Saturday, January 12, 2008


See African Healing Dance video

My ability to draw and read was praised early in my life. For that I am extremely grateful.

When I was a very young child, I took a tap-dancing lesson. I remember how hard I practiced the routine at home. When I went back to the class, the teacher scolded me saying, "Well, it's obvious that this girl didn't practice our lesson."

When I was a child in grade school, I was given a test along with my schoolmates in order to assess my musical ability. I scored so low that, while other children were given instruments to play, I was given wooden rhythm sticks along with a few other low-scoring children, after which it was pointed out to me that was I unable to "keep a rhythm."

Around the same time, I tried out for the "Glee Club." Along with two other students, I was not allowed to sing in the "Glee Club." A few years later, I tried out again for a school singing group and was rejected.

In high school, during a folk dance class, the teacher said to me in exasperation, "I have never seen such an uncoordinated clod!"

When I was 18 years old and in college, I took a class called "Introduction To Music." I LOVED the class and spent hours in the music lab listening and learning. From knowing nothing at all about music, I went to knowing something about music but it was only enough to earn me a "D" grade in the class. After receiving the "D," I went to talk with the professor, explaining that I had entered the class knowing absolutely nothing about music, had loved the class and had learned a tremendous amount about music. I asked if he would reconsider the "D" grade. He said, "No. As far as I am concerned, you learned a "D" amount about music."

For most of my life, I have shied away from dancing, singing or playing musical instruments in front of other people, although I have enjoyed all three in solitude. I continue to enjoy dancing with the video, "African Healing Dance." Sometime around 2000, I bought a Suzuki keyboard and some piano instruction books for children and taught myself to play in a way that brings me much happiness.

I wonder how many people were discouraged from drawing, in the way I was discouraged from dancing, singing and playing a musical instrument.

I was not a child who had the self-esteem to rebel against being told that I would never be "good enough" in one way or another. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I began to rebel against my internalized messages that, with a few exceptions, I wasn't "good enough."

The old internalized "not good enough" messages are coming up as I experience my first days back in college at age 58. This time I am rebelling against those messages.


Anonymous said...

Your story sounds a lot like mine, only I can't draw, either. I can't do anything artistic. I failed ballet three times, until the teacher finally told my mother she was wasting her money. When I tried a modern dance class at college years later, I was told anyone could learn to dance. Three weeks into it, the teacher apologized to me for misleading me. I was told not to sing in the school choir because I ruined it for everyone, and was ordered to just mouth the words and look like I was enjoying myself. I failed all art classes. The only thing I can do reasonably well is write. I think, really, I'm a reasonably decent writing teacher because of how I've had to struggle to learn certain things. I empathize with my students when it doesn't come easily. And I know how painful it is to be considered a lost cause! tarakuanyin

Loren said...

I certainly had the same experience with singing when I was asked not to sing folk songs in the 5th grade because I sang off key and everyone wanted to follow me. Of course, my family used to laugh at me because I would humm off key while listening to music with my headphones. Now I know I was just adding a certain resonance that the music lacked ;-(

My SAT scores said I lacked English scores but was exceptional in math skills. I found that a bit odd since I'd earned straight A's since junior high in English and read novels in junior high that most adults had never read.

I decided to show them and major in English in college instead of Physics, the department I'd been orginally accepted for.

Most of what we do seems to tied up with what we practice. If we don't dance, don't sing, or don't draw, we will probably lack the skill to do so. But I think everyone, unless they lack a necessary physical skill, like hearing or body strength, can perform well in these areas given enough time to practice them.

Zhoen said...

Good that you claim it now.

I couldn't type, but my typing teacher, seeing how hard I tried, gave me a C instead of failing me. She took into account my native inability. Your music prof deserves to be hit with his own baton, or have it stuck up his nose.

Dance, sing, play, good on you. I can't sing with people who are off key, but I would never tell them not to sing at all.

robin andrea said...

You write with rhythm, you paint music. Your love of music is so evident here on your blog. Lyrics and lyrical. Teachers grade on things irrelevant to the heart.

The Solitary Walker said...

I love music but I'm only average at keyboard skills (my instrument is the piano). However that didn't stop me joining a local rock band a while ago. I thought... What the hell! All the other band members were much younger than me. But I gave it a go. And had a lot of fun for a bit. Even if I did play fairly badly, and I'm sure they put me down low in the sound mix...

Anonymous said...

I echo what Robin said. The teachers just weren't good enough to recognize your rhythm. Well, you're finding it, in your own way(that's the best way, imo ;-).
I'm behind on stuff so there're lots of drawings here I'd like to comment on, but little time. I'll just say here, they're looking good to me, I think you're doing great, and I'm so glad you're keeping it up.

I'll leave you with something my Grann-Mamaw-she hated to be called Granny-said to me one day, after her health and mind had deteriorated to the point the other adults wouldn't let her do much. She was always on my case when she was up and going, but this time she was sitting on the sidelines, watching the others chew me out. She waved at me, knotted up her little fist and said, "Don't let'em down ye!"

Anonymous said...

Oh, please tell me the name of the idiot who gave you a D in music appreciation! That gave me a good laugh, because I know you know a lot about music because you listen to your heart.