Don’t Sweat That Christmas Pageant Performance, Kid

by Bill Brenner on December 26, 2014

My kids participated in a Christmas Eve pageant at our church, and a highlight for me was one girl’s performance of the song, “Mary Did You Know.”

The young lady’s performance made my neck hairs stand up. I saw her sing it twice: Christmas Eve, and at a rehearsal the night before.

During the Christmas Eve performance, she sang a bit too high toward the end. She still sounded awesome. But she was pretty upset.

As someone whose work involves a lot of getting up in front of people — in writing and in person — I wanted to share a few thoughts.

First, some background:

I’m a pretty public guy. I write this blog and two others as part of my work life. As part of my work, I frequently do public presentations. I’m also a lector at church.

I used to be terrified of getting up in front of people. The thought of doing such a thing used to make me sick. My anxiety level would go into high orbit. It was part of a larger struggle with fear and anxiety.

I eventually decided to face down that fear and, now that I have a lot of experience, public engagement doesn’t make me nervous anymore.

Given that background, I have enormous respect for those who get up in front of a big crowd. Especially singers.

I know what it’s like to bomb in front of people, and let me tell you something: You didn’t bomb. You didn’t even come close. I know what it’s like to truly bomb.

  • I once gave a talk to a room full of hard-nosed security professionals and they didn’t buy what I was saying. That was pretty awkward. (Rather than repeat that story here, you can read it about it in another blog if you wish.)
  • I sang in a rock band when I was younger, and we did a few performances along the way. Some went really well. But the most important performance we had up to that point was a complete bomb. We were out of tune at the opening, and it threw us off for most of the performance.
  • I’ve enjoyed success as a writer, but I’ve also written stuff that in hindsight makes me cringe.
  • As a lector, I’ve messed up many times. Since we go to the same church, you might have seen it happen. I’ve mispronounced names of the sick and dead, and once bungled narrating Christ’s Passion so badly I thought I’d be banned from ever lectoring again.

Despite all that, I’ve been able to keep doing it all, mostly without incident. And in most cases, people don’t notice or remember the mistakes. And yes, the mistakes still happen.

Nobody is going to remember that you went up an octave or two too high.

People will remember that you threw your heart and soul into the performance.


They’ll remember that you had the guts to get up in front of them and perform. Many are too afraid to do such a thing, and see it as a courageous act.

They’ll look forward to seeing you perform again. I certainly will.

Keep singing and performing. Know that you will screw up from time to time, and that it’s ok.

You’ll learn from those experiences.

Thanks for the beautiful singing, and Merry Christmas to you and your family.


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