This entry is part of a series, Time Capsules, in which I think about one or more of the places in our home where my history—and my future?—are evident in stored artifacts. Today, I share my thoughts about one of the ways in which I was once quite skilled.
Deeply buried in one of our basement closets is a large plastic bin that holds organ, piano, vocal and recorder pieces from the many years in which I practiced, performed and led music. My original organ-playing shoes are in there, too, along with some replacement parts for the harpsichord I built from a kit several decades back.
“Being a musician” reaches back to when I started organ lessons at 13 years old. I knew already then that I wanted to be a church organist and choir director. Throughout my high school and college years, I perfected this craft. Practice, practice, practice—the 10,000 hours axiom fit me perfectly.
My first teaching position included the extra duties of organist and choir director in a small church in Springfield, IL. This work was less-than-successful. I couldn’t both practice to perfection AND teach fourth-through sixth graders. The musician part of me suffered while the educator part of me grew.
The next steps in my career path did not ever take me back to full-time church musician. Here-and-there as a sub, with only occasional opportunities to stretch my mind and limbs to make music. Little by little, the skills diminished, but the church musician identity remained.
The sixty-plus years of my musical vocation’s formation and development hasn’t left me entirely, though. When I riffle through the music bin’s contents, I remember vividly what it meant to play those pieces, to accompany those hymns, to direct those singing voices. Even though arthritis and macular degeneration have severely diminished my abilities to turn musical tablature into beautiful sound, I still carry inside of me the deep emotions and instincts of a church musician.
This history undergirds my worship, my leisure-time listening and even my dreams! In those settings, the intricacies of a fugue, the alternate accompaniments for a hymn or fingering tricks still play around in my mind as more than just a mental exercise or a wistful memory. I am still enthralled by the wealth of beauty that come from keys and valves and pipes and strings. I appreciate the gifts of today’s church musicians and let them know my understanding and appreciation for what they do each week.
And you? What earlier-in-life skill set or vocation do you carry within you, still valuing its influence on your life? How can you encourage those who are presently engaged in that calling? And how do you thank God for that part of your past?
Good questions that might just help you affirm your life now and into the future!
Next time: The stuff on our walls