Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Family of Performers

I am the only professional musician in my family. Although we are a family of musicians (the stereotypical Von Trapp-style singing in church, paired with coffee shop open mic sets of Simon & Garfunkel and Jim Croce tunes with me on vocals, Dad on guitar and lending his easy tenor to harmonies, and Mark on bass), I am the only one sick enough to take it on as a full time job. But I am not the only performer.

My father is a minister and my sister is about to be certified as an American Sign Language interpreter. Yesterday at church, I got to see them both at work, and they are performers! Communication is their profession, as it is mine. Our media and messages may differ, but we thrive on sharing information and affecting people emotionally.

When I talked to Dad about it on the way home, he said that ministers often have Myers-Briggs’ test scores that are similar to those of actors, and that both groups are often Introverts. Something to do with our level of comfort in front of people: give Dad a podium and a robe (a set and a costume), and he is in his element. He can turn a phrase and deliver one-liners (comic and dramatic) in a way that has his congregation (audience) really understanding the heart of his message. But put him in a room full of strangers who don’t know him as “The Rev” (as he is lovingly called at his church), and he is a fish out of water! I don’t feel quite so out of place in similar situations, thanks to the person-to-person communication skills I learned (inherited?) from my gracious Southern mother, but I have discovered that I often enjoy being in a quiet corner at a party, instead of always in the center of the room.

My sister, Sally, has really found her voice, so to speak, as an ASL interpreter. Even though her hands are tiny (she’s not so big, herself), they are full of expression. She graduates this spring, and yesterday was the first chance many of us, including her fiance, have had to see her in action. I was scheduled to sing “I know that my Redeemer liveth” near the end of the 10:30 Easter service, and about fifteen minutes before I was to sing I thought “Oh, I should have asked Sally to sign while I was singing!” So during the hymn after the sermon, I motioned her to follow me out of the sanctuary. I sprung the idea on her, and she didn’t even hesitate! With ten minutes ‘til show time, I wrote out the words and she figured out her signs as I watched. I was so impressed at how she used her face and body – in addition to her hands – to tell the story. Her facial expression on “And though worms destroy this body” was awesome! She used her face to describe both the worms and the destruction, the grossness of decay. I couldn’t watch her while I was singing, but I’m sure it was a very effective performance.

It is somehow reassuring to have made these realizations about my family members. To know that I am not cut from a completely different cloth. My cloth is just a bit showier!

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