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Evaluation mode

One of the things that I appreciate about this time of year, and things starting to slow down, is to intentionally get into an evaluation mindset. What went well, what didn’t, what areas need intentional focus, along with many other questions. I love the position I am called to, and know that I have lots of improvement to make. Tonight will be my last handbell choir and children’s choir rehearsal and next week will be my last adult choir rehearsal. While I have my own self evaluations and my perspectives on things, getting evaluations and feedback from the groups is essential. 

Over the years, I have learned to ask many different questions. Things like, “How can improve as a director”, or “Am I choosing music the group connects with”. More recently, though, the question I keep coming back to, “Is this the best use of my time”. Yes, we’re all given a finite amount of time each week, and the choices we make are important. Each week, I play the organ for worship,play keyboard with our praise band, put together the Pro Presenter presentations for the screens each week, plan for and direct a children’s choir, handbell choir, adult choir and men’s choir. Also, each week, I have a time of music and movement with our preschool kids. I don’t share all of that to brag. In reality, trying to juggle all of that means that something at some point probably is not getting my full attention. So, in evaluating, I have to determine whether I need to find someone else to take on that responsibility, or better manage my time to be more effective, or somewhere in the middle.

I’ve taken this evaluation more to my personal life this year, as well as ministry. As my girls get older, I have to be intentionally making them a priority, along with my wife. If I’m not, then I’m ineffective everywhere else. The question I’ve been finding myself asking is, “Is it worth it?” I had a friend share that he’s excited about buying healthy, pre made meals which cost a lot of money, but he and his wife don’t have to spend time preparing them. That’s great for them. We’re a lot more tight on budget and both my wife and I enjoy cooking and try to involve our girls as well. 

Lately, I’ve been asking that question of “Is it worth it?” In regard to a few very important parts of my life. Social media, composing music and this website. What do I mean? Well, I’ve deleted social media from my iPad and phone and am limiting my login time. That has helped. In regard to composing, I’m still trying to figure that out. I enjoy composing and arranging, and initially did it because I needed extra money. I’m a church worker with two daughters! Need I say more? I enjoy composing, but I don’t make it a priority. Initially, Harmanny Music was started as a creative name for my private music lessons and for self publishing digital music to generate income. Guess what? That didn’t work. Shocking!! So I started blogging to share my thoughts of being a church musician, thoughts on music, along with trying to provide insights from my experiences as a church musician and providing a resource for church musicians. It’s been fun. But, while I can write the best blog post known to man, I come back to, “Is it worth it?” I have tried to follow the “experts” ideas on building a following, so on and so forth…..led with mediocre at best results. So, I ask the question “Is it worth it?” And the answer I come back to is…..I don’t know. So, if you think it is, please comment or email me at harmannymusic@yahoo.com. I don’t know what the long term answer is, but I’m in prayer and contemplation on what the answer is. What the best use of my time is. So, if you feel I should keep working at it, let me know. If you don’t….well, then I guess that’s a pretty solid answer, isn’t it?

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Healthy musician update #16

This is a huge update!! Two major things happened that have never happened since I’ve been tracking my steps with my Fitbit. First, I got over 10,000 steps each and every day this past week. In fact, I’ve had over 10,000 steps since April 21st. 11 straight days. The second thing is the culmination of that. Over 100,000 steps this past week. My highest in the 17 months that I’ve had the Fitbit was 96,000. 

What happened? I made myself move more. I challenged myself to be more active and disciplined. It’s a small step in the right direction, as discipline is something I struggle with across the board. Discipline is hard, and it is work. But seeing that number of 100,000 steps, feeling my Fitbit vibrate when I got to 10,000 steps each day, and the feeling that I have of accomplishment makes it worth it. 

This week, I’m still shooting for 100,000 steps. The next thing I’m adding in is drinking large quantities of water every day. I drink water, just not enough. So I think there will be progress on that this week. Discipline takes time to build and you can’t just make it happen overnight. So, I hope that over the next few weeks, being more focused on building discipline, I will see progress and I will feel the changes!

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Beautiful Children

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I saw this shared on Facebook and I had to grab it. It’s the perfect jumpstart for a post that has been floating in my head for a while. For the longest time it was going to be titled something like “Why have music for children?” Well, why do we? We know that it’s important, but it can be hard to explain.

I have my children’s choir rehearsals on Wednesday nights. In my church’s preschool, I have a music and movement time for the children on Friday. Both are crazy, chaotic and full of noise. But, is what the children are singing (if they’re singing at all….or screaming at the top of their lungs) something that is an auditory feast? Goodness no! But, that’s not the point. The point is whatever concept I am introducing them to or reinforcing, be it musical, kinestetic, Biblical or all those and more. 

