You don't know nerves until you have to sing on stage, to sing a song whose lyrics you sort of know but not verbatim, with a group of musicians that have been reading notes and scoring musicals since they were zygotes.
Yes, I tried my hand at rock 'n roll camp and I don't think I'll ever be the same.
Founded by guitarist Jeff Carlisi of .38 Special fame, CampJam, tucked away in the hills of Philadelphia, embraced me like a screaming fan to a Tommy Lee photo.
… And thank God, because I needed all the help I could get.
The last instrument I played was the flute -- and that was in the 8th grade. The kids at this place were strumming basses, banging drums and plucking guitar strings like the pros. These musicians fined tuned their musical skills during the week-long camp. At the end of the five days they performed in a real live concert in front of friends and family members.
Did I mention I somehow got roped into one of said concerts?
The camp director was kind enough to pair me up with the best musicians -- Jermiah and Ryan on guitar, Yusseff on drums, Lauren on bass and yours truly as lead vocalist. And when I say "the best" I don't mean that lightly: These cats could jam! They single-handedly learned Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n Roll" in three hours.
They were patient enough to practice until "put another dime in the juke box baby" rolled off my tongue the way it did off of Jett's. Oh, and yes, at the moment we chose the song, those were the only lyrics I knew.
We called ourselves The Matadors. Not sure how it came to fruition, but it seemed to work.
While my band mates learned that tricky hook before the second verse, I was getting my first voice lesson. My teacher Ana is a trained opera singer who could belt out an aria like nobody's business. After 45 minutes of pushing air through my lips and singing to "fill the space in my head" she brought in the guitar teacher Chris. We three sang a little ditty to warm me up for the big debut -- though I hardly felt ready.
I managed a quick improv session on drums and gave myself a headache. I tried strumming a few chords on the guitar until Carlisi told me to stick to singing (not a bad music teacher though).
Before I knew it, the time had come for The Matadors to take the stage with me at the center. My palms couldn't have been wetter, my throat couldn't have been drier and my head couldn't have been spinning more with the lyrics I didn't know at all.
"I saw him standing there at the record machine. I think he was 17?!?!?"
The advice my adoring band mates gave me was to just keep going and try to look good. Easy for them to say.
Bright lights, a microphone at my lips, The Matadors at my side, my big moment arrived. By the time the last round of "come on take your time and dance with me" rolled around, I was ready for more.
I think they created a monster. Thank goodness for them my job in television doesn't require singing.