My breath quickened and I wiped my sweaty palms on my skirt. I glanced for the millionth time at the order of service. Two more songs, a prayer, and then it was my turn to ascend the stage.
I was 13 years old when I sang my first real solo at my family’s little church on a Sunday morning. Singing a solo during the church service on a Sunday morning was a huge deal-primarily reserved for the musical elite-seasoned, heavy hitters who knew how to pick the right hymns, make confident eye-contact with the congregation and deliver their memorized music with grace and poise. I had put in my time singing in duets, trios and choir ensembles at the Sunday evening services. “Special Music” as it was called, on Sunday nights was dedicated to amateurs; kids and teens trying out the instruments they were learning and vocalists who struggled with pitch.
Ever since I had discovered I could carry a tune and liked being in front of people, my musical aspirations were laser focused on the highest musical level a girl my age could go at church, the envied position of the vocal solo during a Sunday morning service. Thankfully, I was well connected. My family were regular and loyal attenders and my mom had been a leader in nearly every ministry area. When I finally saw my name listed alone on the monthly Special Music schedule, I was ecstatic. I felt a strong sense of pride that the music director had finally noticed my talent and that I was the first of my circle of friends to have achieved such an honor. The week before I was to make my debut, I selected a somewhat challenging song and ran through it once with the church pianist, confident that my natural musical ability would carry me through in the moment.
The morning of my solo arrived and I climbed the steps of the stage, wobbling in oversized high heels that I’d worn only for this special occasion. Standing behind the microphone and looking out into the faces of the congregation staring back at me, I suddenly felt very out of my league. The pianist played my introduction and missing my cue, I began to sing, skipping the first part of the song. The pianist struggled to follow as I jumped around in the music, squeaked through the high notes and skipped verses. I suddenly wished I knew the song better. It was a disaster and even as I watched the music leader’s face as I croaked and cracked my way through it I knew there wouldn’t be another invitation to this sacred setting until I’d put my time in again and proved I was prepared.
Starting With the Right Tools
The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. ~Confucius
Desire. Motivation. These are excellent and necessary traits to become successful. But more importantly…you need the right tools. A year or so after the Sunday morning service debacle, my parents enrolled me in voice lessons. It was then that my voice teacher taught me how to pick a song that was suited for my range, sing without running out of breath, practice my music and given the techniques and confidence to sing in front of a crowd. As a voice and piano teacher now, one of my primary goals is to provide my students with the necessary tools to learn and create music.
Talent vs Education
Education in music is most sovereign because more than anything else rhythm and harmony find their way to the innermost soul and take strongest hold upon it. ~Plato
While I highly value and appreciate raw music talent, the effects of music education are so far-reaching it’s impossible to deny its positive benefits. A couple of years ago, a study by Northwestern University’s professor Nina Kraus found that children who studied an instrument had stronger language and sound development skills than their peers. After studying a group of students in an after-school music program, Kraus noted that “even in a group of highly motivated students, small variations in music engagement — attendance and class participation — predicted the strength of neural processing after music training." Basically, it’s not enough to just listen to or be exposed to music. Neurological growth occurs in the active participation and discipline of consistent music lessons. Similar studies have been found for adults who participate in music lessons.
Where to Begin
A goal is a dream with a deadline. ~Napoleon Hill
The beauty of private music lessons is that I’m able to assess each student’s learning process so when I’m providing the right “tools”, I’m really creating processes for them to discover how they learn and retain information. For a brand new piano student, sitting and looking at a full keyboard for the first time can be intimidating. But when I can help the student look at a keyboard in a new way-a way that makes sense to them, they can then use that same mental process to break down new concepts, musical or otherwise.
What is your musical goal? Is it to sing a solo at your church service? Be able to sit down at the piano after a long day and play a beautiful piece of music? If it’s for your children, you’ll never regret the values, neurological growth and discipline they’ll glean from a music education.
I was out and about shopping a few years ago. As I exited a store with my arms full of bags, an older gentleman held the door for me. "Thank you!" I responded, grateful for the help. He tipped his head and held a second set of doors open as we exited. "Thank you again!" I responded once more in the same manner. His face brightened. "Wow!" he said with a smile. "I wish we had more doors!"
It was a great reminder to me that gratitude doesn't have a shelf life. Appreciating the things and people in your life on a daily basis isn't redundant-it's actually a tool for success. In her book, "The Elite: Think Like An Athlete, Succeed Like a Champion", Dr. Jo Lukin describes how athletes at the top of their game have learned the power of gratitude. By remaining grateful and savoring each moment, happiness becomes a tool for achievement and by appreciating your opportunities, she suggests, we can experience gratitude every day.
Thanksgiving music is often passed over by the holiday train, but what it lacks in quantity and sparkle, it makes up for in depth and meaning. Such music never ceases to center my priorities and re-align my thoughts to reflect gratitude. "For the Beauty of the Earth" was written by a 29-year old English poet, Folliott Pierpoint as he observed the majesty of the countryside surrounding him.
For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
What people, events or opportunities compose your hymn of grateful praise this year?
Add these to your Thanksgiving dinner playlist-you'll thank me later. :)
And for fun!
Midwesterners can usually count on several times a year when you start to get that itchy feeling to be anywhere warmer and prettier than the place you're currently in. Throw in a pandemic and you've got a raging case of cabin fever. What can be done with these itchy thoughts?
This week, a high school student of mine shared with me his Greatest Dream. It was lofty and I had to steel myself against the "Have you considered...(fill in the blank with 'anything else')?" line. Then he told me that he had quit playing video games so he could focus more time on his goal. That moment convinced me that even if he doesn't reach that particular goal, this guy is going to accomplish anything he wants. It reminded me of this quote: "It takes many hours to make what you want to make. The hours don't suddenly appear. You have to steal them from comfort." (Derek Silvers)
Dreaming about your big picture goals and taking the time to work toward them transforms the hopeless, sedentary moments into moments rich with meaning and intention. And maybe it's not your goal, but there's nothing wrong with closing your eyes and transporting to a big, blue sparkling body of water lined with palm trees and a smiling sunshine. :)
I ran my first virtual 5K race this weekend. It was strange! No official starting lines, no fellow runners pushing past and falling behind. No energy of a crowd (or bananas and water!) as I ended the race.
However, looking at my race time, I saw that I'd beat myself! I worked hard this summer and was significantly faster and stronger than last year. I didn't need to pass anyone else to celebrate a win.
What old or current version of yourself do you want to crush? Let's use these lonely days apart to build our inner competitors and cheering sections. "Everything you need is already inside you. Don't wait for others to light your fire. You have your own matches." (Aamir Hussain)
|Brillante Music Studio||