The reality is that throughout our lives, we will be exposed to music. It’s guaranteed. Whether it is the grocery store, Starbucks, a sporting event, you cannot get away from music. So, first off, a positive interaction with music sets the student up for a lifetime of more informed and positive interactions with music.

But wait…….there’s more!

How did you learn the ABC’s? Was it to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”? When did you realize that it was the same tune? Just now? Earlier? Not only does music build and nurture our creative side, put something you want to learn or put concretely in the mind to music and it’s there. Look at people who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s. They may not recognize their own family members, but if you start singing their favorite song, they’ll join in. Music has a power far greater than we give it credit for. In my opinion, schools shouldn’t be doing more standardized testing, rather, they should be investing in music education and how to set more education to music. But, that’s a soapbox for another post.

Finally, it is possible that students, while introduced to music at a young age could go in to being professional musicians. Or they may populate our choir rehearsal rooms in our adult choirs. Or they may populate our handbell choirs. Or our pews. Having people in your congregation who are knowledgeable in the basic fundamentals of music bring a strength to the congregational singing that is beyond compare. One of the things my church body, the Lutheran church, has been known for in its history, is being a singing church. Why? A big part was that in Lutheran schools, music education was extremely important. While it is still important today, the emphasis isn’t as high as it once was.

Why is music for children important? There are countless reasons. I’ve named just a few. But the biggest thing is that, overall, it makes them more beautiful people. And that’s why I love and embrace the chaos and noise.

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Faithfulness

Yesterday was my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. A word that went through my mind quite often throughout the day was faithfulness. Obviously, in a marriage, faithfulness to one another is essential. But that word runs much deeper in my family. My dad has been a pastor for 55 years, and his faithfulness to serving God and His people is something that has run through our family’s story as well. For me, as a church musician for almost 15 years, I have seen God’s faithfulness in my life as well. Whether it has been through positions being cut, calls terminated, good times as well as struggles, God has been faithful.

But this post is not intended to be about me and my family. It is about you. It is about the people who come to your rehearsals. You who are faithful in trying to have the best choir your congregation can have. You who are trying to keep an adult choir alive and thriving in a church that may not be. You who have 75 adults regularly show up to your rehearsals weekly. All of these require faithfulness. For those people who have had years of musical training and want to take every opportunity to praise God. For those people who come to rehearsal because they can’t sing, but they feel a sense of belonging and fellowship. For those people who can’t read a note of music, but are trying their best. All of these people are faithful.

As directors, we have to honor that faithfulness. Not only of ourselves and our musicians, but God’s faithfulness. While it may be a challenge in the midst of having 3 sopranos, 1 alto, 4 tenors and 2 basses, God is faithful in providing those singers for you to work with, and for your church to be blessed by their voices. Each setting, each situation requires perspective, and one of the things I’ve found to be an extremely important question to ask in each circumstance is how can I be faithful? How can I encourage others to be faithful? How is God showing His faithfulness?

From my experiences, in the midst of having 4 in a children’s choir, or maybe having an alto section for rehearsal, perspective can be challenging. Seeing God’s faithfulness can be extremely difficult. But, if you continue to be faithful to what God has called you to do, it may be 6 months, 3 years or 30 years, but you will be able to see it upon looking back. In all things, God promises to be faithful. He will not forget about us or leave us to fend for ourselves. Rely on God and His Word. Rely on others around you, whether that is musicians in the area around you, throughout the country, or whoever you can find. And continue to be faithful!

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Healthy musician update #15

Last week, I wrote about balance. Funny thing is, I didn’t realize what was to come. It was quite fitting and appropriate. I live in the northwest part of Houston, and last week, we needed up with about 12 inches of rain over the week. A majority of that came last Sunday night into Monday. And the water rose and Rose and rose. My house wasn’t affected, thankfully, but so many around me were affected.

My wife and both girls ended up with the entire week off of work and school. I didn’t teach any lessons during the week, didn’t have rehearsals on Wednesday night, and was able to knock a bunch of projects off of my to-do list.

The balance of the week was getting lots done at church, lots of practicing and also getting to spend time with my girls. It was a unique week, one we didn’t expect to have.

So now what? Back to routine and normalcy. Somewhat. There’s lots of catch up to do. I have lots of yard work, and hopefully the weather cooperates, as we are predicted to have more rain this week. My Monday softball game isn’t happening tonight. In fact, softball is cancelled indefinitely, until the damage can be assessed. The fields were under a whole lot of water all week. For workouts, I’ll walk in and around (and through) the raindrops, and I do have my resistance bands and other ways of working out inside. So I’ll definitely get the workouts in. It will be interesting to see what this week brings!