Coming out of the Musical Closet

On Facebook today, I posted about purchasing two pieces of sheet music and looking forward to playing them. A friend of mine commented that she didn’t know that I was musical and I responded that it was one of those things that I tended to keep secret.Then, (just as I was writing this post) someone (who I think that I’ve known since like Grade One or something) said that he had no idea.

I’ve written about this before, my hidden musician. Much like my hidden writer, she is really freaked out and scared and thinks she sucks and is flat all of the time when she sings and cannot play the piano properly so why try etc. etc. BORING!

The thing is, since I was a little kid, all I ever wanted to do was play the piano. When I was eleven, I finally got the opportunity. Bad teachers and boring pieces turned me off of it and then thanks to a cute boy (yes, sad but true) that I had a crush on while working at a day camp when I was fifteen, I was inspired to take piano again. Although the crush certainly didn’t last, the music definitely did.

I learned to play so that I could amuse myself and play songs that I liked. I used to imagine myself playing in front of a concert of people. Or, being some kind of musical virtuoso like Mozart or being as good as that girl, you know the one, who wowed everyone by her skill as a pianist. Ah me, again there is that familiar perfectionist girl who wishes to be the best and most wonderful at something and if she isn’t…well…then why bother.

While I was living in Montreal, I surrounded myself with musicians. In fact, when I ran the shipping department, I hired drummers and guitar players and I think a bassist. On one level, I argued that they were good workers and committed to a process for if you had the commitment to learn an instrument and be in a band, well, then you could be (for the most part) responsible enough to show up on time and do a good job. And that was true. On the other level, I think that I liked hanging around with musicians so we can talk about making music or playing music or just the vibe of being around someone who might bring their guitar to work.

I also made friends in grad school who were musicians as well. We were so musical that we even did a talent show (just like Judy and Mickey) to raise money for graduate scholarship. I sang everything from Carol King to Natalie Merchant in smokey bars with my friends with me. It was fun and scary too.

And then I came back to Toronto and I am not sure what happened, but my musician took a walk for awhile. I played piano when I could and was moved to, but I was distracted I guess or something. I have no idea what happened actually. But, all of those insecurities returned. Maybe, it was the same thing that blocked my writing. I still don’t quite get it.

As I have written here, upon the recommendation of a co-worker, I started to take a choir class at the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM). It was pretty scary for me. I haven’t sight sung in like twelve years and in Latin to boot. I worried that I would throw off the women sitting next to me and that the choir director would keep looking at me wondering what I was doing there. But, the teacher is lovely and funny and makes everyone feel that it is okay. Everyone who is there have day jobs and like to sing and just want the opportunity to do so.

My voice was tired, like a muscle that hasn’t been worked out in a while and I don’t have the range that I did, but I have noticed in the past week or so, that it is warming up. I want to sing like all of the time. Which might look weird when I am walking down King Street with my ipod on.

And, I am being pulled back to the piano. There are three or four pieces that I want to work on and I was inspired to go to the music store and look for some new pieces. I couldn’t wait to get home and play them. It was great. I am rusty, but my sight reading is still pretty good and I can sing along. And, today, I played with my partner sitting beside me working on the computer. He was inches away and I continued to play without shaking or worrying that I sucked. It felt like a safe place to be. It was a safe place to be.

Part of navigating this creative process is allowing myself to tap back into the things. I don’t have to choose between my music and my writing. They come from the same place. In fact, I’ve noticed that my writing is becoming about music. The theme of music is huge in my novel. It only makes sense, that I return to playing it to help me write what comes next on the page.

So, my little musician girl…welcome back to the world!


About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
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