Faithful Learning in the Performing Arts
By: Jose Muniz (Secondary Instrumental Instruction)
When asked about what faithful learning looks like in the performing arts, the answer becomes very elusive. In the various forms of performing arts, faithful learning is exhibited in various ways. In a theatre production, it can be expressed in the faithfulness to the characters, the author’s intent, the underlying message in the production and in the process itself. However, a theatre production can also involve music in both the vocal and orchestral realms. Therefore, I will focus on the Band/Orchestra aspect of faithful learning.
In an instrumental ensemble, faithful learning occurs in the daily process of refining skills and adding new skills in the preparation for a performance. The 2 most fundamental to performing in an ensemble is to play skillfully and to play with humility.
As God has stated to the musicians in the tabernacle through the Psalms, David writes:
Sing to Him a new song
Play skillfully with a shout of joy (Psalm 33:3)
Becoming skillful is in direct obedience to God when we work on refining the skills necessary for a great performance. Playing skillfully, requires that each member of the ensemble take responsibility for getting every note, rhythm and key signature correct. The next step is to become faithful to playing the music itself, not just the notes, but the phrases and the shaping of each phrase. Gaining all of the skills and becoming faithful to the music takes intellectual courage, tenacity, honesty and humility.
In Micah 6:8, we are commanded to act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with God. In an ensemble, it is impossible to have a great performance without “walking” (playing) humbly. Playing humbly is also in direct obedience to God when he instructed the musicians to play skillfully. Each member of the ensemble must learn when they are not the melody. They must become humble to the music and become supportive of the other members in the ensemble. The skills of matching tone qualities, balancing, blending and intonation become refined when one becomes humble to the music.