• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Joining a Group

Improv lessons.

May 4, 2014

Last semester, I took a musical improv "master class," in which I felt distinctly outclassed. Most of my fellow students were very experienced improvisers and/or professional musicians, and all were more confident and quicker than I was. They were also funny and nice, and even though I worried about bringing down the quality of our scenes, I learned a lot and had a wonderful time.

A few weeks ago, after the class ended, I got an email from two of my stellar former classmates. One of the members of their musical improv team had just been chosen for a top ranked performing group and was leaving the team. Would I be interested in joining? (This is how I got my place on my regular improv team as well. Obviously I do my best auditioning when I think I'm just fooling around.)

I said yes, but then I panicked. A class is one thing — even if I had been a complete washout, I had paid the same as everyone else, and no one was counting on me to do well except possibly the teacher, who might have regretted choosing me. But this is a team that performs in "good" clubs, with actual paying audiences.

I practiced with the group for the first time last week. It was horrible. I was so nervous I blanked out in the middle of a song and couldn't continue—something that hasn't happened since I was first learning, and shouldn't ever happen. I missed cues. I stiffened up and was decidedly unfunny. I was mortified, especially since we had a club date the following Saturday night.

At home that night, Ben asked me how the practice had gone. "I stunk," I told him. "I couldn't do anything right. I'm afraid they're all out together right now talking about what a mistake it was to let me on the team, and how they can tactfully get me off."

"That sounds about right," he said.

"It does? You mean, because I'm nuts?"

"No, because you're new to an established group. Everybody feels that way — you get nervous and self-conscious, and then everything goes downhill. It happens with musicians, too. I'm sure all of the others have been the new person before, and they've done this themselves."

I started breathing again. Of course he was right, and this wasn't going to last forever.

The club date was fine. They were hilarious, and I didn't embarrass them. This week we had a really fun practice, and I'm looking forward to performing with them again this Saturday night.

I want to write about the new developments in addressing sexual assault on campus.  But I also, for the moment, just want to savor the satisfaction of having raised a 19-year-old who is such a wise and comforting person.


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