Recently, I was asked to perform a descant at Carnegie Hall. To create some perspective, Carnegie Hall seats 2,804 audience members. Two thousand… eight hundred… and four… people. I would be up on that stage, expected to command the attention of almost six thousand eyes and ears.
I said “yes.”
I say yes to music, because of how many times music has said yes to me.
As a classically-trained soprano and certified school music teacher, I have a unique glimpse into the world of yes. Programmed to protect ourselves from unfamiliar and potentially dangerous experiences, I see students (and myself) turn down singing opportunities on a regular basis. Inaction can feel safer than action. But if fear is allowed, we short-circuit our unlimited capabilities, leaving rich mines of talent and courage unexplored.
For me, yes has meant accepting performance opportunities that absolutely terrify the hell out of me. Yes has helped me build relationships. Yes inspires me to step into the arena and do, rather than criticize from the sidelines.
And yes puts me in the moment. Live music performance transforms and suspends time. Yes means getting on the ride at the beginning and getting off at the end, with no option to stop in between.
I performed the descant at a live performance this week in preparation for the main event next month. A descant is a high solo that soars over the choral parts of a performance. After a long day of singing and talking with elementary students, I was nervous that my voice was too tired for the high B’s (a pure, clear note that is devastatingly beautiful but vocally challenging for me). I also began to question my memorization – did I really know my entrances?
But I had said yes – there was no turning back.
The performance began – a percussive, energetic choral piece that I sang with the ensemble before my solo.
Singing good choral music is like launching a kayak into white water rapids – navigable (if you have skill and experience), unstoppable, and slightly terrifying. When it was time for my solo, it was as though the edge of a waterfall had appeared and I was going over it, whether I wanted to or not.
My mind raced as the beats of the music pulsed by. Would my voice break? Would I make my entrance?
I opened my mouth and somehow beautiful singing streamed out. I breathed and pressed into the next entrance. The high B approached, and I wondered if I should take the optional lower note. Then the music teacher in me noticed that the choir, in its excitement, had raised the pitch of the a cappella piece by a half step. The high B would need to be even higher - a high C… if I chose to sing it!
I said yes.
I spread my lips wide and funneled all of my breath, sound, hope, and energy into a swirling high C that shimmered across the audience with power and radiance.
I owned my yes. Instead of playing it safe in a song that had gone steeply uphill in pitch, I followed the current and exploded to the other side with energy and confidence. Best of all, I now know that if I can do it on a small local stage, I can do it in New York.
So I continue to say yes to music because of all the ways music has encouraged, supported, expanded and affirmed me.
Yes keeps me present to the needs of the moment, instead of allowing me to collapse in fear.
And most important, my emboldened Yes has made my world bigger, more exciting, and more multi-dimensional than any safe haven could ever have.
By Rachel Trotta
Rachel Trotta is a writer, teacher, and coach in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Author of the book Abundance Reconsidered, a career workbook, Rachel also hosts her blog and accepts writing submissions at www.racheltrotta.com.
Essay edited by Melinda Gates, AwakeningToYes.com