A Song of Bravado
When my cousin, Kim, invited me to his annual Scottish Highland Games to “pipe in” the opening ceremonies, little did I know that it would be my voice, not my bagpipe, that would attract the attention of the folks gathered there, including the woman who would become my wife. She tells me that when she heard me sing my now celebrated a cappella rendition of “O, Danny Boy,” she knew that she would one day marry me.
Confidence hadn’t always been my strong suit. I was overcome with dread when asked to stand before an audience of any kind until I was forced to sing in a school concert. I finally discovered something about myself that set me apart from the rest. Eventually I got the nerve to try Community Theater and church solos. As the size of the audiences increased, so did my confidence. An opportunity to try out this new found courage presented itself when I stopped in for a pint at a local St. Paul pub where an Irish entertainer was onstage taking requests. Naturally, I requested “O, Danny Boy.” “Do you know it?” he asked. I nodded. So he summoned me to the mike, where in my best a cappella voice, I brought the pub from a din to silence, then back to a rousing round of applause, which confirmed that I had something that they really enjoyed.
As my confidence grew, so did my desire and willingness to sing in public, and perhaps the most inspiring audience response came at the “Prairie Home Companion” New Year’s Eve party, when I hesitantly volunteered to get up and join seven others in singing “My Way.” Apparently Garrison Keillor feels every year should end with “a song of bravado and defiance.” His stagehand told me I would solo on the first few lines of the song (which I had never sung before), but it was too late to protest as Keillor cued me to begin. After just a few lines, the audience applauded wildly, Keillor’s usual deadpan face brightened, and he smiled uncharacteristically and told me to keep it up, saying my “audition” was going very well. Afterwards, he invited me to join him center stage, told me I was a “champ,” and that I was hired.
What that means exactly, I don’t know, because I still work as a baggage handler for Northwest Airlines. No, I haven’t quit my day job yet. But now I have the confidence to go after anything I want. I’ve gone back to school to finish my degree and am looking forward to a new career in teaching. I’m finally doing things “My Way,” and I believe the confidence I’ve gained through singing has encouraged me to pursue not just living, but to change my life.
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