Friday, February 05, 2010

You Know You've Made It When...

I fancy myself a decent amateur musician. I started taking piano lessons when I was 4. At 8 I was taking from a part-time BYU professor. At 14 I switched to Dr. Shumway, who was the keyboard department chair at the Y.

I was sought after in my ward to accompany soloists and small groups. I even played, from time to time, for the ward choir.

The first solo-ensemble award that I ever won, I won as the group pianist. My crowning achievement was accompanying my high school choir on a really hard, heart-stopping piece. But I did it! With hundreds of fellow students and parents in the audience, I pulled it off.

I had achieved everything I had set out to achieve. I could play any hymn, any primary song, I could even play for the ward choir, if necessary. So I quit taking lessons. And quit practicing. And I got a little rusty.

Then there was the incident in my young married ward that shamed me into a hiatus that lasted 8 years. I began denying that I played and avoiding it at all costs.

Maybe 6 years into my hiatus, my parents bought us a piano. It was old, but sound. Perfect for little kids to take lessons on and for me to remember that I could play.

One day in Relief Society a list came around for substituting in Primary. Who could help and for what hour(s)? I wrote down that, if I was given enough warning, I could sub as the pianist. Soon I was asked to play for a Baptism Preview. It wouldn't be too scary--just a handful of parents and kids. And my hiatus was over. Within a month I was called as the Primary pianist. I have played every week in Primary for over three years and in three primary programs in front of the whole ward. And it's all come back to me.

I can play anything. Anything. If you give me enough time to practice, I can play whatever you want. I even convinced my sister to tackle "Sleigh Ride," a difficult duet we played when I was 15 and she was 17--back when we both practiced 1.5 hours a day.

But not everyone knows. On Wendell's side of the family we have 25 nieces and nephews, including 12 who have already been baptized. Yet I have never been asked to play a single hymn or primary song. In fact, I have never even been asked to lead a hymn or primary song. This all seemed reasonable in the beginning.

When Wendell and I got married, I was still taking private voice lessons from a professor at BYU in the Music, Dance, Theater department. And I had just finished a couple of years singing with the BYU Women's chorus. To get into any audition choirs at BYU was good. The year I got in, there were 40 open slots and 400 women who auditioned. Many a music major was informed that she wouldn't make it into any audition choirs. And I was in just for fun.

I figured that was intimidating. I mean, I wasn't just good--I was maybe not great, but way better than average. It seemed that family members wanted to use those who didn't have as much musical experience as I had and I didn't mind sitting back and letting others have a turn.

Then there were the kids--three in short succession. It's hard to play or lead with a baby on your hip, so I figured that's why I was never asked. After that it was Wendell's schedule. He started working Saturdays and making it to baptisms was tricky. So there I was, alone with 3, then 4, then 5 kids. It all made sense. I took no offense.

Then more than a year ago at my nephew's baptism, a favored uncle was late and he was supposed to be leading the music. I was already on my feet walking Beck around when the song was announced. After 2 years as the primary pianist I knew all the songs. I told my kids to behave, handed the baby off and headed up to the front.

I lead well and it was no big deal for me to step in. What floored me was later learning that one of my brothers-in-law complimented me to Wendell saying that he was surprised at how well I lead and he didn't realize that I knew how.

I almost fell over. Music isn't just something I do--it's something I do well and, I learned that somehow, even after more than a decade in the family, most of his family did not think of me as a person with ANY musical talent. None. They don't know I play. They don't know I lead. They don't realize that I have a rather vast and impressive musical background.

Now, as I said in the beginning, I fancy myself a decent amateur musician. I realize that I'm not professional or even amazing. But I am certainly every bit as good as any family member whose musical talents are regularly requested.

I know I sound a bit bragging, but stop for a second a list off the top five things that you do well. Got it? Now pick one thing and imagine that after 12 years of marriage NONE of your in-laws think you do one of those things well. None. Can you imagine?

And how, exactly, do you go about correcting this? I've debated just calling people, especially with up coming baptisms and saying, "Even though you've known me for 13 years, you don't know my secret talent--I play the piano. And should you, say, need a pianist, I could play for you. At a moments notice. I know all the primary songs. I can play!"

This would be awkward. But my moment has arrived. No, it's not a niece or nephew who has asked me to play the piano, but my neighbor. Could I play at her daughter's baptism with very little notice? Yes. Yes I could. And even though she thinks that she is inconveniencing me, she isn't. I am DELIGHTED to be asked. Who knows? Maybe the word will spread.


7 comments:

Annalise said...

Oh, I can't believe your in-laws don't know about your "hidden" talents! I'm glad you're playing again...and I sure hope you're singing a lot, too. I have to admit I was always envious of your beautiful voice! :)

Jen said...

I've been very surprised to find out how many people play in our ward. One man actually has a band and writes and arranges sons and plays 12 instruments, but no one in our ward even knew it!

Let's see...top 5 things I can do well:

-I'm a good writer
-I'm great at music, but especially the flute
-I'm understand psychological and sociological concepts and seeing their implications
-I can read people pretty well and I have good communication skills
-I can write and implement a very successful behavior plan.

I guess my last 3 are cop outs because they all involve psychology...that's all I've got today.

Confession Time: Morning People

Livvy's Mom said...

I don't know if I should leave a coment or not... I am an in-law!!!! Jenna I knew you were great in music... I don't know why we would never ask... but fear not!!!!! I have 4 more kids to be baptized and now the word is out you may be in trouble... I will keep you in mind,

Suzanne said...

You did a FABULOUS job at Zoe's baptism... and yes, I was very worried that I was inconveniencing you. But thank you for being willing and gracious.

Thanks, Jenna. =)

(ps- Jon's family still doesn't know a few things about me, either. But I think my case had something to do with me hiding my talents from people... because sometimes I think that I have none.)

Mencl Mania said...

Hello!! Haven't they ever sat close enough to you to hear you sing? I knew the first week in sacrament meeting at BYU that you had an amazing talent. I just assumed that to sing like you do, that leading and piano were a given. If it makes you feel better, my in-laws know I play but no one plays as good as their own daughter. And I agree, she is good, but I'm just as good....no, I'm better! :) Your time will come. To every thing there is a season, at least I feel better if I tell myself that.

Jenna said...

Tamma, I would love to play for you! The other factor, I realize, is that I'm not anybody's favorite aunt--and it's the favs that get asked at baptisms. And that's OK. But, if you need me--I'm there.

Tigerlily said...

I feel that way about my clarinet. I play. I play well. So why do we always get the same harp, violin and flute in church, at relief society functions and other things? Woodwinds are allowed. The clarinet is a woodwind! They always seem surprised and say "I never thought about that!"