Monday, April 17, 2017

Billy Lowe Embarrassing Moments

The time I entered a high school talent competition for African American students (and won 2nd place)!

2nd place win in 1987 
Yes it's true - I trained in classical piano performance and today I am a hair stylist.

OK, OK, yes it's true - I have MANY embarrassing moments.  Chief among these is the time I entered a high school talent competition for black students in central Georgia.  Not only did I not realize the (obvious) criteria, I WON SECOND PLACE OUT OF HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS.

We moved around a lot when I was a kid. My K-12 admissions records look more like a US Tour than a solid educational foundation.  My parents are divorced and my father's work took us here and there, and it seems like every year I was the new kid all over again and sometimes twice a year. I think most people that know me realize that I grew up in a church environment so I began playing piano at a very young age, and using that as an excuse to get out of the house, find a quiet space somewhere (and in something) other than being at home.  I took formal piano lessons throughout some of those years, and eventually began competing in high school on a regional and statewide level.  Handel, Prokofiev, Hayden, Kabalevsky, oh they were all my best friends.  And the more I progressed the more practice time that was required.  This was a great "escape" for me and I learned to use it to my many advantages.  I learned structure and flexibility all in one instrument and I learned some great negotiating skills as well.  I learned structure to play the pieces as they should
be played and flexibility in knowing that my fingers, my mind, and my processing abilities were all different than anyone else's and it was up to me to figure out how I would bring notes on a page to life.  The negotiation part?  Well if I was to win the next (fill in the blank) or perform at the  next (fill in the blank) then I'd need more practice time and that meant,,,,,,,,,,,, drum roll,,,,,,,, GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE.

When I began competing, I wasn't quite sure what I was in for and I certainly wasn't groomed in many of the formalities of performance.  Do I announce my piece to the audience or just to the judges.  Do I stand up and bow in between performance pieces or sit still and prepare for the next? What do I wear?  You get the picture. But one talent showcase stands out quite distinctly.  In my Junior year of high school, there was a central Georgia talent showcase announced at our high school and I think out of the entire list of registration details the only things I saw were TALENT, COMPETITION, AND NAME.  That's it - I was signed up.

My Aunt Shirley with me after my win.
One of my biggest family supporters has always been my Aunt Shirley (my father's sister). She was always as proud of my accomplishments as anyone else and I may as well have been one of her own children.  She seemed to carry an invisible sign on her smile that said "I'm with Billy."  So she took me to this particular talent showcase that I had somehow signed up  (and been approved) for.  I dressed my best and can't even remember what I played, perhaps a Debussy piece?  But let me set the stage here.  This was the 80's, in central Georgia and the high school I attended at the time was 8 or 9 percent white (we now say Caucasian).  The majority was not white.

As we arrived and took our seats to be greeted by judges and officials of the event and soon divided into our competing categories, Aunt Shirley took a calm yet restless look around the room.  With one sharp jab to my ribs with her elbow she exclaimed in my ear:

"Billy!  Billy!  We are the only white people in here!"

"Shhhhhh!"  I whispered back to her.  "It's fine."

"I think were in the wrong place!"  Aunt Shirley insisted.   "We can't stay here I think you wrote down the wrong address."

As it turned out, my name was indeed on the roster amongst all of the other young competing students in their talent categories.  And as the evening wrapped and we all assembled once again, ribbons, certificates and trophies were given to the top 10 talent placements.  That countdown seemed like a goal completely out of reach because with every name called that wasn't yours, there was a slight hope that the next one would be, yet a realization that getting closer to 1 narrowed your chances.

And then, I heard it, yet I didn't, yet I did, yet I didn't.

"Second place talent demonstrating classical piano performance Mr. Billy Lowe."  

And that's all I heard that evening as well amidst, as is doubtless, many wonderful announcements and judging criteria, or perhaps meet and greets after the event.  To Aunt Shirley and me, nothing mattered but that trophy and my placement amongst a sea of other students.

The following week, Monday morning school preparation came around as usual and the Vice Principal gave his usual morning announcements at which time I sat up in my chair and wanted to crawl under the table at the same time.,

"We'd like to congratulate Mr. Billy Lowe for his excellent demonstration in classical piano performance this past week,,,,,"

My classmates turned around  to give me thumbs up and kudos and of course I sat all the more tall.  High school students love hearing their names announced (mostly) especially when it comes to an accomplishment.

"Yes that's right!"  The Vice Principal continued.  "Mr. Billy Lowe represented us very well in the 1987 young black student talent showcase winning 2nd place with his musical accomplishments! Moving on now to the pep rally this friday,,,,,,,,,,"

Yes, one of my finest moments.  Better yet, I have the trophy (and the photos) to prove it.  Billy Lowe wins second place in the 1987 young black student talent showcase.  A fine moment indeed.  Still I continue in my love for music playing here or there, studying when I can, and certainly reflecting back on some great memories.

Oh.  The lesson here?  Read your sign up sheets (and criteria) closely.  And enjoy some of these fun photos of my other piano sightings through the years.

Yours truly,

Billy Lowe
Hollywood Hair Stylist
Founder of Gloss & Toss  Hair Care
www.glossandtoss.net


Billy Lowe 3rd place GA Statewide Boys Classical Piano 1986


Billy Lowe in studio (just for fun) Los Angeles, CA



Billy Lowe at Doppler Studios Atlanta, GA (Photo Jason Meek)




Billy Lowe at the Liberace piano - Beverly Hills, CA



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