Sunday, May 8, 2011

Being an introvert and attenvion vs. interraction

I remember my first solo musical performance in front of a large was done at the height of popularity of my church in the community. We had a new, dynamic pastor that kept the building (that seated over 500) packed to the point people that people had to be sent to satellite areas downstairs to watch the service on a closed circuit feed. It was the Sunday before Christmas, and I'd been asked to reprise my performance of The Little Drummer Boy (that I'd played for the kids program) for the whole congregation. It was a beautiful, rich arrangement that did an amazing job of reflecting the meaning of the song. I spent the whole performance, terrified by the church's deafening silence while I played. (There aren't many instances in Black sacred music where there is not either clapping or singing or yelling...constant feedback from the audience, which is honestly characteristic of our culture as a whole.) 

I finished the song, stood, turned to bow and saw the entire congregation on its feet, roaring and clapping. It was a nice feeling to know that people had appreciated something I did so much, but honestly, not enough to draw me back. 

That's my favorite performance of the song. Bowie's voice still surprises me in its non pop-funk form.

At the church I was raised in, kids basically had two options for sang in the choir, or you ushered. My temperament in no way fit the energetic, attention-loving environment of the kids I knew that sang, so I became an usher. We had quiet meetings to coordinate our sitting, standing and door blocking, which I didn't mind too much, because we only met once a month, the meetings were only about 30 min and I had a massive crush on one of the guys.

Fast forward 15 years and lo and behold, I'm an usher again. Our recently arrived missions pastor came to me a couple months back and asked if I'd consider greeting for a couple of special occasions. He kept talking and said something that surprised me...genuinely surprised me...and I don't surprise easily by any measure. "You have such a positive welcoming energy, I was wondering if you'd help out." I swear I froze, waiting for a punch line. I know I've become more open in recent years (though not more extraverted), but I thought there must be some other 6' tall Black woman with natural hair that only shows up on days I'm not there that he THOUGHT he was talking to. (I might have brushed it off as flattery if someone at work hadn't said something similar a few days before.)

So I'm greeting today and it started to hit me what the real difference between ushering and singing at my old church was. If you'd asked me years ago, I would have said it was people who liked interacting with people (singers) and those who didn't (ushers). But today, realizing that I'd spoken to every person that set foot in the building, and remembering the faceless mass that had been behind me during that entire performance of The Little Drummer Boy, I understood that the position of greeting/ushering requires much more interaction on a one to one level than performing does.

Attention...I'm not sure what part it plays in the introversion-extroversion spectrum...I know many extroverts that enjoy attention and some that don't...can't say the same for introverts though...I know a lot (which is a big deal since we tend to stay in our little holes) and I can't name one that actually enjoys the attention of others. Yes, there are many introvert performance artists, but they seem to tolerate the attention as more of a hazard of the job than a reward (Johnny Depp comes to mind).

All I can think is that attention can translate as a sort of one-way, social interaction...because honestly, what is conversation but a series of alternating, mini-performances with cyclical feedback and what is performance besides a conversation?

No comments:

Post a Comment