Singing in one of the best choirs in the country and under the illustrious Coomi Wadia, I think I have been spoiled silly. A point she emphatically enforces is that in case a choir member makes a mistake during rehearsals or even during a performance no other member is to turn around, correct the person or even show disapproval. With this beautiful, but simple rule, members of this secular choir sing out, make mistakes, get corrected only by the conductor and learn to sing vibrantly, harmoniously and produce great music together!

Once, I was invited to sing for another choir, “But you don’t need to come for rehearsal’s Bob, we don’t want to take your time!”

But I went, and it was a whole new lot of choristers and new music I was going through. I followed what I’d always done; sang out and made a mistake then watched startled as a member in front turned and glared! “You made a mistake!” he said.

“I know!” I said, “Which is why I have come to rehearse!”

“To make mistakes?” he asked grinning.

“To learn from those mistakes!” I said grinning back. “If I hadn’t sung out I would never have known where I’ve gone wrong!” He smiled and nodded. 

We parted as friends but as he walked off I remembered an incident: In my unforgettable college days, a boy who sang next to me in the college choir never made a mistake. Not once was he pulled up by the professor who taught us, but one day this lad ceased to be a member of the choir. He and his voice were never missed. The professor told us later why he had let him go. “He did not sing loud enough for anyone to hear him” said the professor, “as he was scared people would hear if he made a mistake and laugh at him!”

And my mind goes to a girl at a skating rink, where she is learning to ice skate. People watching her are concerned as she keeps falling, “Child!” says an observer kindly, “Hold onto the fence, then you won’t fall!”

“Sir,” replies the brave girl, “I have come to learn to skate, and have to keep trying till I stop falling! If I hold onto the fence I will never learn to skate!”

I went home that day after the rehearsal, opened my music score and duly noted where I’d made the mistake and I know I won’t do it again, because in making that mistake I know where I went wrong.

Make mistakes, get corrected, and become perfect, and more importantly, be heard, rather than allowing others to hear your thundering silence because you are too scared to err!

It’s not just music I’m talking about, it’s just about everything in life..!

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