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A Gift from My Father …

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

By Jan Schaberg, Pen Woman in Music and Letters

While traveling with my father when I was three, I witnessed something that many three-year-old’s may not be blessed to witness. Dad was playing to a packed amphitheater, reminiscing, and singing the music he helped to make popular during the Jazz Era, the songs he sang with Glenn Miller’s Band. I was doing what most three-year-old’s do: running around, burning off energy. Suddenly, I stopped, eyes fixed on the stage. He stood in front of the microphone, arms outstretched, holding a glorious note. It was then that I really connected with him. Not in the daddy/daughter way. In the artist to artist way. I felt his music.

Into my young adulthood, we shared this unspoken knowledge. When I was sixteen, I began taking my guitar to church and playing during folk mass. My palms were always sweaty, my mouth unbearably dry. My stomach did back-flips. Despite this stage fright, I told Dad I was going to be a singer. He was amazingly supportive! That support didn’t remedy my problem of nervousness while performing. The gift was the beautiful story he shared.

As a nineteen-year-old singing with Miller, Dad had remarkably similar feelings. Glenn sat him down one day. He said, “I don’t know why you feel so backward about yourself. You know, the audience is not just coming to see me. They’re coming to see and listen to you sing, too. Don’t be afraid of them. Just get out there and belt the songs out for them. They aren’t the enemy. They’re on your side. They are really with you.”

That day I gained peace and confidence to perform in front of any audience—through a prayer where I asked my father to follow me, closely, on my right shoulder. I continue to carry his gift of story with me.

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