This week I got some impromptu tutoring in music structure from my musician friend. He was tapping out the beats to a Neil Young song, and I asked why he always did that. He went on to talk about 3/4 time and 4/4 time, and explained that most popular songs are in 4/4 time. Once I got the concept of why structurally, a waltz is different that say Neil Young, he continued by discussing his songs. “Most times, my vocals will come in on the first beat, but in many of my songs, I come in on the second, third, or even fourth beat depending on the feeling I want to convey. “You just start singing on the beat that feels right” he said.
As I’ve been letting this marinate all week, I am struck with the profound meaning hidden in the “off the cuff” remark and a situation from years ago came back to me. It was freshman year of high school, the first day of a music appreciation class. The teacher was outlining the syllabus and explaining his grading structure ending with “The final will be an oral report on a composer of your choice.” My brain screamed “No”, and after class I darted in to my counselor’s office. Mr Ryan told me that the other electives were full, and I would have to stay enrolled. I knew at this point that I would end up flunking because there was no way I was going to get up in front of everyone and speak. After grades came out, I was called back to Mr. Ryan’s office to talk about my grade and how I could have done it differently. “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand up and give a report to the whole class. I’m too scared.” I remember saying. “Megan, sometimes you have to face the music.” He replied. I don’t know if he meant it as a pun, but it stuck in my head because it was so unlike the way my parents spoke to me. Just last year a friend challenged me to write some poems and speak them aloud at a local coffee shop. I told her that the idea both excited and scared the sh*t out of me, so I would commit and say yes. A few weeks later, I found myself in front of a group of maybe 18 or 20 people holding my poems, visibly shaking, but doing it anyway! This one act may seem trivial, but to me was incredibly brave and has led to sharing my work in other venues, and actually getting published in an international poetry journal. So many times we feel pressured to begin on someone else’s timeline. I am now asking myself and my clients: “How would life look if I jumped in on the beat that felt right to me?”