Believe in Music
The other day I got an email that made me cry. I was invited to attend the 85th birthday party of my youth choir director. Of course, the party will be an old-fashioned hymn-sing. My schedule will not allow me to attend, but I am happy to have the opportunity to write a note to Mrs. Elliott and let her know what an important role she played in my young life.
Although I am not as much of a “Gleek” as I used to be, it is no secret that I am a fan of “Glee,” the television story of a high school show choir. One of the reasons I love this show so much is it reminds me of my six years in Chapel Singers.
Chapel Singers was a fifty-voice ecumenical youth choir. We designed musical church services and presented them in churches throughout the Northeast. Our musical selections ranged from old-time hymns to show tunes to modern rock numbers. Our theme song was a rousing rendition of “I Believe in Music.”
“I Believe in Music” might seem like a funny thing to sing in church. The purpose of church is to state and strengthen our belief in God, not our belief in music, right? But for our choir director, Alberta Elliott, it was kind of the same thing.
Mrs. Elliott was a middle school music teacher; the sort of teacher who has become a rare commodity these days. In school, as in church, she had a way of bringing the best out of difficult kids, not only musically, but also personally.
In an email from one of her daughters, I discovered that Mrs. Elliott has a granddaughter now in college, majoring in music education. I pray that, once graduated, Jessica will be able to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and use music to make a real difference in the lives of young people.
From Mrs. Elliott I learned about music, and so much more. I learned to appreciate history and tradition, and to gently blend the traditional with modern offerings. I learned the sacred nature of creativity. I learned to be part of a group.
I am not the most musically talented person I know – far from it. But having the ability to be part of a musical project was essential and formative for me, as it is for all young people. Mrs. Elliott taught me that music, creativity, community, character and spirituality are all woven together, and are all important. Without that lesson, my life would have been far less rich, and far less productive.