What do you do with it?

I have a friend who loves studying the Bible, but doesn't want to join a bible study or a Sunday school class because he's used to studying "at a certain level" and doesn't want to find himself with a bunch of people who are just discovering what he learned years ago. I get that. It's boring. And I used to work with a drummer who was phenomenal. Quick, great instincts, someone who heard the whole ensemble and the room, and fit himself in accordingly. Someone who I could put a chart in front of, and he'd feel his way through a brand new song like he could read my mind.

But he was irritable. Snappish. He drank too much. After a few rehearsals, I knew why. He was bored. Why did we have to go over it? He had it, and he resented those of us who did not have it on take 1.5.

I get that. My musical execution is far from perfect, but the "getting it" part comes easily for me. When I was in high school I had my first experiences of sitting there in some rehearsal or other, waiting for others to catch up.

This is hard to talk about. It sounds braggy. But it's important.

My drummer friend lit up when we had a good bass player, when the other singers weren't there. He loved it when we could just fly through songs and not have to stop. He talked a bit about how hard it was to find people to play with. I got that, but it also got me thinking.

When you have to sit in rehearsal after rehearsal, waiting for other people to catch up, it feels like a waste of time, and in some ways it is. If we could only work with the fast people, we'd be done and out of there in a half hour. But that hardly ever happens, so there we are, with time on our hands.

What do we do with it?

One of the first things that helped change my mind about this wasted time was that those people, who needed extra time to catch up, became my friends. And I finally opened my selfish heart to notice that finding the pitch, reading the chart, feeling the rhythm were not the only things that matter. Some of these people sing with a glorious tone I will never match. Some are patient and kind with themselves, as well as with the rest of us. Some are so happy to be there, and work so hard, and would not dream of being arrogant or impatient. Who was I to say that musicianship is everything? It isn't.

Another thing that helped me change was the long stretches where I had no one to work with. That sucks, since my main instrument is not voice but voices. I dubbed track upon track in the studio and it wasn't the same. I realized that those people like Lenny Kravitz, who play every track on some songs, may be hypertalented - but they probably have no friends. Or ... maybe no one will work with them.

At some point I looked around and figured that while I was sitting there with nothing to do, maybe I could help. Not by being a know-it-all - I do that so much, I should know how little it helps - but by listening. Being patient. Singing my part patiently, over and over, so that someone else can hear it. Lending my pencil, without giving attitude that someone else doesn't have theirs. And gently, when the opportunity is there, teaching.

I never thought I would teach. I didn't see how it could match the buzz of performing. But I still sat in rehearsals, and eventually it just happened sometimes that I could help, and helping turned into teaching. Once I stopped thinking about myself and my boredom for two seconds, I realized how the person next to me, who could not find the pitch after five tries, felt.

Because that's how I felt when I couldn't stay on a diet for even one day. When it took so long for me to finish running the mile, the trainers just about went home. When I couldn't get pregnant for five years, even with all the help in the world.

Oh. That's what that feels like. Duh. If I can help with that feeling, that's a whole different kind of buzz.

So now when I go to a rehearsal I get to sing, some, and if I'm lucky, I get to help. Some. At the end we maybe sound good, and maybe we don't. But I know for sure where the time went, and what it was for.


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