Standing among Giants

I can’t explain just how it felt–but there were definitely a lot of goosebumps involved and nonstop smiling.  It’s the kind of feeling you get when you’re peering over the edge of the Grand Canyon, or holding a brand new baby, or eating mangoes.  But I wasn’t doing any of those things–I was standing in Carnegie Hall.  On the stage.

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: I was part of a 210 member back-up choir in Carnegie Hall which one buys into and does not have to audition for.  I was not personally performing in Carnegie Hall.  That in no way, however, diminishes the fact that it was awesome, epic, indescribable.  Best. Senior Trip. Ever. 

I was standing in the footprints of giants.

As we entered through stage right, I was walking where the world’s finest musicians have inspired audiences for the past 125 years.  I could imagine Yo-Yo Ma, Jascha Heifetz, Ella Fitzgerald, or Renee Fleming filling this breathtakingly regal dome with sound–the same space that our voices would soon penetrate.

I was standing behind giants.

As we began our sound check for that evening’s sold out concert for Keith and Kristyn Gettys’ concert, An Irish Christmas, we were standing almost close enough to touch these history-makers.  While far from a household name, the Gettys are well-known in protestant churches as resurrect-ers of hymn writing.  They create Biblically-sound, singable, timeless hymns for communal and energetic worship.  The heart of their music pulsates to an eternal beat that makes you want to take part in it.  They do not leave behind them only collections of timeless songs, but a community-focused philosophy of church music that is desperately needed in a world of spotlights and superstars.

But I was not just standing behind giants, nor in their footprints.

I was standing among giants.

I glance around me as the conductor and pianist confer.  Two seats down on my right is the professor of Elementary Music Education at Purdue.  To my left is a high school choir director and composer.  Somewhere behind me is a married couple that have taught private voice and instrument lessons for years.  In the row in front of me is my own college choir director who is also my voice teacher.  While I have met most of these only in the past 24 hours, I know from my teacher that he pours his life into his work.  He has devoted his time and energy since his high school years into studying and teaching music.  I am certain the same could be said for the many others I met.  Singing with these often unseen giants was one of the most musically-formative moments of my life to date.

As a college senior studying music, I hear “So you’re going to teach, right?” a lot.  Don’t get me wrong: I love teaching.  I currently teach a handful of students, and watching them progress and develop as vocalists, violinists, or pianists is incredibly rewarding.  However, a month ago I would have answered that question, “Mmm… maybe part-time.”  I like teaching, but until now I haven’t had the conviction that teaching is what God wants me to be doing.  I’ve never had a “calling,” and that has bothered me at times.

Something happened in NYC, though–walking through the streets of Manhattan after the concert, talking to one music teacher in particular.  He reminded me that because music is a gift of God, Christian musicians are responsible to pass it on; it’s a sort of specialized discipleship.  Listening to him, I observed how intrigued he was by the latest child prodigy, the polychord at the end of one of our pieces, a recent excellent performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria.  He left me with the feeling that he couldn’t not teach music, because he loved it so much–and somehow he passed that bug on to me, too.  I can’t explain the feeling, the burden, the… calling?  The pressing need to teach music, to pass on what I have been given, hit me like a train hits a stalled car that has been sitting on the tracks for months, hoping to be hit by a train (don’t overthink it–every blog post needs at least one really bad metaphor).  The motivation created by this new-found, God-granted purpose has already filled me with so much freedom and direction.  And I know from the teachers I talked to that this God-given purpose keeps them going through the long hours and stubborn students.

These teachers are the link between music’s history and its future.  They pass on the precious gift that they have been given.  If the soloist in Carnegie Hall is the pinnacle of the musical mountain, music teachers are the massive, steadfast base which lift that soloist up.  Music teachers make music history happen.  They turn the listener of music into a creator of music.

We turn the listener into a creator.

I’m excited to join the ranks of music teachers–I’m privileged to share my passion–I’m blessed to have been granted by God the calling to join the giants.

Fast-food haiku

[DISCLAIMER: prepare yourself for an abnormal post. Like, not really any ‘thoughts’–just dead brain vomit.  Consider yourself warned.]

So, for some reason, I had an urge to write a fast food haiku–do people write those?

Yes.  Yes they do.  Here are a few of my favorites that I ran across:

Chinese take-out box
It’s a common quick dinner.
Soon hungry again.

[from Cecilia]

or,

Fish is all they serve
At Long John Silver’s drive-through.
That’s so disgusting. 

[This site has a pretty great list of the major food chains.]

More realistically,

The competitive
Fast-food wage, in short, is not
Enough to live on. 

[Found here.  That’s why this is a summer job.]

And yes, someone did actually write one about DQ:

Dairy Queen is Great
The Blizzards, The Malts, and Shakes
So Stop In Today!!!

[Thank you, Milford DQ]

But honestly, we can do better than that, right?

Visored girl greets you.
“We have blizzards, not concretes.
Psst–don’t get hot dogs.”

Mm, not too good. How about…

Welcome to DQ!
Would you like to try any
Of our baked… ITEMS?

Actually, I didn’t write that–that’s the message on our drive-thru right now, and yes, there is a super awkward pause before “items.”

Let’s try one about the kitchen, where I work:

Ask for no-salt fries
If you want them hot and fresh.
Workers will hate you. 

Kidding about the last line–sort of.  We don’t hate our customers. Except for the ones that are super obnoxious, demanding, slow, or forget to tell us they didn’t want pickle on that double cheeseburger and then complain about it.

Alright, alright.  We’ll end on a positive note.

It’s fan-food they say:
We love working as a team
To make your food right!

Less exciting, but probably the most accurate.

Maybe no one else likes haikus as much as I do (honestly, I mostly like them for the ridiculous factor–I mean, they claim to be poems, but they don’t rhyme!  Come on, Asia…), but if anyone shares my strange fondness for them, I’d love to hear some of yours–especially if they’re inspired by the fast-food industry or your job.

Because haikus make
Your job seem more poetic
Even though it’s not.

Work

Work (wurk)

noun
1. exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.
2. productive or operative activity. 
5. something on which exertion or labor is expended; a task or undertaking. 
7. the result of exertion, labor, or activity; a deed or performance.
[Credits to dictionary.reference.com, and yes, I did just skip 3, 4, and 6. They were typical employment-ish definitions–one aspect of work, but not the one I wanted to talk about. You can look them up if you really want to know.]

It’s effort.  It’s activity.  It’s an undertaking.  It’s results.

Why do we work?  Why do we engage in productive activity?
I had a thought on work the other day.  I was thinking about God’s work in me, and then just God’s work in general.  His work seems to be twofold–creative work (example: creation), and transforming/restoring work (example: ME).  He both made all things, and then when sin destroyed, rather, twisted, his work, he worked (and still does work) to restore it by transforming it to what it should be.
So what about my work, whatever it be?  My daily activities?  What should be the focus of them?  I certainly can’s create from nothing.  I’m not God.  But, with his help, we can all be involved in the works of transforming and restoring–changing the universe one mess, one hungry tummy, one broken cupboard, one broken heart at a time.
It’s kind of a cool–

work has purpose, meaning, and an element of God-likeness.

[And by the way, I know I’m missing something, because Adam and Eve worked in the garden before sin, and I’ve always been under the impression that we’ll work in heaven, after sin.  If you have thoughts to hone and develop my infant theology of work, I’d be very interested to hear them. ]