I breathe in and out, in and out, in and out. To combat my nervousness, I try my guitar strings for the 100th time to make sure they are still in tune. I drink some water. I cough and clear my throat.
Our band is next on stage. It is the semi-finals of the Lanzhou University of Technology's annual music competition, and my band, E.S. Band, is up.
We walk out onto the stage to the applause of all the students, as well as some whispering, "Oh, there's a foreigner (me) in the band. I've seen him around school."
As we play our first song, "Good Riddance" by Green Day, the crowd is eating it up - loving it! I sing and Boss plays the solo on his bass. Janson is just chilling out with his guitar.
As the last notes of the song ring out, the crowd screams, "Another one, another one!" ---- the judges look around at each other......everyone's only supposed to play one song this round, but they let us play another.
We play a Chinese favorite, "老男孩," or "The Old Boy." "Can the foreigner sing in Chinese?" the crowd murmurs.
When I sing the first line of the song, the crowd went ballistic. They went crazy. Everyone sang along - even the stony-faced Communist Party member judge was smiling and stumbling his way through the words.
Boss and Janson join me on vocals and we sing together with the crowd - a blissful moment of unity together as we sing about this boy who is wondering whatever happened to the girl he used to love.
In that moment, there were no borders. There was no Chinese, no English, no America, no China - we were all just people singing about loves we all had lost.
We finish our song and take a short bow, basking in the glory of the moment, and leave the stage.
I, for one, was changed by that day. It has become my favorite memory of China, and one that I wouldn't change for the world.
There are so few moments where people so vastly different can truly connect with one other, and through the power of music, we were all able to forge a bond of friendship and understanding. May it never be broken.
(And by the way, we received 1st place that round!)