Audience of One

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to sing for a full room and to feel the roar of applause. However, I must confess, some of the most rewarding – not to mention, appreciated audiences have been performing for one.

One of those enlightening experiences took place when I journeyed to New Jersey to see Mrs. Caldwell for the last time, who, at the time, suffered from an advanced case of dementia. Her son David – my childhood friend – led me into the bedroom where she lay half asleep. He attempted to get her to recognize and remember who I was – the little boy who lived downstairs who always seem to be available (just by coincidence, I might emphasize) whenever Mrs. Caldwell was baking a pie and the sweet aroma permeated the hallway. She didn’t seem to recognize me at first. Suddenly, a lightbulb moment: sing. Spontaneously, I began to sing You Don’t Know Me (Ray Charles) – a song I was reasonably sure she would know and recognize. Tears began to drop from her eyes. She gently reached out for my hand and put it up next to her face. How touching. David was visibly stunned as he gaped at the spectacle.

Fast forward to today. I was putting up shelves for neighbors and, true-to-form, I was singing to myself the whole time. Little Irma – about 11 or 12 months – couldn’t stay away from inspecting the progress of the work … or so I thought. Then her father said it was my singing that so pleased her. (Now I’m on a roll.) So, just before I was about to leave, I dropped a special performance of The Candy Man on her. Irma was thrilled – clapping and smiling – then went and grabbed a blue-covered book and gave it to her mother, who explained that it was Irma’s song book and how much she loved singing. What an honor – a privilege to bring the brightest smile and inspiration to a baby’s day … most assuredly the high point of my Saturday.

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