By Alex Kramer
My curly brown hair looked like it had survived a tornado on that Friday morning as I woke up. My emotions were tempestuous; my anxiety and excitement had mixed together to give me a new feeling of nervousness and energy.
As I began to wake up and the fog that can abash a person's thoughts in the morning began to clear, I tried to find a way to calm down. I started to picture what the night would have in store for me; the show just being a matter of hours away.
I quickly prepared myself for the school day and got in my car. I felt a new wave of confidence coming over me as I turned the key in the ignition, the engine growling as it came to a start and humming as it waited for me to hit the gas pedal.
As I increased the volume of the music in the car, I could feel a smile on my face - a smile that stretches across your face when you know that all of your work and passion is going to finally pay off soon. I arrived at school and Friday began in its typical manner, my first period teacher beginning to sing his song about the world of Chemistry, taking a break between each measure.
My interest in the Uptown Music Collective, a dedicated and talented group of performers with a long history of impressive shows, began many years ago when the school of music was performing a tribute to the great Led Zeppelin, a rock group from the 70s.
As I watched the performers, I can remember having the time of my life: the lights shined in the musicians faces as they played, their passion obvious in their faces and playing; the music was loud and phenomenal, the musicians not missing a single note; and I could feel myself want to be on that stage, playing in front of the audience. The day would come, and sure, enough it had.
It had been months, then weeks, and now hours before the show would be performed at the Community Arts Center, a large and well-known facility located right in Williamsport with a rich history of famous performers and talented performances. It had been my dream to play there for many years; my inspiration to perform coming from the show I had seen there.
I did not have the chance to finish the school day because of a migraine that had occurred during third period. As the pain continued to embed itself in my head, I went to the nurse, who then gave me two pills for the headache and told me to lie down and rest.
The pain was going away as slowly as time was traveling-making it extraordinarily difficult for me to think clearly. I remember the fear creeping into my mind of me not being able to perform to my best; or worse, me not being to play at all.
The fear continued to be contemplated in my head as my mom took me home, even after she had told me to stop worrying about the headache. Everything would be okay.
"You're overstressed," my mom told me. "Just forget about your worries and simply relax."
"Okay," I told her, wanting nothing more than for this migraine to go away.
When we got home I entered the house and went to my room to lie down. An emotion of relief and relaxation moving from my legs to my arms as the pain began to lose its grip on me. My excitement began to swell up again.
The dream was still alive.
It was 3 p.m. now, a half hour before I would be leaving to go to the Community Arts Center. As the minutes sluggishly went by, I began my nervous routine of checking to make sure I had my strap, plenty of picks, extra strings and of course the guitar itself.
It was late in the afternoon now and I needed to leave the house, but before I went I made sure to say goodbye to my mom. I knew I wouldn't see her again until it was time for the show and I wanted to make sure I spent some time with her now.
"Good luck, and remember: take a deep breath, shake your arms and legs, and believe me when I say everything will be okay," my mom told me. I said "Alright, thanks" before I pulled out of the paved driveway and drove down the road.
Three hours and thirty minutes until the show would begin. I remember arriving at the Community Arts Center and the excitement inside of me spiking as I recalled the numerous times I had gone into the large and luxurious building to watch the shows; it was my time now.
The other musicians and I were waiting for more people to arrive as I paced the stage, mystified by the idea of knowing that legends, most recently Lynyrd Skynyrd, walked upon the same floor boards as me.
The other musicians began to arrive a half hour later and we started to practice the songs we were having difficulty with. I remember sitting in the audience seats as the first song was rehearsed, the feeling to be on stage returning to me.
However, the feeling was different this time; I would be on that stage. I remember then rehearsing a few of the songs that I would be performing. I had to get used to the large stage and the ability to now express myself through my movements as well as by the music I was playing.
Once comfortable with the stage, it became my own little playground. There were several spots where I could run to, strumming away, and then run back.
There were times I would run up to the other musicians, run out to greet the imaginary audience, and then return to my original area, my body in a perpetual state of motion.
We finished practicing and after a few minutes the sound of the audience grew, which made me realize that my dream of performing in front of others on the grand stage of the Community Arts Center was now a reality. I continued to walk back and forth on the side of the stage, looking out past the black curtains to see the other performers.
I was feeling warm now in my red flannel shirt and tan khaki shorts, the adrenaline now rushing through my veins, rejuvenating me like a desert plant that had just received water. Time was now even slower than before; an observation that was made after the show, since in this instant the music was the only thought in my head.
It was time to play. The clock struck seven thirty and I could hear the booming and enthusiastic voice of the director of the Community Arts Center speaking to the crowd, introducing the Uptown Music Collective and discussing the long history the Community Arts Center and Uptown Music Collective have shared: "Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen and thank you for coming out tonight. We have something special in store for you all this evening."
When he finished speaking, there was a quick introductory video that introduced the theme of the show: grunge music. As the video finished describing the energy and angst of bands such as Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, the first notes were played.
No more time for thinking, only action now.
The show began with Soundgarden and the first band was successful in its mission of introducing the audience the power and energy that awaited them.
When the song was done and I could hear the applause from the crowd, my nerves increased. The next few songs then passed and were performed in an almost impeccable manner, the crowd's excitement being nearly palpable now.
It was my turn to play now, and it was an experience I will never forget.
I took my place in the right side of the stage and then waited for the drum player to begin his count, each hit sounding like an explosion as I could feel my hands begin to shake. And then I began to play.
I waited for the drummer to hit the loudest hi-hat hits I had ever heard as I got my hand into position and stretched each finger slowly to the notes that I needed to hit, the sound pouring out of the amp.
I then had a much unexpected feeling come across me, one of instant relief and potency. My Mother's words began to ring in my head: "Everything will be okay." I then began to feel the music as I played, conquering all of the fears and nerves that had built up that day.
I moved up to face the audience and then to the right and to the left making sure I had given attention to every viewer. I then progressed my way back.
"What can I do next?" I thought as I went back near my amp. "What would make the crowd excited?
What would get them feeling just as alive as I am right now - allow them to vicariously live through me and truly remember the show?"
My answer was simple. Continue my swim in the ocean of music, rising up with the waves and then relaxing with the lowering of the tide. When I knew a wave was coming, I would prepare myself as best I could before letting myself be slipped away by the rushing water, eventually landing on shore to prepare to do it again.
As I left the stage, my thoughts began to wonder. How was it that I was lucky enough to play on that stage when so many others, many of them in the audience, would never have a chance other than in their imagination? For only in their minds would they see themselves dancing around with an instrument, smiling and jumping across the stage.
It began to be clear to me that I owed the Uptown Music Collective a large amount of gratitude for allowing me to have this experience. I did not have to start my own band and work day and night to try and make a living and get the chance to play at the Community Arts Center; I simply had to learn my songs, show up to practice, and perform my best when the spotlight flashed its beacon upon me. I learned to appreciate what I have.