The Day I Learned I Could Sing
by Danny Gokey
I loved music, but it never occurred to me I could sing. At least not until my dad said I could. Our family was on our way home from church, listening to the music in the car. I leaned forward—just behind the console—and started singing. I didn’t care that I was singing out loud. I was just enjoying the moment. Dad quietly looked over at Mom and said, “Your son can sing.” I sat back in my seat not knowing what to say. I looked out the window and warmth filled my whole body. That seemed like a profound moment—as if time stopped. I was twelve years old at the time, and my dad was my hero. I considered that powerful statement, as if it was a window into my future.
I wish I could tell you my parents called a talent scout the next day and had someone meet with me immediately. I wish I could tell you that after hearing me, the talent scout signed me to an amazing record deal, and I became a legend. But as you can imagine, we were headed home after church and back to our regular routine. But a short time later, I had my first public performance – singing karaoke on a stage of a water park on a family vacation. I was a scrawny kid in swim trunks, belting out “Tutti Fruiti” by Little Richard. By the time I was done, the area around the stage was packed and people were cheering loudly for me. I felt like a million bucks! It was foreshadowing of something bigger and better yet to come. I just didn’t know it.
At fourteen I found myself at the beginning of what I thought would be a long career in music. I was eager to use the gift both Dad and I now knew I possessed. So I did what any self-respecting singer did in high school. I tried out for the glee club. There was only one problem. I didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t good enough. I was certainly disappointed, and it was a while before I regained the courage to audition again. Berry Gordy came to Milwaukee and held a tryout for his record label, Motown. I went, and sang my heart out, confident that I would move on to the next round…but I was cut. Rejected twice, I auditioned again—this time for the praise and worship team at church.
Up until this point, I’d spent most of my life comfortable in the background, uneasy with the idea of being a front man; so I tried out to be a background vocalist. I was so excited when I made the group and was looking forward to using my love for music and singing in a particularly meaningful way. One Sunday morning out of the blue, the pastor pulled me aside and told me I would be the lead singer for worship from now on. I was stunned and completely frightened because I hadn’t spent a lot of time on stage in front of people. This was all so new to me and more than a little intimidating.
I questioned myself—I didn’t believe I was good enough – which is probably why I started the first song with my back to the crowd! Afraid to turn around, I guess I convinced myself that if I didn’t see the congregation, then they weren’t really there. I looked over at the piano player. She was pointing to me to get my attention and motioning for me to face the crowd. I remember shaking my head and saying no. Eventually I did and that experience was the start of something big in my life.
Looking back, the sum of my life is just a bunch of people really believing in me and pointing out the talents and abilities I didn’t know were there. I’m grateful for all those who were placed in my life that pushed me toward becoming the person I am today. There will be surprises along the way to your destiny. That’s why hope is so important to harnessing the power we need to pull us through our difficult moments. Someone is always going to think that you don’t live up to their standards or meet their expectations. It’s key you surround yourself with people who recognize your gifts and push you toward your dreams.