Recently, I volunteered to help out my favorite radio station (yes, I'm going to plug it now!), 89.7 Power FM. It transmits here in the DFW area, and a little bit north into Oklahoma. They also transmit through an iPhone App and their website, kvrk.com.
My favorite thing about the station is their music. They play stuff that just doesn't make radio very often. The genre is Christian Rock, and they play anything from Third Day to Demon Hunter, which includes a great mix of Relient K, Audio Adrenaline, Run Kid Run, and several other artists that fall into my top 20 list.
But a close second (and often fighting for first) is their conviction. They are first and foremost a ministry. The station reaches a lot of teens who shy away from Christian music because of quality, or just because they don't enjoy the sound of the Contemporary Christian genre. The station has even kept their set up as a listener-supported station, running solely off of the donations of their listeners and including plenty of Christian material in their productions.
OK, plug done. The real point of my story is what happened the night I volunteered. I came in to help process calls for their donation drive, but with the load lighter than expected, the volunteers had a lot of time to hang out, help the DJ fill out the night's playlist, and keep the staff entertained. During the evenings, the DJ's like to come up with challenges for the listeners, and they often involve a reward for reaching a donation milestone, so we helped the DJ brainstorm.
Tonight's reward? Well, it was more of a punishment, and we suggested people call in with donations to prevent it. If we didn't get enough calls, we, the DJ and volunteers, would sing to them.
We told listeners how unfortunate it would be to lose the quality music on this station, and if they lost it, they might have to listen to something more like us. Singing A Capella renditions of their favorite rock songs. At least it's better than dead air! OK, even that's a stretch.
Funny enough, we immediately got a few more calls, but none of them begged us to abstain. So we kept up the premise, sifted through a list of classic Christian Rock songs, and we settled on one to sing at the end of the 9:00 hour before we all went home. We were to sing Jesus Freak.
The time came, and we put on the DC Talk track in the background. From the first chord through the refrain, we belted it out for the world to hear. It wasn't pretty, and there were times only one of us knew the lyrics, but we did it. I even had a moment during TobyMac's 2nd verse, when nobody else knew the words by heart, so I sang solo into the live microphone. For literally 15 seconds, I had my 15 seconds of fame.
I didn't put the two thoughts together until the end of the night, when we were all going our own ways, but the situation felt familiar. There was a sense of deja vu about it. It hadn't happened before, but I realized that I had imagined it before. Like many songs I enjoyed singing along with in my childhood, at some point I imagined rocking out in front of a microphone. It didn't matter if it was in a recording studio, a live stage, or a DJ's booth, the fantasy had me belting out my favorite songs to an audience.
Since I wanted this so badly when I was young, I had to challenge myself with the big question: Was it everything you dreamed? Considering the fantasy also included a sold-out show or a million-man fan base, nighttime radio probably fell a bit short. And I think we sang a closer resemblance to track 9 on the CD (Jesus Freak - Reprise) than to the popular single (look it up if you don't remember... it's worth the laugh!). But at least I remembered the words, my voice didn't crack on the high notes, and it was fun! Since I apparently didn't dream of curing cancer or traveling to Mars when I was a kid, my dream was nicely obtainable.
But I want to push it a step further: Would my 13-year-old self be proud? That's tough. Why did I want musical success at that age? Was it the fun, or was it the fame?
Unfortunately, I think it was more about the fame. I saw the way the world reacted to great singles like Jesus Freak, and I noticed the way I felt listening to the music. I wanted to have that effect on people, and I think I wanted them to recognize me for it.
I think I've always been caught between the idea of making a big impact and being recognized for the impact I make. I know the impact is good, but too often I drift toward recognition. I hear myself narrating an interview in my head or wonder how my actions would look in newsprint. I daydream that through an accidental run-in with a member of the press, I'm suddenly the center of a great news story. Maybe I even end up on Good Morning America and the Today Show before it's all over!
In the 14 years since I was 13, I've continued to struggle with the allure of fame. Whether it's the thought of publishing an essay in a scholarly journal or giving a presentation to a large crowd, the idea of fame still tries to drive me from my path. And in those 13 years, I've learned that aspiring for fame before function is like aiming for Mars when you need to reach the Moon. You might make progress, but you'll never hit your target.
I'm learning this lesson slowly. Now, instead of hoping for a run-in with the press, I worry about it. Instead of seeking recognition, I avoid it. I don't do this because fame is bad, but because I know I have a problem with fame the way alcoholics have a problem with alcohol. I'm afraid that once I get a taste of it, I'll just keep searching for more.
As I'm writing this, I haven't heard from anyone who recognized my voice on the radio. At first I wanted to, knowing there would be more curious looks than compliments, so that I could recount and relive my 15 seconds of fame. I wanted to know just how crazy we were and just how bad it sounded. I wanted to know if they were impressed by my rendition of TobyMac or if it left something to be desired.
But I think it's better if I don't. My 13-year-old self may kick me in the shins for letting this moment go, but at the wise old age of 27, I think I'm happy just to keep the memories.
Always moving forward,