Anyone who's ever been asked to speak or perform in front of an audience has probably felt at least some degree of anxiety. It's a big deal to stand up in front of other people and be vulnerable, when the possibility of error and embarrassment loom large.
Recently I attended a talent show at our local high school. The performers consisted mostly of theater and chorus students who were accustomed to the pressures of performing. But unlike the plays and concerts they normally participate in, this evening was largely unscripted. The challenge of filling silence was palpable.
The show went about as I expected, the inevitable gaffes, do-overs, and even a few tears. Mistakes are to be expected in this kind of improv environment, and often that's what young people fear the most: messing up. They fear their mistakes will generate ridicule from peers or embarrassment from parents. They're certain no one will ever forget that time that they forgot the words to the song, or tripped on a step on the way to the mic.
What was fascinating (and heartening) to me was the way those mistakes were handled. Some laughed them off, some were encouraged by friends or family to keep going, some just trailed off and left the stage. But there wasn't ridicule, only support.
Just a few days later, we held a music workshop at the Center. It was our second session with MIMA Music, a non-profit music organization that promotes community building through making music. Over the course of 90 minutes, participants create improvisational songs together through invented rhythms, tones, and lyrics.
Turnout for these workshops tends to be low, even though we promote them as "no musical experience or ability needed." The intimate setting is ideal though for learning to be vulnerable, to take risks, make mistakes, and laugh at yourself. There are no wrong answers and plenty of grace and forgiveness to go around. You might think that it's odd that an LGBTQ Center would offer a music workshop, but it's precisely those opportunities for vulnerability that make these sessions such a good fit for our mission. When we practice vulnerability, and begin to learn that the world doesn't come crashing down when we make a mistake, we have the chance to develop resilience and show up to difficult situations in our lives with more confidence and courage.
Many folx that show up at the Center already struggle with confidence because they are unsure how their gender identity or sexual orientation will be received by others. They may have experienced painful rejection from friends or family. This makes it difficult for them to ask for help, to apply for a job, sometimes even to show up in public spaces. By giving them the chance to practice vulnerability in a safe space, we help them build the confidence they need to embrace their identity and take the risks necessary to live a full life.
"Blessed are those that can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused." -- author unknown
We are incredibly grateful to Caleb Dance and the teaching artists at MIMA Music for bringing us these wonderful workshops. You can read more about their work here.
Join us on February 23 at 2:30 for another round of improvisational joy!
You can support workshops like these as well as life skills classes and other vital programming at the Center by joining a monthly giving club. Any amount you can give shows our Center community that there are allies who care.