Let’s face it – being an LDS organist is hard.
We play the world’s most difficult musical instrument. The mathematician in me says that even the simplest instrument has hundreds of possible combinations of sounds it can make. A larger instrument, such as the ones that the Church has been purchasing recently for meetinghouses, can have billions. Of those billions, only relative handfuls really sound good.
That’s just registration. There are also the difficult contortions we put our bodies through as we attempt to keep things legato – or not, as the case may be. Substitutions in both hands and feet, thumb glissandos, pedal glissandos, and the other things we do take considerable time and patience to learn properly.
To this we have to add that music is very personal. Our music is an expression of who we are in a way that is both powerful and intimate. Our performance reflects the person that we are and the years of effort that have taken us to get to where we are now.
Somewhere along the road, however, there’s a detour that’s easy to take. It’s a detour that can take us away from the Lord’s blessings and keep us from making further progress. That detour happens when our music stops becoming about the Lord and starts becoming about us. When that happens, we stop praising the Lord and start looking for others to praise us. In my own personal experience, this detour is a surefire pathway to darkness in the soul.
Under whose terms do we serve? If we serve under the Lord’s terms, we serve humbly and are just happy we can serve. If we serve under our own terms, service in the Church becomes a begrudging duty. There is little good in doing that, because verily verily we have our reward. Our need to feel appreciated can never outweigh our obedience to the principles of consecration.
Well-trained church musicians tend to have a bad reputation in the church. It’s been said that we are temperamental – more temper than mental. In some ways that’s a bit of a cheap shot, but it can also be really true. We have more than our share of diva personalities in our ranks. I’ve dealt with people who wouldn’t play at a meeting again because they had to share the program with another organist, for example. Such things are frustrating because the opportunities to serve are lost.
The interesting thing is that I have a friend who is a diva in the original sense of the word – a leading famous opera star. I once dealt with her at the time of her mother’s passing. During this difficult time she was kind, patient and practical, emphasizing the work to be done rather than her own role in it. I learned a great deal from her and I am proud to know her and her family. They have greatly influenced my life for good over the years. We need to cultivate and practice that attitude in our service.
Please, in your work in the Church, be happy you can serve.