On Being a Musician

In this post from two weeks ago (my brief reflections on teaching), I mentioned my long-range goal as a college freshman: becoming a professional musician. Twenty years ago this September, I entered Southwest State University (now Southwest Minnesota State University) intent on studying music which I viewed as the gateway to being a touring musician in a rock band. My view then was that any music education would be beneficial to my dream. So I was in choir. I was in concert band. I was in jazz band. I took voice lessons. I took piano lessons. I kept learning more instruments while trying to become better at the ones I already knew. I kept playing in the rock band with friends from high school, and I also played acoustic music with various college friends.

At the age of 18, excited about college, I imagined myself on the road four or five years later, playing in different cities, different clubs and theaters, seeing so much of the country. I imagined people singing along to the songs I wrote, people becoming fans of my music just as I was a fan of others’ music. Of course, that dream was not realized. As I noted elsewhere, I had my “writing conversion” during my junior year that altered the trajectory of my dreams. Yet even as my direction changed, I never stopped playing music regularly.

From the time I was finishing up my undergraduate degree (and through every step thereafter to now), I found that because writing and teaching became my primary vocations, I experienced more freedom, joy, and satisfaction playing music. Music wasn’t (and wouldn’t be) may day job. I still use all the training I had in those music classes (theory, orchestration, choral arranging, etc.) when I play on Sunday mornings as I have done for all the years.

I would even go so far as to say that I am having the most fun playing music that I’ve had since I was an 18-year-old. On Sunday mornings, when my alarm goes off at 6, I’m so excited to spend my entire morning (and early afternoon) making music and doing what I can to help people worship God. On Sunday afternoons, on Sundays evenings, the songs I played from earlier that day are still cycling through my brain. It helps, I’m sure, that in my current musical “setting” I play with some of the most talented individuals with whom I’m ever played–no offense to other musicians I’ve worked with before. 🙂 I’ve played with a lot of talented folks over the years and count myself blessed. (Here’s an “interview” I did with my current worship pastor, a super-talented, super-humble guitarist and vocalist: Adam Fischer. He also has an awesome EP, Reckless, that’s available on iTunes.)

Lastly, I have found that during the academic year, I look forward to Sunday mornings even more. For the 6+ hours that I’m occupied with music and worship, I am not only spiritually renewed and refreshed but also recharged for the week ahead during which I arrange (and rearrange) words on pages while also teaching others to do the same.

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