Me and Milli Vanilli. See, we really couldn't sing.... - J. Kenner

Me and Milli Vanilli. See, we really couldn't sing….

Yup, that's me doing the high school musical thing. Second from the right.
There’s a line in the original Fame that always struck me. Something mortifying happens to the girl who’s the star, and she says something to the effect of “I must remember this and use it in my acting.”

That’s how I feel about the time I was cast in a musical. I must remember it and use it in my writing.

Actually, if you want to be really accurate, I feel like that girl in A Chorus Line: “See, I really couldn’t see, I could never really sing, what I couldn’t do was sing….”

So, picture this. I’m a senior in high school. For years, I’ve been doing techie stuff in drama, but I think our drama teacher and director figured after all that time I ought to get a shot on stage, and she and the choir director cast me in the high school musical. We were putting on Working, based on the Studs Terkel book, and I was the Mill Worker. I even had a solo, right there at the beginning of the show. But they were smart, and the “solo” was more of a chat to the audience. Whew! I was safe.

At the end of the first act, though, there’s a big number with the whole cast right there at the edge of the stage. And one day at rehearsal, Mr. Choir Director stood beneath us doing his choir directing thing, turned his focus to me, and said, “Julie, I think it might be better if you would just lip sync.”

Yes, I was the Milli Vanilli of high school years before Milli ever thought about Vanilli-ing.

Now, Mr. Choir Director is a lovely person and I bear him no ill will for revealing this truth. I have, however, forwarded to him all of the medical bills resulting from the deep emotional scars and years of psychological counseling.

Needless to say, I lip synced. Also needless to say, he was soooooooooo right.

Can't you just imagine how off-key I am?

Not that I really needed a professional to tell me I couldn’t sing. My friends were happily informing me of the same for years. Once, Stephen Carver, one of my absolute best friends with a solid singing voice (hi Steve!) and I were driving along in his car, and I’m singing to the radio. We stop at a light, he looks over at me, and says in a voice reflecting a world of Shock and Awe: “Hey! Julie! I think one of those notes was actually on key!” Color me so very proud …

Fast forward many years, and now I have a daughter…who wants to sing. Can she? I think so, but then again, I’m not really trusting my judgment. So when she announces that she wants to join a local Glee Club/Show Choir, I tape her singing Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and play the tape for one of my best friends, Dee Davis, who has an awesome voice. The verdict? My kid can sing! Just for proof, here’s a performance of her Glee club this past Christmas. She’s 10, by the way, and is the tallest of the group, and the second kid to sing.

Breakfast with Santa

And no, I’m not the least bit jealous. Really I’m not. Now excuse me while I go sing in the shower…..

Got any I Was Mortified In High School stories to share? Come on…you know you do!


April P lummer

First of all, your site looks great, and I’m so going to check out your books! Second of all – you are tooooo funny! I can’t believe you were told to lip sync! Thank goodness we weren’t forced into musicals, though I auditioned anyway, more for the dancing than the singing.


Thanks! I’m actually in the process of doing a revamp, so in a couple of months hopefully it’ll look even better! And thx re the books 🙂

What’s really a hoot is that we weren’t forced into them either, and my years in h.s. had an amazing crop of talent, so it really had to have been pity casting b/c there was no need to pull from the bottom of the barrel (i.e., me)! All of the folks back in my drama club days were awesome, and we had so much fun. Despite the hard cold truth of my seriously craptabulous voice, I have amazing memories from those years!

Carrie Daws

Too funny!! You’re blog is great! Keep up the incredible work. I wasn’t much to stepping out in the limelight in high school — I was second place to some great friends and I didn’t mind that. In fact, I think I worked hard to NOT call attention to myself. Sigh…Lots of growing years since then and while I still don’t seek the limelight, I’m not too uncomfortable when it happens.


I know exactly what you mean. I was pretty shy as a kid (interludes on stage not-withstanding) but I’ve gotten more and more over it across the years. Law school actually helped tremendously. There’s nothing like the Socratic method to get over being shy and quiet!

Sherry Isaac

Julie, I share your pain, but, aren’t the acoustics are great in the shower?

I, too, hit the right notes by accident. In high school, driving around with friends, I was singing to The Police. Steve (Another Steve? What are the chances?) sang/shouted over my voice, and the radio. Don’t sing, don’t sing so, don’t sing so close to me!


My ‘singing’ has come in handy, though. Great punishment threat when the kids aren’t behaving in the car. “If you don’t stop looking at your brother, I’ll sing.”

Worked everytime.

Great post, lovely site. I’ll be back. Hope you’ll return the favor.


So true! My voice reverbs beautifully off the glass and tile! I’m totally going to have to try the car trick. Those kids just get too rowdy sometimes. A little singing threat should calm them down! Just checked out and commented on your Rainbow post…loved it!

