Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Today I played a guitar piece for about 600 college students. That in itself is sort of a big deal for this time in my life, because it has been a year since I last actually performed with just my guitar. The guitar has seemed not to have much to say over this past year, and hasn't seemed to understand what I needed to say. So it has taken a service position and has been used to facilitate music for other purposes. It was a good feeling to partner with it this morning without having an ulterior motive for working together. I received an email on Friday evening requesting that this happen, and honestly, I had to dig deep to find if I were willing to go where I needed to go in myself to pull this thing out again. Then, I had to dig deep in my head and fingers to know if there was any music left to be shared. I decided "maybe" to both, and stepped onto the deck with my guitar to look for both things.
The feel and sound of my instrument quickly gave me something to say for the first time in a year, and on each pass, my fingers gathered more information from some hidden cave of my cerebellum, that allowed me to finally get through several pieces and decide what I might like to play.
Last night, as I was playing through and working out some possible obstacles in the form of lengthy scale passages or confusing arpeggios, I realized that with the pressure off, I was playing quite well, but I wasn't yet emotionally prepared for a crowd of people to listen in. Then it hit me. This would be my first drug-free performance in 9 years. Lest you think that for nearly a decade, I've taken the stage, a hopped-up junkie, I'd better explain.
I used to be nearly crippled by stage fright. No matter how prepared, how well I played, I was terrified in performance. Frozen, sticky fingers, shaky hands, etc. But close to the end of grad school, and immediately after Molly was born, I got sick. Shut down for awhile. I emerged a couple months later a bit better, but maintained via chemical intervention. Just so happened that the chemical was a beta-blocker, a drug that MANY performing artists abuse trying to combat stage fright, and panic attacks. I stood to benefit simply as a by-product of the treatment an underlying condition. And benefit, I did. My fears subsided so much that I guessed that I had just grown out of it, and doubted that the drug had much to do with it any longer.
I was weaned off my chemical back in May, and have been drug-free ever since. So today was the first time to step up in front of a crowd and actually play drug-free. I had no idea how my mind and body might respond. I passed the test, I think.
I am no longer chemically dependent for a steady heart rate, or for sharing great music with a crowd of people.
Seemed like we all enjoyed ourselves, and the music was enough.