During a recent visit to my home town, I visited my ‘home’ church; the church in which I had been baptized and confirmed, and the church were I spent many hours honing my skills as a church musician.
In sixth grade I began accompanying the hymns in Sunday school. In seventh grade I began singing in the adult choir as well as singing in the junior choir. Eighth grade often found me singing solos or duets.
When I turned 15 I began taking organ lessons. I can remember that I was 15 because I wasn’t old enough to legally drive yet. Even though it was an easy walk from our home to church, my parents would often let me practice my driving skills on my way to practice my organ skills. I spent hours and hours at church, cutting my teeth on the music of Bach, Purcell, Handel, Vidor, and others.
To this day I can’t imagine how I had enough courage to accompany the entire Messiah on organ as a teen-ager; the soloists being college professors from a neighboring college. My parents must have had nerves of steel to sit in the congregation without chewing their fingernails off… and the director of the oratorio, as well as the other musicians, must have had the ‘patience of Job!’
While photographing the organ, memories floated by. Like the time the ladies cooking Easter breakfast in the church basement during the Sunrise service blew a fuse and the power went off during a hymn. Have you ever heard a pipe organ that loses its power? Think letting the wind out of bagpipes. Or the time the alarm clock sitting on the organ console went off in the middle of a service. I jumped to react quickly in an attempt to silence the loud – and echoing – ring. Or the time a couple of the boys from church hid a ‘not very nice’ photo inside the music for the prelude. I guess they wanted to see the expression on my face when I turned the page! Or the time the groom was late to a wedding and I had to play and play and play and play and play until he finally arrived.
There were funny times, good times, and yes, sad times in that church. A teenager shouldn’t have to play for the funeral of a fellow classmate and friend.
While reflecting during that visit to the church, I paused to appreciate the powerful impact all of those experiences had on my life. The role models. The discipline. The tradition. The self-confidence. The ability to think on my feet. The list could go on and on.
As you walk down your own personal memory lane, pause and reflect on the things that helped shape who you are today.