Ever since I was little, I always enjoyed singing. I would sing songs from “The Little Mermaid,” trying to copy Ariel’s beautiful voice. Then when my mom joined the band Corban, she let my siblings and I climb on stage to help them sing one of their songs.
Even though I had a lot of experience singing in front of people, I would always get stage fright before going on stage. I was always afraid I would sing the wrong words or forget the song completely. This nightmare came true when I was living in Trujillo, Peru.
In 2001, my school offered a music class for the first time, so I was able to join when I was 8 years old. Since the music teacher, David, happened to be the music director of the church where my dad was a pastor, he knew I could sing and decided to give me as many solos as he could during the year.
The school system in Peru is different than that of the United States. Instead of beginning the school year in August or September and finishing in May or June, the schools in Peru begin in March and end in December because that is when their summer begins. So, the music department had the opportunity to present a program for Father’s Day in June. The program for my class involved a solo with two verses and the rest of the choir only singing the chorus.
It did not come as a surprise to anyone when David chose me to be the soloist. However, I still got very nervous. This was the biggest solo I had ever been given and I was expected to sing it in front of all of my classmates’ parents. So, I began rehearsing with my mom’s help about a month in advance.
When the day came, I stood just in front of the stage with the rest of the choir arranged on the steps behind me. All of them were instructed to keep their heads bowed until the end of the first verse, so it would just be me looking out at the crowd as I sang. When the music started, my knees began to shake in my dress, so I started swaying back and forth so no one would notice. As I started to sing, I began to gain confidence and I finished the song without making a single mistake.
When I met my dad after the presentation, he hugged me and said it was a great performance. I had kept the song a secret from him the entire year up to that point because I wanted him to be surprised when he heard the song, so I was glad he had enjoyed it.
Six months later, David was put in charge of the children’s Christmas program for our church. Since the Father’s Day song had been such a success, he asked me if I would sing it in church, as well, and I said I would. Since I already knew the song, I did not practice as much as I had before.
About a week before the performance, David came up to me and asked if my sister Michaela could sing the song with me. He figured it would be much cuter with two sisters singing together. I told him it would not be a problem and began to practice with my sister.
The day of the presentation, I got nervous again. I had to sing the same song for three services in front of people I had known almost my entire life. When the music started to play, I began swaying back and forth again to stop my knees from shaking. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Michaela next to me with her microphone standing completely still. She did not look like she was nervous at all, and I thought she was very lucky.
When we began singing, I realized I could not hear Michaela.
“If I can’t hear her, everyone else probably can’t, either,” I thought.
In order to give her a chance to be heard, I stopped singing halfway through the first verse. What I did not know was that Michaela did not know the song very well, so she was following my lead. As soon as I stopped singing, she stopped singing too. In that brief second it took me to realize Michaela had stopped singing, I lost my place in the song.
My worst nightmare had come true.
I panicked. I searched my brain for the rest of the words for the verse and began singing the first thing I came up with. After I started singing again, I realized I was singing the words to the second verse rather than the first verse.
Because of the mistake, David motioned for the people in the sound booth to repeat the chorus on the track and directed us to repeat the chorus four times instead of just two.
After the end of the program, I ran upstairs to the church offices and cried because I was so embarrassed. My parents found me a few minutes later and tried to comfort me.
“I don’t want to sing ever again,” I said.
“We want to show you a video,” Dad said.
My dad pulled out his video camera and put in a tape. I watched the video he took of me singing the same song for Father’s Day.
“See, you can do it,” Dad said. “You know all of the words. You have done it before.”
When I remained unconvinced, my mom proceeded to share a story of when she had to sing in front of her church and she forgot the words to her song completely. She could not even think of the words to the rest of the song, so she just stood on the stage in complete silence.
“So at least you kept singing,” Mom said. “Plus, I doubt anyone noticed you sang the words to the second verse.”
I finally agreed to sing for the next two services and they both went much better than the first.
I now help lead worship for Faith Alliance Church in Lynchburg, Virginia every Sunday. I still get stage fright every time I perform, but I remind myself that I am not singing for the audience, I am simply leading them in worship.