Thursday, September 29, 2022
Music has always been an important part of my life. I grew up with talented parents who both played the piano and organ magnificently. My mom also played the flute. I took piano lessons first, and then moved to band instruments. I played the trumpet, then the baritone, followed by the trombone, and while learning all of them I also learned guitar, bass fiddle, and marimba. By the time I was in 9th grade I could play them all.
I learned some valuable lessons from my musical training. First, I wasn’t first chair in my section all the time. It was always my goal, but I wasn’t always good enough. I had to learn to live with second chair. My best friend, Carl Zeigler, was just a little better than me at playing the trombone. We were always challenging each other during the practice sessions. One day he would be first chair; the next day I would be. But when we played together in the concerts, it wasn’t to compete, but to blend. We both pushed ourselves to be the best we could be, because that made the whole band better.
Second, I learned that without second and third chairs, there would be no harmony. Melody is great, but it gets boring after a while. Harmony and rhythm are needed to bring out the richness of the musical experience. Someone once said that the most important position in any orchestra is second fiddle. They add richness to the music by adding harmony. They add harmony because they are humble.
Third, I learned that I don’t get to play melody all the time. And when I do, there’s no special recognition for it. Sometimes the trumpets had melody. Sometimes the clarinets. Everybody got a chance to play it sometimes, depending on the song. I even remember one song where the tuba got a solo. But when we were young and immature, no special recognition was given for melody-playing. Band was about unity, not recognition.
As we got older and supposedly more mature, recognition was allowed. On very special occasions during a concert the band director would point at one section after the song was over and have them stand. The rest of the band would join with the audience in giving them the recognition they deserved. There was no jealousy or envy or fault-finding. We were being taught that sometimes someone does something special and they deserve to be praised for it.
Then came high school, and we got to play in what we called “stage band.” Some of you know it as jazz band. During those concerts, featured soloists would stand while they played the melody, and the audience would applaud. The soloists had been given the liberty to improvise and embellish the melody show off their skills. When they were done, they would sit down and blend back into the rest of the group. Even while they were standing, the rest of the group supported them with harmony and rhythm so they would sound their best.
In band, everyone knew that there would be others who would be better musicians than they were. They knew that not everyone played all the instruments. They knew that it took all the instruments to make the band complete. They knew that it took all the sections to create all the harmony to bring out the richness of the music. Band members understood that while they were each challenged to be the best they could be, it was not for the purpose of individual recognition but for the overall excellence of the band.
Then, at the end of the concert, after the audience has cheered for the band, the band cheers for the director, knowing that he deserves all the credit for teaching them to play in harmony.
Let this be the picture of the church today, as we play our instruments in harmony with one another for the glory of the Director.
1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another.”