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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Bar Mitzvah Review

I think my son will turn out to be a good musician.

I base this on his performance at his Bar Mitzvah this past weekend. No, it has nothing to do with his singing voice (which was sweet and clear...and LOUD), or his pitch (which was good).

No, my assessment is based on the fact that he demonstrated the two qualities that I think are essential to a good performer: confidence, and persistence.

You're probably thinking, "wait a minute; what about talent?"
Talent is nice, but it's really a minor part of the deal. What you really need is the ability to make people think you know what you're doing. Whether you do or you don't.

Confidence is the ability to get up in front of the crowd and not look nervous. To deliver your performance in the manner in which it was intended. I'm sure my son was nervous, but nobody could really tell. His voice was even, his speed was steady, and there was no hesitation in his performance. The gabbai told me that in all his years listening to Bar Mitzvahs, he's never heard anyone who sounded so at ease.

Persistence is the ability to keep going no matter what happens. You may forget a line, flub a note, whatever, but if you're a pro, it doesn't get to you. You just keep going. My son did a great job with this. I could tell that there were a few parts where he just didn't remember the tune. But I don't think anyone else could. He just kept going until he hit familiar territory.

To be honest, this last bit was what had worried me the most over the past few months. Early on, as I worked with him, he'd hit a verse where he couldn't remember what the trop (musical note) was. And he'd freeze up. He wouldn't be able to continue until he came up with the note. This is a lot like musicians who can't figure out what the next note is, or how to play it, and stop the song until they get it. You hear this with new piano players; the song is constantly slowing down and speeding up. At some point people reach an epiphany: that the momentum will keep them going and it will be alright. Or they don't. Those that do go on to be pros. Those that don't remain forever amateurs.

And so I drilled the poor boy for months, not to memorize the whole performance perfectly, because that's not always realistic, but to be able to roll with the punches and keep singing. That's what people remember. They remember who sounded like a pro, and who melted down on stage. After a while, he got it. And that's exactly what people commented to me about. "I heard someone yell out a correction, but your son didn't panic; he just repeated it and moved on. Wonderful!"


Ok, there was this one part, during the Haftorah. I had been standing right by the Bimah during the entire reading of the Torah (my son didn't look nervous, but I sure was). When he got up to the Haftorah, I figured I could sit down (because there's no memorization; all the notes are there). The night before, he was practicing the Haftorah, and he kept stumbling over the same few words (bozzezim or something). My mother noticed. She asked if this was going to happen the next day. I said probably, but he knows how to deal with it.

Well, he came up to the perplexing word...but skipped right over it. It took a line or two for people to notice that he was in foreign territory and then they started yelling for him to stop. I was behind him, in my seat, and I looked up to see his teacher looking through the book with him. They both appeared to be lost. After what seemed like forever, I saw my son slap himself in the forehead, and then he started up again. Just as strong and calm as before.

When it was over, I asked what had happened. It seems he had turned two pages instead of one, and just kept going. He was doing next week's Haftorah! It took a while for even him to notice, and then both he and his teacher got back to the right spot.

I think this would have been a show-stopper for most people. But you know what they say...

The show must go on.

1 comment:

Adam Ragil said...

Mazal tov!

Sounds like your boy did good. And you, too.