How to Be Miserable as an Organist

I have observed throughout my life that some people are not happy unless they are miserable. The general population has many cases of this condition and organists are not immune. If you are one of these people, I’d like to offer some suggestions to assist you further in your pursuit of musical gloom.

First, forego training. This applies to all levels of organists, from beginners to experts. No one knows everything and avoiding continual learning helps keep it that way. The fact that the bishop called you should be sufficient preparation, after all, and who really needs to know what all those buttons do, anyway?

Second, exercise your right to not practice. You are a busy person! Practicing interferes with your ability to succeed at more important pursuits, like watching television or training your children to acquire a lifetime skill like kicking, batting, or running inflated rubber around a well-trimmed patch of grass. Your fellow ward members don’t care about your music, so why should you?

Third, become more sensitive. Get annoyed any time someone talks during your prelude. Take offense when priesthood leaders change the hymns at the last minute. If someone challenges you as to your volume, tempo or artistic skill, pout for a few months, quit, or never speak to that despicable person again.

Fourth, be critical! Take the opportunity to showcase your superior intellect and skill by disparaging the honest efforts of others. Explain how you would have chosen different hymns for the hymnal. In conversations with other organists, talk about how poorly another organist plays. Complain about church policies that keep you from playing your favorite music in Sacrament Meeting for others to enjoy. While you are at it, tell your students to play whatever they want in church because they can sometimes get away with it. There’s no sense in being miserable if you can’t pass it along to the next generation.

Clearly, I am indulging in sarcasm with these suggestions, but there is more than an element of truth to many of the things I write of here. In fact, if you do these things well enough, you will have opportunity to explain to your Savior the reasons why you buried your talent in the ground instead of investing it well in his service.

If you think that you don’t have the ability, time or effort to improve, I call to your attention a young mother in my ward who went from barely able to play to one of the most virtuosic organists I know in just a little over five years. Her progress was, to say the least, astonishing. She did that while raising three beautiful, well-mannered daughters. She’s also one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. While all of us may not want to spend that much time or effort in pursuit of our art, all of us can learn from her example.

By the way, as I read this essay to my dear wife she had only one comment: “Talking about yourself again, dear?” I, too, am not immune from practicing misery.

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