A musical legacy

The genesis of this post came while I was in the midst of directing a 24 voice choir, a 20 instrument orchestra, 11 handbell ringers and my 9 voice children’s choir. Why was I thinking about a blog post while directing? And not trying to cry in the process? Because one of the singers in the children’s choir is my 5 and a half year old daughter, Ella. She loves music and loves singing. And as I was thinking about that more, I was thinking about my paternal grandmother and how she must be looking down from heaven with joy.

But there’s more to this legacy. My great-grandparents saw a musical ability in my grandmother and made sure that she had the opportunity to learn to play the piano and cello. My great-grandparents made sacrifices for her to learn music. And my grandparents did the same for my aunt and my dad. And my parents made sacrifices for me to take piano and organ lessons, along with singing in many choirs and playing the trumpet. I can venture a strong guess that none of them were thinking about Ella in this process. But, she’s the beneficiary of those sacrifices.

That’s not the end of this legacy. I don’t think that Leona Kislia, Charlotte Hawley or Jonathan Kohrs ever thought of Ella when they taught me to play the piano. Or Cheri Hron or Charles Ore when they taught me how to play the organ. Or Mark Schultz and Ben Reehl when they taught me about playing the trumpet. Or Barb Lutringer or Connie Steinbach when they directed me in choirs. Or Ted Beck, David Held, Kurt Von Kampen and Bill Kuhn, when they instructed me at Concordia University. Or Gerry Rolland when God used her to push me into a greater focus on church music as opposed to teaching in high school.

You see, that’s one of the great things about music. As a student, you are poured into by instructors and not only do you as the student benefit, And then you share that instruction with others and they continue in that musical legacy. As a music educator, it is my prayer that God uses me in His ways to give an example for musicians, to provide solid music education that is focused on Christ and the Gospel for all ages. And just maybe, I will be adding to a family’s musical legacy as so many have added to my family’s musical legacy.

Six months

I’m awake at 5:15 on a Saturday morning. I really don’t like being up early on weekends, but this morning, excitement, anticipation and fear have had me awake and praying for the past 30 minutes. But I’ve been doing more than that, I’ve been thinking about how blessed I have been over the past six months.

The reason I’m awake this morning is because I get to have a final rehearsal with my choir and handbell players, as well as adding in 19 instruments in preparation for our Christmas cantata tomorrow. I’ve never directed anything this big before, and preparing for it has definitely challenged my conducting skills and abilities. Mainly because I haven’t used my conducting skills. I had to be the accompanist and director, which didn’t ever work well.

But over the past six months, I’ve been pushed. I’ve been challenged. I’ve put together a music camp that 30 children showed up to, within a month and a half of starting! I didn’t think that was possible! But guess what? It was, because it was part of God’s plan, not mine.

I shake my head in awe and amazement of what God has done in my life and in the life of my family over the past six months. It’s not because I’m perfect. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, big and small, over the past six months. And in the future, I will probably make more mistakes. But this morning, I am thankful for God’s provision in challenging me to become a better musician, a better director, and to fall back in love with music that I had grown tired of.

While this morning I am tired, and by tomorrow afternoon, I will be exhausted, it all will be worth it. Having the opportunity to lead God’s people in worship is always worth the effort. And allowing God to work in you and through you, despite your flaws, is always  worth the effort as well.

I’m excited to see what the next six months bring. And the next, and so on. God has a big plan, far bigger than I can see. I’m thankful that He chose me to be in this position that I’m in. Because I’ve found that over the past six months, my doubting of myself and my abilities has diminished significantly. Oh, those doubts are still there, they’re just becoming less and less.

Having Fun!

One of the essential things that I have learned in making music, or really, doing anything for a long period of time, is that is has to be enjoyable. Or, to phrase it another way, it needs to be fun. There will come those points where it will feel like drudgery, but if you have that positive attitude and make it fun, it will be.

As a church musician, I have found that so often at Christmastime. Music for Advent and Christmas is so much fun to play, and when I am practicing music, it doesn’t seem like work, but fun. This past Monday night, I played some piano music for a womens’ event at church. While I played some of the Christmas carols and other arrangements of those, I also played some of Vince Guaraldi’s music from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I’m sure that on many of my attempts, I had Vince rolling over in his grave with how feeble they were, but I was having fun!

All too often, musicians can get bogged down in details. And please do not misunderstand me, the details are important. But, when you sacrifice the joy and enthusiasm of making music for getting all of the details accurate and precise, well, you have robotic music. Technically accurate, but no spirit to it.

One of the fun things that I am doing this December, is I am trying to daily post an Advent/Christmas piece of music on my YouTube page. You can find that page here. As a musician, trying to find fun in a busy time of year can be a challenge, but when you make what you do fun and enjoyable, it comes across in the music that you make. So go have fun!

New and Notable!

I’m very excited to share that my devotional resource “Songs for the Seasons” is now listed on the “New and Notable” section at www.books.noisetrade.com. I’d love to have you go and download it. It doesn’t cost you anything…..

But here’s what I’d love for you to do. You can download the resource and pay no money. But whatever money comes in from Noisetrade, as well as from Amazon.com, I’m not pocketing. I’m giving it to an amazing organization in Houston which is www.coreluv.org. They care for orphans in Haiti and are doing amazing things down there.

So, go check out the resource. Download it, tip $1, $2, $5 or more that will be given to Coreluv. And share this post with as many people as you know. And I’d love your feedback on the resource!


As an addendum to this, in the first 24 hours of being in the “New and Notable” section of Noisetrade, I have had over 100 new downloads! Honored, humbled and amazed don’t even begin to describe my feelings! Please share this with people you know, to provide an opportunity for Coreluv to have the resources they need to care for the orphans in Haiti!




In a Facebook organ forum that I am in, a question arose about how to not get burned out in the month of December. For organists, there are plenty of services to plan and practice for. For choir directors, there are plenty of pieces to plan and prepare for. As someone who plays the organ, directs all choirs, and plans out the services, there is a whole lot to be juggling in the month of December.

As I’ve thought about it, there are some simple things and some not so simple things to do. The first thing is to make sure that when you have down time, use it to rest. So often in the month of December, we think we need to go and go and go. When you get time to rest, then rest. Another thing is to make sure you are eating properly. The month of December is a very tempting time to eat lots of unhealthy goodies and snacks. Make sure that you are getting proper nutrition so that your body is functioning at its’ best.

If you have children, involve them as much as possible. Last night, I had an event at church that I got to play piano music while people were visiting. My girls (3 and 5) were my audience while I was setting up and checking my sound levels, and they had fun dancing. And then the drive home was filled with giggles, oohs and aahs as we saw houses decorated with Christmas lights.

I think a big part of it is perspective. December is going to be busy. Just expect that you will be busy and going until December 25th. The good news is that there is an end point. And it isn’t that far off. But if you have a positive attitude, it is not that hard to enjoy the season. I’ve been on the side of the negative attitude. I’ve been in the attitude of, “it’s just one thing after the next after the next.” Whether it is being in a new congregation or where my girls are in life, or just me and my attitude, I am different this December. And that is in the midst of being busier and doing more this December than I have ever been.

Do you best, have fun and enjoy praising God and leading others in their celebration of the best gift ever!