I Am A Promise

I learned many, many songs as a child. One of them that was a favorite of mine was Bill and Gloria Gaither’s song “I Am A Promise”. Imagine my pleasant surprise when the children of my congregation’s preschool sang it for their graduation ceremony. I remembered all of the words. As a child, I wore the record (Yes, it came with a record) out. There was a picture book as well with the melody line and words in the back. As a budding piano player, I sat down at the piano and plunked out the melody.

I’ve blogged fairly frequently about how we songs are connected to memories and how they transport us to a different place in time. I like to joke that if I ever worked on a doctorate (I’d have to get a Masters’ degree first), I would write my doctoral dissertation about memories and music. In his book “From Memory to Imagination” Baylor professor Randall Bradley delves into this concept. It’s a great read! Hearing the children practice the song, and hearing them sing it transported me back to being about 8 years old.

Music connects in so many ways. The memory and emotional connection with music is absolutely incredible. It’s not really about the song as much as it is about the emotional and memory connected to that song. And that is one of the most amazing and fascinating things about music. It makes us come back to it and continue to learn and be amazed by it.

Here’s the kids singing!


Building relationships in music

There are a lot of different relationships in music. Tonal, harmonic and many more. But what I want to investigate in this post is the interpersonal relationships in music.

Throughout my years in making music, I have been blessed to develop relationships that have been lifelong. Not only relationships with the musicians that I have made music with, but also relationships with my instructors. Those relationships to me are a big part of the reason why I love making music. Don’t get me wrong, I love the actual making music aspect of it, but we don’t make music in a vacuum. We are rarely alone in making music. Whether it is part of a choir, playing in an ensemble, even playing or singing a solo that is accompanied, you are typically not alone.

On many occasions, I have had many church musicians that I have worked with who have said that their highlight is coming to rehearsal. Not only for making music, but for those relationships that develop. We are social creatures, and we need those relationships. Those relationships help to strengthen the group, and also can help to build the group over time.

So yes, while there are structural relationships in music, there are relationships between voice parts and sections, those personal connections are just as important and mean so much for all involved. And they help bring a greater impact to the music, as well as those who make the music. And those relationships make such a big difference!

Everybody has a part

I recently watched the documentary “20 Feet from Stardom”. It is a fascinating documentary about backup singers. Quite often, when we listen to music, we put a focus on the lead singer. But in every band, every instrument, every voice is important. What would a song be without a bass guitar, for example. Or some sort rt of percussion? One of the biggest guest takeaways for me on the documentary is that while the lead singer is important, the background singers are just as important. They add harmony and fill in gaps in a way that instruments cannot.

Some people are leaders. They have that “out front” persona. There are others that are just as talented, that don’t need the spotlight. When everything functions as it should and is in balance, it makes for beautiful, powerful and inspiring music.

I highly recommend you watch the documentary. It’s available on Netflix. But I would also encourage you to listen critically to music. Do you notice all the details? If you haven’t, try to listen for things that you don’t usually listen for, like the background singers, the fills by guitars, or other things that you may not always pay attention to. You may find a deeper appreciation for your favorite singers and songwriters. Or, you may just find a deeper appreciation for all of the details that go into creating music.

Using what you’ve got

I’ve been a church musician primarily at smaller churches, but one of the things that I’ve found is that music ministry doesn’t always look the way you want it. Back in 2002, when I put together my first praise band, I had a guitarist, me on keyboard, a couple of singers, a trombone, clarinet and a saxophone player. We made it work.

In another church, the organ was not an instrument capable of leading, yet I was blessed with instrumentalists. I also incorporated the handbells as well. After the first couple of years of lamenting the lack of sound on the organ, I decided to do something about it.

One of the things that God calls us to do is to use our gifts in response to His work in our lives. Sometimes, that means that we have to be creative. For some, this can be overwhelming because they’re not sure how that is supposed to work. I was that way for a while. But then, I decided to dive in and do it. Even now, serving at a larger church, with a larger number of talented musicians, I am learning to use those gifts in a creative way.

If you don’t have the resources you think you need, use what you’ve got. If you’re unsure as to how to go about doing that, ask someone. Get in contact with me. I’ll be happy to help you and provide you some suggestions and thoughts. Don’t let a lack of numbers or a lack of “what it’s supposed to be” stand in the way of utilizing the gifts that God has placed in your care. Use those gifts to praise God!