It was my first music gig at an eclectic restaurant in a college town. A party of three waited for a table as I began my next song.
This was also the largest audience at that point of my young performance career. The loud and crowded environment was overwhelming. Luckily, I thought, most people would not really hear the music well enough.
During my first set the young student drifted past me to be seated, with her father and mother following in line behind her. Their table, the last open one, would be in the far corner of the restaurant. I had the idea the young student’s father would have preferred a quieter eatery, but this was where they had found themselves, mulling over the vegetarian menu — mainly a large salad bar — food that was not that great but cheap. This inexpensive fare ensured a steady flow of young vibrant customers.
On this Saturday night, it was packed.
During my earlier career, observing people’s actions was an important assessment process. Profiling helped me to better understand individuals I worked with, especially athletes.
This student seemed fit, probably a freshman in the middle of her first semester, sitting quietly sipping her lemon-spiked water. Awkwardly, she tried to converse with what seemed like two strangers — her parents — tensely talking to her. But most of the table-time appeared to be quiet and uneasy. To an observer the scene felt painful.
It was time to play another song.
By the first chorus, the transformation was evident: her facial expression changed, not quite to a smile but certainly an obvious easing of tension. An upgraded sitting posture followed. The music had reached her, and she couldn’t let go.
And it felt as if she touched me back. I imagined her being impelled to leap up, arms spread wide to sing out the song’s mighty chorus as if performing in a rock opera or sensational choir.
It appeared, I hoped, that the music set her free at least for that evening.
Having experienced similar situations in a clinical setting or an athletic field, this unfolding event felt familiar to me. On the contrary, it was also my first time to have someone reflect back the joy of my music — like a dream never dreamt that leapt to life.
The song that so vividly affected this young student was called Bethasia. Written in Los Angeles and recorded in Nashville, its name is one I made up. After writing this song, it would take a couple of years for me to fully appreciate my own creation, and how compelling the story of Bethasia was, especially the journey of her many musical and lyrical components. While this is a favorite storytelling song when performed solo, the original studio recording with a band and vocalist Steve Bower conveys powerful feelings through its beautiful harmonies and instrumentation.
As the party of three made their return trip through the still-crowded restaurant to the exit, single file, father first, the student ambled a bit as she walked by me. A quick glance at her parents, she then turned toward me to pass the start of her first big smile of the evening. It was much more than a thank you or even a grand applause. I nodded and smiled too as if to say, “Thank you, Bethasia.”
Click here to hear the song, Bethasia