During my high school experience, I was a member of three different choir groups. The main school choir, the swing choir and the chosen best of the best for the Christmas Carolers.
It’s difficult to be different when we want to be like the rest. We try so hard, as children (in large) to be different but the same. I am an alto that has always wanted to be a soprano. Why? Because the sopranos always get the limelight because they always seem to be the ones who get to sing the melody.
Everyone wants to sing the melody. We look at sheet music and have to interpret what is written for our function. I am an alto.
Being a child musician, I also played the piano, the flute, and any other instrument I could get my hands on. I was a member of the marching band and Jazz band. Again, Jazz frustrated me because the concept of melody was abstract. I am an alto.
It did not go unnoticed how my fellow classmates who were also altos would belt out, with confidence, the melody with the sopranos. I would sing what was on the sheet music, dutifully, as my classmates admonished me for singing it wrong.
The crowd said I am wrong. Am I wrong? I went to the teacher to check myself. “No, you have it right.” Confused, I continued to do what I thought was right even though the crowd insisted and ridiculed me for being wrong. Again, I checked with the teacher. “What am I not understanding? What am I missing? Why am I wrong?” I am an alto.
Finally, one day, I sang the part the way that I had practiced in accordance with the sheet music. The entire alto section shifted down and away from me. The choir teacher looked at me, alone in my place, doing what she told me was right.
I heard her long beautiful fingernails click on the piano key cover and slam the lid down with so much force that all of the strings in that piano resonated their hum. I am an alto.
Mortified, I stood there wondering what I did. Waiting for her to yell at me for something I did not understand. “That’s IT! I want to see the entire alto section in the back NOW!” Cringing, I thought, “My God. Can I refuse?”
What I was expecting was not what happened. The entire group was admonished for their behavior in shaming me and blaming me when I was the only one that was right. We are altos. Our job is not to sing the melody. We are the harmony of the melody. Yet, everyone wants to be the melody. “If anything, everyone should be going to her to find out how to sing this properly!” We are altos.
I died inside. My mind pleaded, “Please, please don’t call attention to me. It’s already awful as it is.” Again, what I expected with bullying was not what happened. They did exactly what she instructed them to do. They came to me and asked me to lead them the right way. Additionally, I did not gloat. In all reality, I wanted to hide and pretend that it did not happen.
Asking an introvert to lead is like forcing a cat to go swimming sometimes. It’s against our nature to want to do it but some of us recognize that it is needed. If all of us are the melody, there will never be harmony. Sometimes we can lead without being in the limelight. We were altos, we were the harmony and we rocked it.