the resident knitting music teacher I will suggest that everyone can sing. Some people just listen a little more closely than others. Not a bad thing.

As the resident knitting music teacher I will say that I also was rejected from the cool girl choir "The Triadettes" in 7th grade. Good thing to because now it's my JOB and I get PAID for it and THEY didn't get SQUAT and I'M NOT BITTER- with them and their red felt vests.

guiltypleasures said...

I've often wondered what the "bad" singers hear when they sing? How is it possible for the ear to hear something other than the truth? It's very strange, isn't it?

sophanne said...

guiltypleasures- I think it's the same way that my husband can hear me say "I lost that $250 check" when I whisper it but can't hear me say "We were laughing at the thought of Wiccan Lumberjacks at Knit Night." when I'm in full voice!

janet said...

I can't beleive how bad some of the singers are and I can't understand why they don't know it. Don't they have a tape recorder? As for Toni - well she is a tacky crumb because she could have said so many other things to spare your feelings and still get the truth across. How do you know she wasn't jealous of you and dilberately wanted to hurt your feelings?

Sarah said...

I was not in 6th grade glee club either! But there was not a whole lot of thinking I possibly could sing, LOL.

Lydee said...

The bad tryouts are plants. I decided that last year. Ratings, it's all about the ratings, and isn't it so much fun to watch the tryouts?!

As the non-knitting music teacher (although I have learned to wrap mallets with yarn, like a real percussionist/crafter of the thread), I'll offer up my sage advice:

It's hard to open your mouth and make the right sounds come out. It's not like you can press the right keys to make the right sounds, like on an instrument. Be easy on yourself, and practice where no one cares.

Toni O has probably blown out her voice by now screaming at her kids and using illegal substances.

mom said...

Are you sure Toni O. didn't say that to EVERYONE after they sat down after singing? Maybe you really can sing? I dunno...the important thing to me is that EVERYONE can make a joyful noise because I believe it ALL sounds good to God :-)

Forever the optimist....

Blessings,
Tammy ~@~