Did you ever notice that both nervous and knees start with the same vocalization and they are spelled differently? No wonder English language learners have a problem with English. That’s my plug for why we need ELL teachers in our schools. I’d really like the people I encounter in life to know the difference between nervous and knees. And know, for what it’s worth. If you have the opportunity, vote for initiatives that allow dedicated teachers to continue to integrate non-English speakers into the mainstream of our schools and society. I’m just sayin’… it’s important, and it’s worth spending your tax dollars on it.
Commercial over. Let’s talk about nervous knees.
A little known fact among most of the people who know (there’s that pesky word again — twice) me these days is that I was a voice major in college. Now I teach English.
Music majors have to give recitals in addition to writing papers and taking tests, and from thence comes my story for today. I will never forget that recital my freshman year at Miami University; it’s indelibly etched in my brain. As music majors, we were required to perform once a term; it was just one song at 11:00 on Thursday mornings. We all had to attend the recitals, even if we were not performing ourselves, and on that fateful day, pretty much all of my friends were in attendance. I stood on the stage in my very fashionable mini-skirt and started to sing. At the same time, my knees started to quiver. Picture it — in a small auditorium, my knees were pretty much at eye level with the audience — and they were shaking as if I was having my own personal earthquake. I finished my song, and tried not to disown my classmates, who were doing the best they could not to laugh out loud. After all, this could happen to them, too. I vowed this would never happen to ME again.
Once thing I’ve learned about singing in subsequent years of performing is that the old adage of “never let them see you sweat” definitely applies. Never let them see you shake, either. After that recital, I learned to wear long dresses when I sang in public. Your face can be a serene as a calm lake while your knees are rattling under your long skirt. As I continued to sing for church and events, I also learned that the lectern, podium, or even the little fence around the choir can be your friend.
These days, I’m pretty jaded. My knees no longer shake, but my beginning-to-be-an-old-lady-voice sometimes does. It’s a new kind of fear. Will my always reliable voice do its job? Have I vocalized enough to hit the high and low notes? It’s almost as scary as it was back when I was a naive freshman in college. Unfortunately, now I know my limitations. I’m no longer invincible, as I thought I was when I was eighteen.
The good thing is, I also play the saxophone. There’s no shaking knees in saxophone playing, unless one is stupid enough to try to march at Alumni Weekend, and that’s a story for another day. I can play the saxophone until I die, or they kick me out of band, whichever comes first.
There’s a reason why there’s a maxim that talks about “shakin’ in your boots.” Been there, done that.