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My First Musical Performance

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

The music stopped, and the cavernous ballroom was conspicuously silent.


It was that magical moment where the final chord could ring out as long as it wished, knowing that the thunderous applause of adulation from the crowd would await its cue.


Then, as if a storm cloud had just released its torrential rain, waves of cheers lashed the stage.


I was 13 years old, and I have chased that moment ever since.



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I was a socially awkward child.


For one thing, I was enrolled in an all-boys private school, I attended an all-boys summer camp, and was a Boy Scout (which was also an all-male organization).


Therefore I never had the opportunity to interact with the opposite sex, which stunted me socially.


Another reason for my lack of social confidence was due to the fact that I stubbornly sucked my thumb until the ripe old age of 10.


My parents tried everything in their power to sever this special relationship I had with my favorite appendage.


Covering the digit with layers upon layers of tape had no effect; my tongue strength unraveled that unwanted shroud like an enthusiastic archaeologist unwrapping a mummy.


They next tried coating the delicious morsel that was my thumb with the foulest-tasting hot sauce imaginable, and in short order, I had licked it off with aplomb and was tastily enjoying the treat underneath.


At the height of their exasperation, professional help was commandeered, and I went to the orthodontist for the beginning of a seven-year course of treatment, which ultimately cost my parents untold amounts of paychecks.


The ignominious conclusion of my thumb-sucking days was brought about by a metal contraption placed into the roof of my mouth which made it physically impossible to stick said member into my oral orifice.


However, the damage was done.


In fifth grade my teeth extended so far forward that I would have made even a beaver envious, and these buck teeth needed to be repaired if I was to venture into polite society.


Given my appearance, I became so withdrawn that whenever I saw a classmate outside of school, I would pretend to not see them hoping to avoid any awkward interaction.


In fact, the only situations where I was socially comfortable were cruises.


*****************************************************************************


Although I was a shy kid, I always made friends on cruises. Being stuck on a boat with a finite amount of strangers for a week makes everyone highly attuned to everyone else.


Luckily for me, my maternal grandparents loved to travel, having circumnavigated the globe on multiple occasions, and their preferred mode of travel was cruising.


Every year, Grandma and Grandpa generously escorted my entire family on a one-week cruise somewhere in the Caribbean.



There is always a sense of excitement when you board a cruise.


Checking in at the embarkation center, it finally hits you that you are about to be aboard this massive ship exploring exotic locales for the next week.


Something about the sunlight dancing on the waves and the lull of the swaying ship puts everything into a positive perspective.


As you walk up the gangplank, you believe in the possibility that something life changing will happen on this journey.


A cruise is a maritime microcosm of life where you truly believe that anything and everything are possible.


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I was in dire need of something good to happen, as the year preceding my first musical performance was one of the most tumultuous of my life.


I had endured a horrible spate of bullying in middle school by some upperclassmen, and my confidence was at an all-time low.


The traumatic events had rendered me basically mute as I rarely spoke in class or at home.


My parents noticed the change in my mental state and gave me a guitar for my birthday, and music quickly became the biggest solace in my life.


Whenever listening to or playing music, I forgot about the bullying, and my teenage angst would be temporarily relieved.

Also at that time, I had just purchased my first CD: Guns N’ Roses' legendary album Appetite for Destruction, with famous songs including "Paradise City", "Welcome to the Jungle," and my favorite, "Sweet Child O’ Mine."


Every day after school, I would rush home to the living room and put the CD in my mom’s massive stereo system.


Singing along to the music at maximum volume being pumped from the four foot high Bose speakers, I trained my voice to sound like Axl Rose’s melodious shrieks.


Practicing Axl's exact intonations transported me into a world far away from my mundane (and somewhat miserable) daily experience.


For the first time in my life, I felt inspired.


Paired with my guitar, I began to write my own music and vocals. Performing seemed to give me the confidence I sorely lacked.


**************************************************************************************


After the mandatory lifeboat drill and anchors away champagne toast, guests go to their rooms to change into more formal attire for the first evening's dinner and entertainment.


I met my grandparents and my mom in the ballroom, for our pre-dinner show.


I was certainly one of the youngest passengers - most of the voyagers on board were well into their retirements.


The emcee for the show is usually the cruise director, who announces the ship's officers and other important staff you will get to know while on board for the next seven days.


At the end of the introductions and entertainment, the cruise director announced that there would be a talent show later in the week.


According to him, the talent show was open to all passengers, no audition required.


Suddenly, an electric current pulsed through my body - a strong urge that I MUST perform in the talent show.


Overcome with excitement, I decided then and there that I WOULD perform.


But what song would I sing?


I racked my brain.


My mind brought me to my mom's living room and the Guns N' Roses, and while I loved all of the tracks on the CD, "Sweet Child O' Mine" always spoke to me.


Furthermore, I was confident that I could perform it.


At that moment, I knew that I would sing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in the talent show.


****************************************************************


It was three days into the cruise - the day of the Talent Show.



I was sitting out on the Lido Deck of the ship, in one of the blue and white striped chaise loungers.


As hoped for, I had made friends on the second day of the cruise with a boy named Brian.


Meeting Brian couldn't have come at a better time, since I was starting to have doubts about my imminent musical performance.


While I had added my name to the list of performers, there was still time to back out.


