When I was 19, I got the chance to begin two of my dreams simultaneously–to be a dancer and to be a singer. As it turned out, my boss at the dance studio also did private voice lessons. I went to her house weekly and learned all about getting color in my voice. She pushed me to practice and audition. She said that without auditions, you won’t have the drive to grow as a vocalist. I attacked singing the same way I do everything: dove in with tons of energy and practiced daily, even when my family was home and made fun of my vocal warm ups. It didn’t matter, I was going to be on Broadway some day.
Within months of beginning voice lessons, the touring company that produced Rent held auditions in DC. I dreamed of performing in Rent ever since I visited New York a mere months ago and fell in love with the city. I imagined a life filled with all things New York–walking, subways, art galleries and art openings, performing till late into the night, cast parties. I was so ready to be a Broadway star. My vocal instructor was so excited about my audition, she even lent me a dress and her pitch-pipe. After a few rejections, my dream seemed to slowly slip away.
You see, I have had this drive to be perfect for so long and if I didn’t show growth in the “right” amount of time, then I quit. It’s my way of protecting myself from failure. It is an annoying habit and honestly a lame one. I let go of singing, aside from belting it out in my car, shortly after not making it into Rent. Until, I met EBS.
EBS and I met in New York while in graduate school to become English Teachers. She loves 80s music and karaoke. The latter was what I admired her for the most. I was scared shit-less of singing in front of a crowd at a bar, but she somehow loved it and was tremendous at it. The first time we went out for karaoke, I watched her and others perform completely afraid, secretly jealous like when you watch a person fearlessly dive off a waterfall. That evening I left the bar filled with regret. After several long conversations with EBS and JBS, I began to gain courage.
Performing duets and private room karaoke became my safety net. I belted out 80s rock ballads mostly–after all EBS was my mentor.
Nine years after that first night of regret, I was walking side-by-side my two girl pals on 3rd Avenue–the same street where we went to karaoke years ago in New York City. We were ending our annual girls getaway and had eaten at a lovely little hole-in-the-wall French place. After a long trip of shopping and walking, the three of us were exhausted. We were to leave the next day and already sad about the end of our getaway. It was Sunday night at 10 pm, 3rd Avenue was ghost town. As I separated myself from the trio, to go deep into reminiscing mode, I glanced across the street and caught the sign The Joshua Tree. I remembered a faint memory of something happening at this bar, but couldn’t pinpoint the memory. So, I turned to EBS and asked her if it triggered a memory for her. Instantly, we walked over and saw a sign that said Karaoke Tonight! We looked at each other with wide eyes that telepathically communicated: “Oh Shit!” in unison. We promised, since we were exhausted and had to leave the next day, to do one group song and go back to our hotel room. Six songs, a shot of Patron, and meeting an almost celebrity later, we were having the night of our lives. (We even have a montage of blurry pics to prove it.) Then, I declared that our finale song would be “Man in the Mirror”, to which we squealed in delight.
I proudly, without a shed of fear or regret, walked to the DJ and deposited my slip of paper with our request on it. She looked down and into my eyes affirming the greatness that was to transpire. The corners of my lips crept up, my head nodded affirming the same. I walked away ready. In the next half hours the DJ called the people before us to sing, the energy in the bar slowly built like a roller coaster getting pulled up the hill. In between each performance, she played different MJ songs further laying the path for us. When she called us up, we walked up naive of our rock star abilities. The mellow tune began gently grounding every voice in the bar. “I’m gonna make a change…” I turned away from the audience for a second singing with the girls who love me unconditionally, tolerate all my insanity and celebrate my ability to be shi-shi and cheesy. Just then, the chorus hit us like a fire hose on a hazy summer day in the city. The bar erupted in unison. Suddenly, we were all breathing at the same time, swaying, reminiscing, coming together as one voice. Each voice rocking out to a different part like a jazz band jamming with instrumental solos. The final three words scrolled on the karaoke screen–“Make that Change”; our DJ concluded our night with: “Give it up for the three baddest bitches in this place!”
M., EBS, and I walked off stage wind blowing our hair out of our faces, soaking in our once in a lifetime epic moment.