Many people have that teacher who really made a positive impact on their life. For me, it was my Biology teacher, who I will call Mr. Cool-guy, to protect the innocent. He was a young man at the time, though I never saw that or realized it. But he had kids younger than me so he must have been young, right?
Mr. Cool-guy's style was very engaging and he was patient in his way of teaching. Even when he was angry at you, he was nice about it. Never yelled or belittled you. A really cool guy and he inspired me.
But what about that teacher who scarred you for life? That one that STILL makes you cringe when you occasionally are reminded of that person? I have one of those. She was my Music teacher in grades 5 and 6. Thankfully, I left her behind because grades 7-12 were in the high school which was a different building altogether!
I have 2 nasty memories of her that stick out. The one that was pivotal for me happened in Grade 5. I truly feel this was the start of my lack of self-esteem. It was time for choir tryouts and I was so excited! I loved singing so much and I really don’t know if I could sing or not. I was an empty vessel that wanted to be filled with music and I so wanted to be in the choir.
I come from a musical family. All my aunts and uncles on my mom’s side are musical. Piano players, guitar players, singers and accordion players, to name a few. You name it, and someone could play it. Many of the offspring of this clan also have the musical bug. My Aunt C. has 2 sons who played in bands their wholes lives, drumming and singing and playing whatever need to be played. And still do.
I too, had the musical bug, or at least I believe I did. But along came The Exterminator, the Crusher of Hopes and Dreams of Young Girls, Ms. Pelly. Her name has not been changed because she is not innocent. I picture her now as a 65 year old spinster who is surrounded by cats and has stacks of newspapers resembling a maze in her living room. That woman was so bitter and it showed in everything she did. Of course I can say that now, because I have had many years to mull this over. 33 years to be exact. I wonder if she has any idea the impact she had on me that day. I can only hope that as she got more experience teaching, she stopped being such a destroyer of little hearts.
Picture 10 year old me. That 70’s mushroom bowl cut. (See above! I refuse to post a photo of myself!) Wearing bell bottoms and playing hopscotch on a board that we scratched in the gravel of our unpaved school parking lot. Wide eyed and bushy tailed. Ready to sing my heart out!
The choir tryout consisted of the never-so-lovely Ms. Pelly striking a note on the piano and telling me to sing it. One note. One tiny note. And only once. I don’t know about you, but back circa 1979, 10 year old kids in rural Newfoundland were not lucky enough to have had singing lessons and I had no idea how to hit a note on cue. So, of course, I was not able to sing the note and with that, the tryout was over and I was out the door. I was crushed and humiliated!
So here I am, over 3 decades later, still influenced by that one note, so very long ago. It has only been in the last couple of years have I found my voice and have let it out in front of people, while playing Sing Star mostly! But it took a very long time to get there. That one little note still continues to influence anything and everything about music for me.
In grade 6, I started guitar lessons. It really helps to sing while you are learning to play guitar, but by now I had developed a complex and refused to sing while playing guitar. For the rest of my time in school, grades 6-12, I continued to take guitar lessons, but I never ever made sounds come out of my mouth in the form of a song.
Talk about crushing the spirit of a young child. How could anyone be so…mean? I can only assume that she was so unhappy with her life (and this was 1979, not much back then for counselling) and her only outlet was the kids she taught. Maybe she was abused at home. Maybe she was an alcoholic. Hooked on Happy Pills. Who knows? Those things weren’t really talked about back then. All I do know, is I wish I had never even met her. EVER. Who knows what I could have done with my music, if she hadn’t crush it like it was nothing of consequence.
These days, if a kid wants to be in choir, well then choir it is. No tryouts necessary. Anyone who wants to learn to play an instrument, can. My daughter picked saxophone and learned how to play a song within the first few weeks. She taught herself violin. She can play the ukulele. She can play the tin flute. The recorder. That’s progress or maybe it’s just less about controlling the child now and more about letting them explore their potential.
I have yearned my whole life for the confidence to sing and know I don’t sound like a cat with its tail stuck in a door. I really don’t know how I sound and I am scared to find out.