Saturday, May 14, 2011. Princeton University Chapel, Princeton, New Jersey.
Today I have been reminded of why my life has followed the path that is has.
Everyday I get up and go to work. I teach in a classroom through which approximately 150 students per day pass. They range in age from 6 to 11. They are not the Westminster Choir. My daily comment list includes such sayings as,
“Look at me.”
“Please don’t interrupt.”
“I can’t hear when everyone talks at once.”
“Please go back to your seat.”
“Did you practice this week?” (To myself..”Did you even LOOK at your recorder this week?”)
“Sit up straight.”
“I can’t hear you.”
“If God had meant for you to have pencils in your ears He would have put them there.”
“WALTER! (Why are they always named Walter?)
“Match my pitch.” “Can you make yours sound just like mine?”
“Don’t be afraid.”
“If this is a tattle I don’t want to hear it.”
“Open your mouth”
“Use your head voice.”
“Is anybody bleeding?”
“No you may not skip chorus. We have a performance in 3 weeks.”
“What the hell….????” (not spoken aloud.)
“That was perfect!!!”
“Yeah! Now you’ve got it!!”
“There is nothing more beautiful than children singing.”
“I’m so proud of you!”
“Show ‘em what ya got!”
“That gives me goosebumps.”
“That brings tears to my eyes.”
“Wow! You’re really good at this!”
“You may be the best singers in the school….”
“Where’d you learn to sing like that? You must have a really good music teacher….” (Said with a smile and a wink.)
“This may be the best chorus I’ve ever had.”
“No one will ever believe that a bunch of kids can do this!”
“Do you know there are many adults who can’t do what you just did?”
I was one of them once. Somewhere along the line, somebody told me I could sing. My parents made sure I learned how to play the piano. By the time I got to high school I knew that music was a strength. My high school choral director. Robert Volbrecht, was an extremely talented and relational Westminster Choir College graduate. Not only did he teach me how to sing, he taught me how to teach, putting me in charge of Junior High and Community Choir sectional rehearsals. He taught with joy and love, as I hope I do, at least some of the time. My junior year, he took several of us to Westminster’s Commencement ceremony. It was probably the last time spectators were allowed to sit in the balcony, and the first of only 2 times I’ve ever seen the processional from above. It was SO awesome my heart was in my throat. The Red Sea came 4 abreast, marching down the center aisle of the Princeton University Chapel, and parted at the front to take their seats on either side. Two years later I watched it again as a member of the Freshman Chapel Choir, who have had the honor of sitting in the balcony ever since.
Today I saw it from the second to last row. I saw each and every face, heard every glorious note that was sung and played.
My life has not been day after day of the kind of music making I experienced at Westminster. But I had that experience then, it gave me the knowledge that I needed to become who and what I am, and hopefully, I’ve been able to send a few students down the same path.
The speaker today was the composer, Stephen Paulus. I wrote down something that he said, because I don’t want to forget it.
” Every human needs 3 things: food, shelter and meaning. That’s what we provide. Meaning.”