Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Deep breath. I can probably just leave and pretend I never did this to myself. No, they have my name. It’s too late to turn back now. It’s just the audition right? It won’t be that bad.
“What’s your talent?,” the woman asks me.
“I sing,” I reply. “And play the piano, well, uh actually the keyboard. I mean I can play both but I'll be playing a keyboard... and singing.”
I said that already.
“OK, well where is it?”
“Your keyboard. You said you were playing that too, right?”
“Oh yeah, it’s in my room, I just got off work and I rushed and, uh, I’m sorry.”
I look down at my uniform as if it was irrefutable proof of my argument.
“That’s alright just go sing and if you make it, bring it with you to the dress rehersal,” she said politely.
I make my way down the aisle and on to the stage. The theater looks odd, lit by overhead fluorescents and nearly empty. Maybe it's because I'm standing on the stage, by myself.
Yea, I feel ridiculous.
“Hi, I'm Kurkimilis, Lance Corporal Lauren... Kurkimilis.”
What am I James Bond now? I shouldn't be nervous. I’ve been on stage before, in high school, like seven years ago. Just sing and get this over with.
“What will you be singing for us?,” said one of the judges.
“Bottle it up by Sara Barielles.”
I chose the song because it’s one I think I could play with my eyes closed. So, hopefully, that will help alleviate my nerves. One could only hope.
“OK, go ahead,” he says.
Here goes nothing.
Eyes shut, I let my arms hang motionless by my sides. This awkward posture was accompanied by an uncontrollable knee shaking. I’m pretty sure I sang one of the verses twice but I doubt any of these guys are die-hard Sara Barielles fans, so they probably didn’t notice.
When I was done, I opened my eyes and nervously blinked at the judges.
“Usually I have the piano in front of me,” I said. “So I didn’t really know what to do with my hands.”
To be honest, I wasn’t worried about not getting selected. I think I was worried about getting put in the show and having to go on stage in front of a lot more than the five people judging the auditions. I’m the type of person who likes to keep to myself, so not many people around here have actually heard me sing. That was about to change.
I was sent an email with the list of contestants who were selected and saw the order of performance. I was dead last.
What does that mean? Did I barely make the cut? Is it just a random order? Am I like the headliner?
I later found out I was just one of the last to audition, thus last scheduled to perform. I’m an idiot.
The day of the show, was the dress rehearsal. This is where the “talent,” as we were called, got to meet and practice our acts with all the appropriate equipment, i.e. my keyboard.
I thought I would have an edge on the competition with my piano playing but I was wrong. There were two other piano acts. One was Joshua Toles, who wrote and performed a deep and beautiful song about his faith and the other was a Zachary Kam who ended up going on after me and played the four-chord song by Axis of Awesome, an Australian comedy-rock band. For those unaware of this hit sensation, it’s a song that rolls dozens of hit songs into one, with expert comedic timing, and all played with just four chords.
I was surprisingly calm during the first half of the show, but once the intermission was over, the panic crept in. I watched the acts before me and as each passed I wasn’t sure if I was more excited or nervous.
I need to call my dad, he will calm me down. So with no regard whatsoever to what time it was in Florida, I called him.
I could tell he had been sleeping.
“Hey popps. Did I wake you up?”
“No, no. I was awake.”
“Well, I'm just in a talent show on base and don't make fun of me but I'm kind of nervous.”
“You’re nervous? Really?”
“Yea dad, will you do me a favor? Will you just come on stage with me?”
“Uh, yea, of course.”
After the master of ceremonies introduced me I walked on stage, put my dad down on the top of the keyboard and sat down.
I looked at the crowd and said, “Well, my dad taught me how to play piano and uh he's on the phone right now. So, if this is bad, we can just blame him.”
Someone in the audience yelled, “Hi dad!”
I could faintly hear my dad laughing through the phone and suddenly I felt OK.
I sang and played well. I even put the chorus and verses in the right order. I am definitely no Sara Barielles, but even my dad, who is by far my most honest critic, said it sounded great.
Most of the acts were singers. The overall winner, Andrew Burch, played guitar and sang an original. The second place winner, Chris Martin, sang an alternative rock song and hand crafted his costume with arm straps, sunglasses and biker gloves. A real crowd pleaser. Zachary Kam, also known as the four-chords guy, tied third with Joel Daniels, who presented, by far, my favorite act. He went by the stage-name, “Marine Sandpiper,” a bag pipe player who wore a desert MARPAT kilt with boots and played Lady Gaga's “Bad Romance.”
I didn't place or win an MCX gift card but I was still really glad I did it. All-in-all the experience introduced me to a few new and like-minded people on base and gave the Marines an opportunity to show their individuality in a world of uniformity.