She stared at the microphone directly in front of her mouth, letting her eyes focus on the overlapping wires that made up the mesh mouthpiece. Maybe if she thought about something else, something simpler, she wouldn’t think about how nervous she was.
Oscar, the director of the ensemble, had stopped the musicians and was going over the chart with the horn players. Good, she thought. I get a couple minutes to look over the words.
It wasn’t that she didn’t know the words or the melody, or even what section of the song came next. She had listened to the song more times than she could count; so much so that she could sing along with the horn and bass lines when they played. She had always been exceptionally good at picking up songs quickly. It wasn’t even a question of whether or not she knew the song.
Oscar lifted his hands and began counting off, interrupting her thoughts. The other singers around her started dancing automatically, but she didn’t. She came in with the first verse, focusing on the words, their pronunciation, how her breath control affected the sound of each word. . . She knew she was thinking about it way too much, but she only understood Spanish. It wasn’t her first language. She didn’t want to sound like an idiot.
Oscar waved his hands in the air to signal the band to stop playing. He rolled his eyes and slouched his shoulders, clearly annoyed. “Singers. You need to come in strong on the coros!”
One of the other singers, Jesse, spoke up, looking directly at her. “You know, we would know for sure where to come in if everyone was dancing. Everyone would be in sync together.”
The other singers nodded in agreement.
“Tiffany, you need to be moving, girl. This is salsa! You can’t just stand there like a stick in the mud!” Jesse exclaimed, making his shoulders shimmy and attempting to spin her around.
“You’re too stiff. You’d sound much better if you started moving,” one of the other singers giggled as she watched Jesse do an awkward dance move.
She looked at them all in disbelief. “I’m not moving right now because I’m focusing on the words and making sure I get this right. I’ll worry about dancing when we actually have a performance.”
“You’re gonna look stiff up there on stage. It’s not enjoyable to watch a stick sing Latin music,” Stan, the other male singer said off-handedly as he played on his phone.
The other singers started murmuring in agreement, calling her names under their breath, insinuating that she didn’t know how to dance or sing. I’ve never felt so incompetent, she thought to herself. Just because she didn’t practice or perform music the way that they did, didn’t mean she was any less of a vocalist. She had more singing experience then all of them combined. They should’ve been asking for her advice and opinions; not throwing theirs at her.
Oscar made the band stop playing again. He was making an announcement to everyone, but the singers were too busy laughing and talking to hear what he was saying. They weren’t even trying to be respectful in any way–no attempts at whispering or making eye contact with the director while he was talking. He was changing the end section of the song at the last minute, which would effect everyone in the band.
She shook her head. It was embarrassing how disrespectful the singers were acting. No concern for pitch, song form or harmony, not to mention their fellow musicians. She could only imagine what the actual performance would be like.
The band started to play again, and this time they started several measures before the end of the song. Just as she’d predicted, all of the singers didn’t come in when they were supposed to, which made her voice stick out more when she did.
Oscar stopped the band and looked directly at the singers. “Come on guys. We just went over this.”
“No you didn’t,” Jesse chimed in, accusingly.
Should she say something? Despite the voice in her head telling her not to, she spoke up. “Um, maybe if you weren’t so busy talking and playing on your phones, you would’ve heard him talk about the change to the end of the song.”
Jesse’s face turned from a smile to a frown. He knew she was right. “Well maybe you should go–” His voice trailed off.
She looked questioningly at Jesse, bracing herself for an insult.
“Whatever.” He turned and began talking under his breath to Stan and the other singers. They all started laughing.
She looked down at her watch. And then people wondered why she was so quiet. Just thirty more minutes, just thirty more minutes, she thought to herself.