12th May 2020
Musician Conor Moore regularly tours Europe with his band, performing to crowds and speaking at seminars. While spring cleaning recently he unearthed this 9-year-old essay he wrote at school about his stammer which revealed a very different person to who he is now — someone full of fear for the future.
I always knew I couldn't read in front of a class because of my stammer. I used to deliberately ‘forget’ my book for class. I would jot down "FORGET NOVEL FOR THURSDAY" right after the teacher announced we’d have to read aloud.
Thursday would arrive. The teacher would wave the book about as a cue for us to scavenge through our bags and begin the session. I knew where mine was — lodged among boardgames at home where I had put it the night before to avoid ‘Hell’. As the teacher instructed what page we were continuing on from, I was busy making a tower of books behind which I could hide.
There I was, staring through my invisibility shield of books, attempting to send a telepathic message of "please not me" to the teacher so that I could side-step having to read, or stammer, aloud. This failed as my teacher ran her finger round the room, before eventually pointing and saying, "Conor, continue please, thank you."
As the teacher instructed what page we were continuing to read from, I was busy making a tower of books behind which I could hide.
I could already hear the sniggering. I cringingly said, "I-I-I-I d-don't ha-have a book." Cries of laughter emerged from my ‘classmates’. "Look at your neighbour's and just read," she ordered sternly. I read it, then hid. Then I carried on fearing throughout my school days.
In life you create enemies, but you also discover blessings. For instance, I learned I could perform musically and really express my personality. This helped immensely, but I was still hiding. As for enemies, well, some characters of the alphabet are difficult to deliver. I hoped I could patch things up with these enemies, and feared the invitation of doing the ABCs with my baby cousins.
I hope one day to see myself presenting to a conference room full of people about…ah, what’s the use, as if. I hope to have that confidence someday.
Confidence is a wonderful thing, but can you summon it in your worst case scenarios? Everyday life contains many ‘there's no place like home — click heels — get me outta here’ situations. A personal fear of mine is going to a restaurant with a group, or worse, a girl. If I took a girl out for a romantic meal, she would undoubtedly be ordering for me. Not to worry though, because I'd flash the cash and pay.
It's funny; I'm 18 and I still bully my mother into ordering whenever we go out for a meal. It's embarrassing, yes, but what if the attractive waitress met my friend Stammer? I would burn like the baguette I was ordering — I mean my mother — was ordering for me. I hope I can order next time. I hope!
I hope that tower of books is dismantled one day and that I can bring myself to take out that novel and recite aloud. I fear to lack hope.
Like I said before, performing musically on stage is a blessing to me; it’s my shield, to put it metaphorically. I once auditioned for a local production. I withdrew myself from socialising among other auditionees and created a plan to bail if I needed to. "You're next, pet," whispered a lady. "I'm looking for star quality," the producer said. "Name?" .........(pause)........."Conor." "Forget your name there, Conor?" he jokingly asked. I had to giggle to maintain a healthy atmosphere. The script was handed to me and my shaking hand received it. For a split second, the word SCREWED hallucinated before me on the page. Harsh, but it was right, I was screwed. Cue an awkward silence and an outbreak of sweat. By the fourth or fifth minute, the producer joined me in reading with his hand on my shoulder. Shameful, but I appreciated him coming to my rescue. He then said something about getting back to me, and "thank you." I was relieved but I hung my head on my way out. Auditionees usually congratulate one another afterwards. It was different after mine. I left hearing someone deliver an audition, full of contrasting emotion and animation, followed by applause from the producer. I hope he now acknowledges my progression since then.
I hope one day to overcome my fear. I hope to order food, say my name; I hope that tower of books is dismantled and that I can bring myself to take out that novel and recite aloud. I fear to lack hope.
That's my speech, not the King's speech.
Nine years later…
That was an essay on ‘hopes and fears’ I wrote for my A-Levels 9 years ago when the film The King’s Speech had just come out. I found it when doing an email spring clean. No, I didn’t get the part. But it didn’t stop me. I got therapy when I was 19 and in my final year I played the lead in West Side Story and won awards.
I now run my own drumming school and am a full-time musician and performer. I coordinate and perform seminars and workshops (watch me in action here) in front of people every day. I go on tour around Europe for months in a tribute Britpop band. The things a drummer needs to do to get by, lol.
Throwing myself at the worst case scenarios helped.
I still stammer, it comes and goes. Because people are more aware of it now, it makes it so much easier. I even got married last August and made a speech. That was hard, but I got there and I enjoyed it.
Looking back at these moments of speaking to groups of people on stage and doing business over the phone — throwing myself at the worst case scenarios helped. By speaking to me now, you would hardly notice my stammer but that doesn’t make me forget the pain and stress a person goes through every day with a speech impediment. I would do anything to help.