It was hard to breathe. My lungs couldn’t keep up with how fast my heart raced. The blister from my tall heels was throbbing. My hair was pulled back too tightly. Just a moment ago I was exhausted from a restless and sleepless night, but now, the butterflies in my stomach shot energy throughout my veins so powerfully, my hands trembled, but not with fear. I trembled with anticipation.
Applause broke out as the girl on stage finished her aria. She gave a bow and returned backstage, passing me in a cloud of perfume and nerves. Tears streamed down her face as she muttered to herself, “That was terrible.”
Once she was gone, I focused on the next girl that took the stage. It was Chrissy, my friend and classmate. Her soft voice lifted to all the right notes. Her hands shook as she kept them locked at her waist. I knew she had practiced it a hundred times and nailed it. Today, she would nail it again.
Sure enough she gave a flawless performance and bowed, returning backstage, refraining from squealing. “I did it!” She said, gripping my arms. “You’re next.”
A new surge of adrenalin bolted through my body. I took a long, deep breath, grinned, and stepped out from behind the curtain.
Seeing an auditorium full of listeners awaiting my song was a momentary shock. All eyes were on me. A cough sounded from somewhere in the back. I heard the rustling of a program as someone looked for my name. The bright lights made me feel vulnerable and exposed.
I nodded to the pianist who began the trills across the keys, a task as easy and natural to her as breathing. I was both comfortable and excited to be on stage. Still, it was still nice to have the company of another human behind me, aiding the performance with a backdrop of piano chords.
Then the moment came. My cue. I inhaled a deep breath, holding it steady with a well-trained diaphragm, opened my mouth, and let my voice ring.
The sound of my voice echoed back to me from the back of the auditorium. I knew my volume was sufficient. I knew my pronunciation was adequate. The strength and experience of my voice was nowhere near the skill of students that were my senior, but I didn’t care. The joy of letting the music of my soul fill the ears of the audience was fulfilling. I caught a glimpse of my voice teacher halfway back and to the right, beaming back at me. She patted her ribs over her diaphragm to remind me the most important tool next to the voice when singing.
When the song was over, the applause was both humbling and a relief. At least I didn’t get booed offstage. Some may think it was beautiful. Some may think it was mediocre. To me it was exhilarating, and I couldn’t wait until my next chance to do it again. I walked backstage, passing the girl next in line. Her face was pale with fear. “You can do this,” I whispered to her, and was happy to see her smile.
Greeted by my friends in the back hallway, we congratulated each other and left to a celebratory meal, our hearts soaring with the satisfaction of a job well done. One recital down, many more to go.