Yet I reasoned if I had someone else standing up there with me, as moral support, then I could probably pull of this courageous feat of mine.


Brian was from Florida, he was my age, and his entire family was also on board.


This cruise was Brian's maiden voyage, and he was definitely out of his depth. I had met him standing at the breakfast buffet with his plate in his hand and his mouth drooping open. He could not believe the amount of food on offer.


We ended out hanging out whenever we weren't with our families and became fast friends.


We had only been friends for two days, but I was about to ask Brian a HUGE FAVOR - would he be willing to stand up on stage with me while I performed?


After a lot of convincing, Brian reluctantly agreed he would introduce me, nothing more.


I could tell that he was worried as well.


********************************************


The Talent Show was underway.


The acts before had been the usual: singers, magicians, dancers and wanna-be comedians.


The most popular performance was a white-haired 65-year old crooner from the audience who brought the house down with Frank Sinatra's "My Way."


Then, the cruise director called both Brian's and my names to the stage.


I felt my heart skip a beat.


I unconsciously took a deep breath, almost like a sigh, and brought myself to my feet.


I looked over at Brian, who was absolutely terrified, and dragged him from our chairs and to the front of the band.


In a cracking 13-year old voice, Brian introduced me and then ran off stage, leaving me standing alone.


I felt everyone's eyes inspecting me.


Wondering: Who was this kid in all white clothing with braces? And what is his talent?


Just then, the lead guitar riffs of "Sweet Child O' Mine" began to reverberate from the loudspeakers.


The deafening heavy metal sounds made the elderly crowd immediately groan.


I had never contemplated performing this song in front of a hostile audience, but I guess I should have known.


At the beginning of the song, there are 45 seconds of Slash playing a guitar solo before the first vocals.


During this awkward eternity, I was in a mental state that both existed and didn’t exist.


I scanned the the first few rows of the audience.


I saw my grandparents, and noticed the horrified look on my grandma's face.


My grandma was a socialite so she was probably thinking ahead about how she would handle this disaster with her onboard bridge group.


Next to her, my Grandpa may have been asleep or at least was pretending to be so that he didn't have to hear Grandma's mutterings.


My mom was sitting next to Grandpa.


Her look was a mixture of support, cautious optimism and worry.


Next to my mom was a blue-haired couple that looked ancient. Ironically, they had smiles on their face and looked like they were having a good time. Or maybe their hearing aids weren't working.


I looked over at the cruise director, whose eyes were as big as the portion sizes they give you in Texas.


He mouthed: "Just do it, man!"


********************************************************************************


My heart was racing.


My feet felt like lead, my legs like jelly.


I reminded myself of my practices in the living room. Just pretend you are at home in the living room.


Finally, Slash stopped with his guitar stuff and allowed me the vocals.


Instinctively, I began to sing the opening verse of the song.


“She's got a smile that it seems to me Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky”

Suddenly, there was no more groaning.


In a musical span of fifteen seconds, I had turned the audience from hostile to intrigued.


Here was a little kid, in a talent show on a cruise, singing one of the most popular songs of recent years.


AND CRUSHING IT AS WELL.


Even if Guns N' Roses was not this crowd's preferred kind of music, this performance was something they wanted to witness.


I continued with my vocals:


“Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place
And if I stare too long, I'd probably break down and cry”

At this moment, the audience was at the edge of their seats. Some people were even standing.


My legs seemed to regain some of their motor skills, and I started to move back and forth along the stage belting out the chorus in true Axl Rose fashion.



“Whoa, oh, oh Sweet child o' mine Whoa, oh, oh, oh Sweet love of mine”


I could see in the front rows that people’s mouths were wide open.


One couple was clearly in shock.


Meanwhile, on stage, I was FEELING IT.


You know those life moments where you are just in your flow?


Those special moments in life you still look back on and remember?


Well, this was one of those moments.


**********************************************************


When I look back on my first musical performance, I realize that I have always been a performer at heart.


Whether it was on stage with my band in high school or on stage giving a talk during my final days in finance, I FIND MY FLOW when I am performing my own creations.


I can take pride in knowing that my creative efforts have led to a certain end result, a singular output into society I hope others can appreciate.


Even more importantly, my first musical performance was the first time I was courageous enough to express myself in the midst of a hostile environment.


I trusted in my authentic self and despite criticism, I stayed true to myself and persevered.


Sometimes I think about how far I have come.


As an adolescent, I was ashamed to be in public.


Now, I am baring my soul to the entire world exposing the deepest parts of my creative being.


AND YOU KNOW WHAT?


I actually feel joyous about life.


I want you to feel this feeling.

To read more about how music has made a huge impact in my life, check out "The Year in Music" special section on the Social Musings by Austin website.


Lyrics from Guns N' Roses, "Sweet Child of Mine"


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If you are interested in the music I currently create, take a listen to my latest studio track called "Wasting Away."



In addition, I am working on several new tracks for the studio.


Here is a sneak preview of my latest, "Circuits on a Protoype."




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2 Comments


Fun read, I've always enjoyed you perform since we were kids, I'm so happy you picked the guitar back up, you're a natural.

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Austin Rosenthal
Austin Rosenthal
Aug 15, 2023
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You have been there since the beginning my man. Will NEVER FORGET that!

Glad to take the journey of life with you


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