For the record, I think you owe me a new keyboard for the coffee spew moment of “don’t sing so close to me.”

Barbara Forte Abate

LOL, I’m definitely of the thought that it’s easier to just sing badly (note, I didn’t say painless) than it is to lip sync well–or at least convincingly. My friends and I took our show on the road for a high school production of The Gong Show. Three of us dressed up like Elvis and lip synced “Teddy Bear.” Thank God that Elvis style hip gyrations kept the audience and judges from watching our lips. Not only did we NOT get gonged, we came in 2nd place!

Love this post, Julie! Nothing like a spin down memory lane to kick off the day 😉


OMG! The Gong Show! Now THAT is a spin down memory lane. I used to watch it with my grandfather and would cringe in physical pain at some of the acts that got on that show! What fun!

Cora Ramos

Was in a choir for a bit while in H.S. The director kept encouraging me to sing solo (I sound great while harmonizing with others but I can’t carry a tune by myself). I finally gave in–once. That was the last time she asked me to sing solo. Nowadays, my daughter just laughs when I sing in the car–don’t get the words or tune right, so I mumble a lot, off key.

Keep those posts coming.

Gloria Richard

KUDOS on your new theme post, Julie. I love the diversity of your site.

Ah. HS memories. We’ll skip my brief acting career. It started and ended within 10 minutes when I sucked up the courage to do an “impromptu” audition for Harry, The Invisible Rabbit. I got a “pity” assignment to stage props. My art skills and singing skills share the word “deplorable.”

One memory stands out. Speech class. I was NOT the cheerleader type. Someone else is walking around with my dream hair. SO! I suffered a slight case of pre-speech jutters. Pre-speech jitters elevated to debilitating anxiety when the cheerleader with my dream hair gave her speech before mine. Her topic? Impressions one makes with their appearance. One point she made was “those girls who don’t spend time on their hair and just tuck it behind their ears.” Guess who had mousy brown hair tucked behind her ears? Yup! You got it. It took me a LONG time to conquer the fear of public speaking that surfaced that day. Am I a bad person for hoping she turned bald early and got late-stage acne????


OMG! That’s a scene out of a teen movie! Of course, in the movie, the girl w/ mousy brown hair tucked behind her ears totally squashes the cheerleader. So yay, you!

As for are you a bad person? Um, no 🙂

Kim Griffin

That was a great post, Julie! ~ and your little girl sounds great (not that you need me to tell you that!)

Mortified…mortified…well, I DID play tweedle dum when I wanted to be Alice in elementary school. Does that count? I think it may ; )


David Stoddard

Hi Julie.

I wish I had gotten into theater (or is that theatre)? After HS, a college instructor suggested I take a few theater courses. Of course, intro one mostly involve theory and some history. So that sorta sounded like either a waste of time or a way to milk more money from a starving journalism student (at the time).

P.S. Thanks for the WANA112 link list.

P.S.S. I creatively stole that idea and put it onto mine as well.


Susi Nonnemacher

I can totally relate to this! I was at a community theatre rehearsal last night, and someone asked me why I always just go out for the general cast member or speaking (but no singing) parts. I said that was easy–no vocal auditions meant no one would figure out that I couldn’t sing!
Last year, I ended up being cast to sing a 3-part harmony part with two other ladies in Willy Wonka, even without a rehearsal. I am guessing the director learned from that mistake, because I am back in my comfort zone this year, at least as far as singing goes. 🙂

Jeanne Ryan

Oh man, I feel your pain. And boy does your post bring back memories. Even though I really couldn’t sing, I was cast as Liesl in a community production of The Sound of Music. Talk about terror. Somehow I pulled it off by shout-singing the lyrics, but promised myself no more solos. Some of us are meant to sing and some to write.

Shay Fabbro

I can so relate. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket but by golly, when I’m in my car belting out the latest song by Mandisa, I sure THINK I sound like the next American Idol! 😀

And I never would have been able to get on stage in high school. *shudder* Now?? Without a problem! 😀


So many things I wouldn’t have done as a kid, but now I’m like, “Oh, come on!”– and I wonder what if I could’ve sucked up the courage back then….


I ended up having to take chorus in high school because it was the only class open. I did find out that I wasn’t tone deaf, I just can’t carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it. I told the teacher it was genetic. At least I didn’t get asked to do any solos.

Love your site and your story is well told. Keep it up – I’ll be looking for more as WANA112 goes along.


I always cringe at shows like American Idol when someone auditions and they’re horrible–worse than me! I have to wonder what their parents were like that they never said, um, honey, maybe singing isn’t going to be your career…


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