The Memoirs of Dr. Christos Kioni (c) 2014
Music Lessons In Lie
Children look to the adults in their lives for a sense of self esteem and value. I learned early in life I had no value, other than the Welfare check and benefits raising a crippled child yields to the parents or caregiver. I wanted to sing and dance which was always my dream as a child, however the daily barrages of “you are reaching too high” and “so, you want to be better than me” crushed the glimmer of hope to follow that dream. It was discovered I had an exceptional singing voice when I was around eight years old. As my talent for singing became known in school and church I began to derive a senses of self esteem. In High School I won first place at local and State vocal tournaments year after year. Many people compared my powerful baritone voice to the black opera singer Paul Robeson when I sang “Old Man River” or “Deep River”. At age 14, I was performing arias like Caruso with ease. During my school years I learned stage presence, how to work an audience and most of all, how to fall and get back up again.
The Kennedy Jr. High School chorus had a concert at the Brevard Community College (BCC) Auditorium. I was twelve years old and the soloist on most songs. I had been challenged to learn and master the song “The Impossible Dream” from the opera Man Of LaMancha. I had performed the song before to packed auditoriums around the county with success. I knew the song backwards and forward and could sing it in my sleep. However on the night of the BCC concert, when I stepped onto the stage in the Fine Arts Auditorium I forgot the words midway into the song. Not once ever had I forgotten the words nor the notes of a song. The audience was spellbound by my mature rich baritone voice. Suddenly my mind drew a blank, the words just would not flow. Mrs. Joyce Booth, the choral director stopped playing and looked at me from stage left where she sat accompanying me on the shiny black grand piano. She whispered in my direction on center stage, “its okay” and mouthed a few words of the song to jog my memory: “this is my quest to follow that star.” I opened my mouth and belted out “this is my quest to follow that star “ and my memory froze again. Although I could not see the audience that filled the BCC Fine Arts Auditorium because the house lights were low, I could hear the nervous muffled coughs. Clearing of throats and even laughter. For the first time in my life I felt utter panic by something other than Pearlie Mae’s ruthless beatings and Mr. Fat’s iabolical teasing.
Perspiring and feeling naked in the spot light, I wanted to disappear and never sing again. Once more the choral director attempted to coach me back into the song but I was in tears sobbing uncontrollably and ran off the stage exit right. Out the exit door I scrambled, embarrassed and ashamed where I sat on the cool concrete steps crying my heart out. A few seconds later the stage door opened and Mrs. Booth exited and sat next to me. She said “Kenneth, this isn’t going to be the last time you freeze on stage. There isn’t a performer that hasn’t gone through what is happening to you right now. You have to learn not to quit and even when you get knocked down by life, get back up and finish strong.” Her words sounded familiar to those spoken by my childhood sports idol Muhammad Ali who has often been quoted as saying “a champion always gets up.” She dabbed at my teary eyes with her handkerchief, gave me a motherly hug and said “now get back in there and bring the house down like you always do.” When I reappeared on stage the audience went wild with applause and my chorus mates began cheering me on. I finished strong, singing “The Impossible Dream” from beginning to end flawlessly and with gusto.