Can I sing? No

Published 6:01 am Saturday, December 2, 2017

Why study music or literature or art? Even after years of effort, there is so much to learn that we can barely scratch the surface. Why bother?

As a freshman on scholarship at Cumberland Junior College (Now University of the Cumberlands), my roommate and I decided to audition for the college choir. She failed the audition, but by some miracle, I didn’t.

One day during rehearsal, the director asked me to stay after practice. I had no idea what he could possible want as I had attended practice faithfully, had been on time, and had learned the music. I sang with enthusiasm and unlike some of the male choir members, I never slipped a little bourbon on the bus to relax prior to a performance.

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I can’t remember his exact words, but Director Wallace Shearon told me that my voice was dreadful. He, however, wanted me to stay in the choir and mime the words. He then complimented me on the job I had been doing in speaking to the audience prior to the freewill offering collection and hoped that I would continue in that role.

I was young, barely 17, and as I look back on that day, I wonder why I didn’t run from the hall in tears or tell him to take his choir and shove it.

I did neither, and for two years I attended practice faithfully, traveled throughout the South with the choir, did the pitches to the audience (quite successfully, I admit), and learned sacred music that is ingrained in my very being: the words to Handel’s “Messiah,” John Jacob Niles’ “I Wonder as I Wander,” Andre Kopolyoff’s “Alleluia! Christ Is Risen, “ and Horatio G. Spafford’s “It Is Well with my Soul.” And I learned a version of “Amazing Grace” that to that time had been foreign to me.

Do I ever sing? Yes, when I’m alone in my car. Does singing give me pleasure? Yes. Would you want me in your choir? Absolutely not.

I tell this story today to make the point that when I’m offered a seat at the table, almost invariably, I take it. I encourage others to do the same.

I also want to take this time to indicate that music, art, and literature courses are available at your local colleges. Know that senior citizens can audit free of charge. Consider enriching your life by taking that course that has always interested you but you have not been able to take because of family or job responsibilities.

In regard to taking a set at the table, I’ve done that throughout a long career in higher education. With confidence I have spoken before thousands. That philosophy has led me to some special places with roles I would have never dreamed possible when I was told as an immature college freshman that my talents lay in oratory and not in vocal music.

Contact Dr. Vivian Blevins at