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Daddy took us up in his Cessna, evangelizing by air, landing in cow pastures, beside cornfields and on empty back roads. In tiny cracker-box churches, Daddy preached and we sang, Mama at the keyboard of some old pump organ.
We learned to own a stage, to speak and perform in front of others, uplifted by their applause, delighted when folks sang with us. Our music made us an integral part of Daddy’s team. But you don’t have to be a performer to know that feeling.
Just sing with someone else, even if it’s only “Happy Birthday.” Every voice makes a difference, every part counts. The whole is always greater than the sum. Jesus said wherever two or more are gathered in his name he is there. Seems like that gets amplified when we make music in his name.
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Music expands our horizons.
Mama insisted on looking for the best music teacher she could find for her children, which meant driving us in Daddy’s pickup 20 miles every Saturday morning on rutted dirt roads to Mena, Arkansas.
There we were taught by Mrs. Johnson, a large woman with royal-blue eye shadow and her hair in a French twist, who had a profound love of music. She would clinch her baton and click time infallibly on the edge of the piano. God help you if you couldn’t keep the tempo.
Mrs. Johnson gave me a whole new repertoire for the piano: tunes from Broadway musicals, movie themes, Hanon exercises, classics by the great composers, all performed at our semi-annual recitals.
I’d hear an older student, one more experienced than I, play a challenging étude or a two-part invention and think, Maybe I can do that someday. We’d go to local and state competitions, sweating through adjudications under the auspices of the National Guild of Piano Teachers.
For a country girl who lived in the hills where we could barely get TV reception, it was eye-opening. I’ll never forget going to a competition in Little Rock my sophomore year of high school. First I played—did all right— then wandered into another hall and sat down to hear a master class with a distinguished voice teacher.
A college-age girl with long, bushy hair and a loose-fitting dress stepped out onstage and began to sing in a foreign language. I couldn’t believe my ears. An enormous velvety voice took hold of a difficult melody and reached for the stratosphere. I was on the edge of my seat.
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Then I listened to the teacher. With just a few comments she made what I thought was a perfect performance even better.
Oh, Robin, that kind of singing is for rich city people, I told myself, not you. But what if I could study with a voice teacher like that and become a singer too? “Inez Silberg, Guest Vocal Instructor,” the program said.
As fate would have it—or rather, as God would—that very teacher, Mrs. Silberg, became my instructor several years later at Oklahoma City University and she worked her wonders on me. But first a dream had had to be planted.
With music there is always something new to hear, something new to learn. Your world keeps getting bigger.
Music gives voice to our prayers.
When the Israelites were brought safely out of Egypt, they thanked God in their prayers, but how did they do it? With music, with song. “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously,” goes the Song of Moses, “the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (Exodus 15:1).
Or take the 150 prayers at the center of our Bible, the Psalms. We should never forget that they were written to be sung, sometimes with the musical instructions right in the text: “with timbrel and dance...with strings and pipe.”