Monday, December 01, 2008

A Unique Feeling

Hello All,

Before I get to the occasion of my post, I wanted to acknowledge that Frank The Whale Whisperer has won an overwhelming victory in the Facebook profile race. There was never really a serious challenge. It was Obama-esque in it's domination...don't read too much into that!

Yesterday, I had the unique experience of preparing my current drum student for her first live drumming experience. It was different on several fronts. First, she is the only student that I have had, that I am aware of, that has not concurrently been "working" in some capacity. All of her experience thus far has been clinical/theoretical in nature.

Second, she is the only female drum student to make it to her first live drum experience under my tutelage. I might be a bit sexist in that remark, and I do know that there are phenomenol female drummers out in the world. I personally admire Hillary Jones, Cindy Blackmon and Terri Lynne Carrington and the skills that they bring to the set.

Finally, the third unique feature about this current student is that she is not working out with me as the worship leader/band director. With previous students, they have played in a band that I was leading. Having developed a rapport, as well as a vocabulary, it's easier to communicate and lead to a successful first venture. For all of these reasons, this student is unique, but in a very common place, in terms of a first time musical experience.

There I was with her after church, her parents sitting in the sanctuary with us, and I was trying to download all the information about the songs that she will be playing in a succinct fashion. She was easily able to technically replicate all that I showed her, as she has a natural ear and a very good work ethic.

But again, we were in "the lab." We were sitting in the sanctuary, on my drums, simulating a musical experience, and only myself and her parents sitting nearby. At that moment, I began to realize that this experience would be more than a musical one. And it would take more than musical acumen to "survive!" She would have to face several things that she had never previously given thought to. What would happen when she made her first mistake, an inevitable occurrence sometime? What will she do when she feels all of those faces on her for the first time? What happens when she strikes the drum and no matter how lightly she plays, it might be too loud for someone? The sum of all fears were caving in on me as I grasped the true totality of the situation.

It made me flash back to when I was a 13 year old, sitting in the old sanctuary at the Packinghouse in Redlands. Usually, I would get to the church at around 6AM, accompanying my Mom, who opened the church and ran the daycare for the school. Shortly after arriving, I would go into the sanctuary and pound away on any given drum set. Before long, I was able to play anything, at least in my mind!

But then, the night came when Paul Brill was late for Youth group. I don't remember my age, probably 15, and my Dad, who was the worship leader at the time, told me that I was going to play for Paul. My first song was "I've Waited," which was a difficult (for me at that time) 16th note hand over hand pattern. I sweated it out, fairly certain that I was going to faint, when the first song came to an end. Then it was time for "Pharoah, Pharoah," one of my personal favorites at the time. We had just gotten into the tune when Paul shows up. Now, I was really nervous, as Paul was one of my earliest drum heroes. He sat there smiling, approving of what I was doing and then came up to relieve me. I think that he said something encouraging and then I got off the stage. (I mention that I think it was encouraging, because I would have definitely recalled discouragement! But that was never Paul's way.)

As terrifying as this was, it was also electrifying! I had successfully gone through my first public drum experience and it had gone surprisingly good. (By the way, this was not my first public MUSIC experience, as I played trumpet in elementary school. That experience did not go very well at all! That's a story for another time.)

As I went on from that moment, that Tuesday night, experience led to experience and confidence was added to technique and before I knew it, I was playing with some wonderfully skilled musicians. As I reflect upon Sunday morning (I had played just an hour before my student's lesson), I realize that I did not have one bit of tension or nerves. I am perhaps the most comfortable with a pair of sticks in my hand, but that was not always the way it was.

There were nights before Sunday morning services that I would wake up in fear of missing the alarm clock several times. Other times, I would dream that I was setting up my drums DURING worship, one drum at a time. Then there was the fear of not being good enough or having to do something completely foreign for the first time. These things haunt young players.

Then there is the actual embarrassment of missing an ending or hitting a cymbal during a sensitive moment of prayer. Dropping sticks? Hitting yourself? Poking an eye? All except for the last one (I've worn glasses since the 4th grade...otherwise I would have been 3 for 3!) I've experienced and learned to laugh about it.

All of this is also coupled with the musical excitement of emotionally leading an entire congregation into a place of worship. There is nothing like playing a fill to bring the band back into that amazing chorus and the rush of seeing an entire audience stand to their feet, raising their hands to God. It's almost on cue, but the drummer often signals that moment. There is no better feeling than a great groove and the camaraderie that comes, when everyone smiles and is enjoying a language that is not even understood on a conscious level among the majority of the congregation.

All these things, my drum student will begin to enjoy someday, but first, she must face the fears, the anxieties, the tension and the insecurities that are par for the course when you're a musician. She must learn to navigate through sub par drumsets, equipment malfunctions, discouraging moments of failure and fellow musician's egos. She must experience disillusionment, both at her playing and at the ideology that is prevalent among young Christian musicians that the Christian world is all fair and good. She'll learn to protect herself.

At the same time, she will have to be rescued from herself. She will have to continually check her ego at the door. She will have to prioritize her faith over her instrument, the people that she plays for, over the musical goals she would wish to accomplish. She will have to conduct herself in a manner befitting one in spiritual authority, an unfair disposition, but one that cannot be avoided in the church. She will have to watch her words, her behavior and her personal preferences and liberties, knowing that a good reputation is the hardest thing to establish and the easiest thing to lose. In all of these, the best have failed to take into account to their detriment, the author being no exception.

But mixed with all of these issues, will be the great adventure of learning to apply all that she has learned technically in such a way as to genuinely move from being a technician to a musician, which is to move from being aware to being an artist. Time, plus technique, plus experience, plus mind numbing hard work will bring this young lady to where she wants to be. Someday, she will look back and fondly remember the times of trepidation, and know that they were necessary stepping stones on the climb to artistic success.

In many ways, I see the same thing being true for people in ministry. They know "the book," they have taken in the "theory." Then, real life ministry hits, and the most successful men/women that I know learned how to navigate and adapt to what was authentic, true ministry. These are not the ones who offer the pithy cliche or the pad answer. They know that those words are technically true, but are lacking in any true power for the moment. The true minister takes what he/she learns, applies it sensitively and in a timely manner, and moves from being a technician, to being a minister, again the distinction between technique and artistry!

I wish my student the very best. May she be the godly young exception to every rule that might threaten otherwise. May all of her experience, good and bad, add strength to her convictions and wisdom in her way. While I am uncertain as to what this first real lesson will hold, I know that she will do well.

I hope and pray the same for those aspiring to ministry.

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez


Patty said...

WOW, that's deep. And here I thought it was all about just kickin' a fat beat.

Frank And Lela said...

Perhaps there was subterfuge involved...

By the way, sorry that your pick lost! Frank the Whale Whisperer just happened to strike a chord with the people. Better luck next time! :)

And speaking of kickin fat beats, Isy sure is doing great!!! Last webcast I saw was very impressive! Any chance he might want to go to Vanguard...down in the OC...close to Kingsfield...'sniff'...just wondering of course! :)


Melz said...

'tutelage' is a funny word.

Melz said...

'subterfuge' is also a funny word.

Frank And Lela said...

I like being funny...sort of my thing! Thanks for stopping by DOOOD! :)