When the lights came up, I was petrified. There they were, in the middle of the audience seats, this panel of judges, scowling, arms crossed. The man on the end looked like an owl, a bald head with huge glasses and eyebrows long enough to comb over.
“Can I start again?” I asked, hearing my voice shake. I knew this was against protocol, audacious, and the answer might not be favorable. To begin with, I hadn’t properly prepared. Sure, I knew the song in my sleep, backwards and forwards. I could sing it in the key of D or F sharp. But that was home in Nashville, the practice rooms of the High School of Performing Arts.
Here it was all different. The Eastman School has a legacy, a prestige I felt oozing from the rafters.
Pretend you’re with Mr. Marsh in your weekly lesson.
Easier said than done, as I watched the judges conferring about my fate.
“Imagine them naked,” Mr. Marsh had said. “Being scared is normal, you focus on the back wall. Helps projection, too.”
These shards of advice darted through my mind. A bead of sweat drip down my spine.
The lady in the middle of the panel stood. She cleared her throat. “Miss…Majong?”
“That’s Majune,” I said, hoping I sounded happy, ready to serve.
Her bun was piled so tightly that her eyes lifted at the corners.
Please say yes, I prayed.
“Please compose yourself,” she said, “and begin again.”
I nodded, instead of the way I’d have responded in Mr.s Marsh’s class. My hands felt moist. I looked over at the pianist, a geeky young kid wearing a grey t-shirt that said ANGST. He smiled, feebly, but affirmative nonetheless.
Close your eyes, imagine yourself already here.
I felt a surge of energy, contained it. Knew I could make this happen, sing my heart out. I signaled the pianist to start the recitative.