At the core of being a musician is the deep desire to experience and express what goes beyond words. When someone tells of a spiritual experience, they can’t help but relive it in the telling. The same is true for musical expression: the musician lives what is being expressed. This is part of what makes music the pre-eminent vehicle for communicating experience because it awakens in performer and listener alike the very thing expressed. And because the desire to express what goes beyond words is so strong in musicians, they strive for mastery of their instruments and excellence of expression so when the time is right they will have the freedom to do justice to what is in their hearts.
The desire for musical excellence is the desire for freedom and transcendence – in a word, joy. (“Practice is…the search for ever greater joy in movement and expression.” Yehudi Menuhin, violinist) Musicians give themselves over to something larger than themselves – to what has a life of its own and what is best in our humanity. The creative impulse is inherently spiritual. We are created in the image of God the creator so in making art we cooperate with what is best in us.
The musician is also driven by the desire for connection: connecting to what is within, connecting with like-minded musicians in common purpose and connecting with an audience by being a transparent conduit for calls for expression.
Then there is the miracle of communal music – playing with musicians who have found sufficient common ground to be simultaneously many and one – to have unity in diversity. (“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one.” -John 17:22) Each contributes ever attentive, interactive and responsive to the expression of the others, creating a conversation with common purpose yet each voice having its place. Trust is essential: trust that each will make room for the other, trust that each will pull their weight and trust that each is committed. And again transcendence enters with each musician participating in what is greater than the sum of the parts.
Add the Holy Spirit to the mix and He touches every aspect of the process, awakening and bringing to fruition the desires for freedom, transcendence, expression, for unity in diversity and for common purpose, completing the gifts and awakening the hearts of performer and audience.
For me, being a musician means being true to the call that comes from the gifts of music and faith.