I am basically tone deaf, but I love to sing. The problem is no one loves to hear me sing. So I’d even remember around campfires where in college we did a lot of camping and somebody would bring a guitar and start to sing and people would look at me and say, why don’t you lip sync? And I was like, “Really? It’s that bad?” So it’s that bad. And my younger brother is also can’t sing on key, can’t carry a tune, but we tend to sing together. But nobody wants to listen to that either.
So that’s what I have done in terms of performing is prior to my retirement, I was a very big union activist. I held the leadership role in our union local, and I did a lot of public speaking. I was one of the people that would get regularly called to speak to reporters either written reporting or TV reporting. I spoke to the school board all the time. That was more yelling, but essentially I think speaking in public, giving classes, nursing classes, continuing education for nurses, workshops, the public speaking has been like performance. Not that I think it’s very artistic. I really would love to get up and sing in front of an audience. But even to sounds okay to my own ear, but I have no idea whether I sound okay to my ear because I’m tone deaf.
I’ve always wanted to learn to say one or two or three sentences in so many languages. And I always wanted to learn to say something in Asian languages, whether it was Chinese or Japanese or Korean, because a lot of the kids I worked with their parents were immigrants. And I always feel like it’s something nice that you can say, “Hello, my name is, I’m pleased to meet you” in someone’s own language. But I could never hear the tone.
There are a few public speeches that come to mind for me, and most of them were comments, public comments made during the public comment period of the school board meeting. And about the way the school board treated its employees, that there was no oversight of the administrators that our students deserve better, issues of equity, those sorts of things. We passed two different propositions, which are ballot measures in California to quote prepositions. And so we actually worked really hard. I spoke a lot about two different ballot propositions, actually three, and they all passed. And they were all, is that they were all taxing people. It was about money. So it was all about taxing yourself and people voted for it. So I would say that was a major accomplishment, getting people to vote for taxing themselves to benefit us.
Anyway, that’s my experience with public speaking and music in the public schools in New York, there were glee clubs, but I never qualified for a glee club. I guess that would be the equivalent of a chorus or choir in different places. The glee club.
And then I remember the schools were always very underfunded and I lived in neighborhoods where the underfunded schools were even more underfunded than other schools. I remember in the sixth grade, we were told to learn to play piano. That was the music portion and they gave us these cardboard keyboards! …they showed you where your fingers on where are your hands could go on a regular piano.