Music. A five letter word that holds a different meaning to every single person on the face of this earth. Ever since I was little, I have been absorbed in music, and if one were to ask me what music meant to me then, my answer would be plain. Beautiful melodies that could make me dance, songs that would get stuck in my head for hours, and pieces of music that I would sing at the top of my lungs "'til the cows came home." Music's meaning for me has since then evolved into something much greater. Let's rewind back to January.
It was an overcast Saturday morning in the town of Abilene. The sun had yet to rise and already the place was buzzing with commotion, it was the weekend that the final stages of the All-State competitions would take place.
"Anna, wake up." Shelby, my roommate for the weekend, called. "It's time to get up." I rolled over and looked at the clock. It was 6:15 in the morning. I slapped my face and climbed out of bed. This is what my Saturdays had been reduced to: waking up at the crack of dawn to sing. Regardless, I got ready and ate breakfast with the rest of our group and then proceeded to file back onto the bus that survived the five hour drive there with us for the ride to the local high school. The sun had turned the sky a light pink and some of the haze began to burn off as we slowly made our way through the streets. I checked my bag every three minutes to make sure that the music that I had basically been conjoined with for the last six months hadn't decided to make a run for it while it still had the chance. Satisfied that my music was securely put away in my back-pack when we arrived at the school, we loaded off the bus and were marched into the cafeteria. The place was swarming with high schoolers all hyped up on their ritual cup of coffee. My eyes quickly scanned the room for my voice part: Soprano I. Surprisingly, the line was near non-existent and all I had to do was walk up to the woman behind the table and tell her my name. After I got my badge I found the table where the rest of the group had already seemed to explode onto. Bags upon bags were piled in the center with sacks of food already opened and being munched on.
"What number are you?" Shelby asked me when I finally managed to fight my way through the people still waiting in line.
I scowled, "Stupid number one!" I shook my head in disgust and sat down in the plastic blue chair, my arms folded across my chest. I sulked for a while, complaining to basically everyone within ear shot of how I had to be first. It seemed luck was not with me that day, and I knew I was off to a weird start.
Time passed awkwardly, and voice parts were called at random as the competition got into full swing. Before I could use the restroom the dreaded voice came over the loud speaker again.
"Soprano One, one through ten. That A11-1, A11-2, A11-3, …." I stood and hugged everyone farewell because I knew that the next time I would see them I would be creamed by all the seniors with whom I was competing. I grabbed my junk, making sure that I had my music in my hands and followed the herd of sopranos out the door and through the still chilly morning air towards my doom. We sang through the cuts twice and soon I was swept away to the judges' room. Setting my music on the metal music stand, I stared at the dingy white screen that was set up three feet in front of me before the room monitor asked if I was ready. Shaking, I nodded yes and the rag-tag piano accompaniment started. I sang my soul dry; Mozart seemed to be standing right next to me, pulling each phrase out of my inner being. I left everything hanging out; the next three minutes now a blur in my memory. When I finished the last cut with that glorious high "A", for a moment the classroom seamed to ring, which, until then, I didn't even know was possible. My legs shaky, I'm surprised I was able to make it out of there without falling flat on my face. I don't really remember much of the walk back over to the cafeteria; the adrenaline rush that I had just come off of was so great that every limb attached to me was shaking.
Back in the cafeteria, I plopped back into my seat, questions about my trip to "the dark side" coming at me from every angle.
I answered them, "I guess I did alright," the fear of over singing, which I had previously been accused of, creeping over me. As people cycled out and back into the cafeteria, the minutes seemed to pass like hours and the hours seemed to pass like minutes. We were all called for sight reading and I was pleased with my performance there, probably a perfect score I thought to myself as I walked to my next holding place. That phase seemed to pass like a fruit fly's life and we were herded back to the main cafeteria. This is where the anticipation started to mount. Every time an adult came within a one foot radius of the microphone, the place got silent, wondering if the results were in. Soon, teachers, who had been judging, started trickling in and taking their places with their students. Our two choir directors soon joined us at our table and I could feel my built up nervousness reach its climax. My body spazed randomly as burst of anxiety lightning bolted through me, and my leg kept a steady rapid beat on my chair. Finally, the time had come; the one adult who held the answers to the one question on everyone's mind had arrived and was stepping up to the microphone. We held hands; I could feel the heat rising to my face as it finally clicked into my brain what was happening. They started with Bass IIs chairs 12 and up; I almost peed my pants.
"Bass II, chair twelve, second alternate to the men's choir….." the voice announced. Our group had no Bass IIs competing, and we sat there, waiting for the Bass Is to be called, that particular voice part had two competitors from our school. They finally started, and the first few names held no importance to us, as the chairs climbed higher and higher, I could feel the hand in mine go slack as the final name was called: not one of ours. Sadness crept over the table and I felt it in my heart. Not a word was said as the voice continued on with Tenor IIs, another voice part with no one from my school. Then, the last male voice part was introduced, two men from my school were in this category, and we heightened all our senses when the announcement started. We held our breath as the second alternate to the men's choir was called. No one wanted to be an alternate, it was probably worse than not making it. Not only did you have only a slim chance of getting to All-State, but all the other people in the room knew that you were one or two chairs away from being apart of All-State. We were almost out of the woods with our tenors when disaster struck. A member of the men's choir the previous year was called as first alternate, disbelief struck me. He was one chair away of going to state his senior year, probably a matter of a few points separated him from it, inches away from him was the realization that the experience he had been apart of last year would never happen again. My profound distress was short-lived though, as the name of our other tenor was called out. I smiled at him and he smiled back. The rest of the Tenor Is were called and it was time to start the women. It was out of the frying pan and into the skillet for us, for Shelby was an Alto II. Former All-Stater, I could only pray that the stress of trying to best herself had not contaminated her final performance. God was with her, and she placed second chair, one chair higher than the previous year. She nodded slyly, pleased with her work. For what seemed like a life time, we waited through two more voice parts. Finally, it was time for Soprano Is. I was shaking in my skin as we heard the first few names being called out; as the chairs climbed higher and higher, my spirit lowered. There was no way in heck that I, a sophomore, could place that high in a competition dominated by seniors. They were two chairs away from ending the whole competition, and by then I had basically admitted defeat. I took a quick look around there seemed to be little hope in everyone, well, almost everyone.
"Second chair, First Soprano: Anna Jagged, Northwest High School." I could not believe my ears. I bowed my head to table and started crying. Yes, I cried. I cried from exhaustion, happiness, bewilderment; emotions were just swirled around inside of me, and with my forehead pressed to the cafeteria table I knew that music was different to me now; that it had been for some time. No longer was it a string of notes printed off on staff paper, it was what kept me alive, it was food for my soul, the soundtrack for my life. In that moment I understood; I knew:
Music Is LIFE.