Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Music for Elementary Students

I got asked by Melody the other day to give a short presentation, along with a couple other young people, about why I started playing music, my inspirations, what I do with it, and what I want to accomplish with it. The presentation is going to be for kids ages 5-13.
We are also supposed to give a short demonstration of our abilities. That seems simple, but it took me a few hours to realize that picking a few 'expert' rated guitar songs from the game Rockband might at least be familiar and fun enough to be a good idea.

But the even harder thought process that comes with this is that I have to explain a very deep subject to kids who have, at best, a minute understanding of it. This post is written in a mini-vignette format.

My thoughts went immediately to trying to remember how I felt about music before I started playing guitar. I guess I was always musical. I sang along to my favorite songs of the music my parents listened to. When I was in elementary school I actually started choosing some of my own music. Audio Adrenaline and DC Talk were the first things I owned. But I didn't really take them very seriously at that age (11).

So I'm sitting here thinking, "How did I feel about life and music when I was ten years old and what could an accomplished musician have said to me to encourage me to take an interest in it?"

Trying to relate to yourself as even a middle schooler is not easy. Try it sometime.

How can I explain that my journey of music is a journey of transcendence where my soul has reached higher places and my heart has grasped deeper things than I could ever imagine, or even recount, to a five year old!?

I didn't even really start latching onto music until Linkin Park entered my life when I was thirteen. I started playing guitar when I was eleven because my mom made me choose an instrument to learn and that was the only one I conceded was good enough for me.
And I hated practicing. Going to lessons wasn't particularly 'fun' either. But I did it because I had to and because I did want to be good.

I joined a worship team at church when I was twelve. I think that's why I wanted to be good. I was playing those songs the way I wanted to. With my own strum patterns. With my own Fender acoustic guitar. With my own hands. And I made it my own. My passion for worship or music were not developed, but I was having fun and developing them.

The reality of music is that mastering the techniques and theory for your instrument frees you from the heavy bonds of incompetence and allows you to make music flow from your soul, as every capability of your instrument is available to you to utilize to make a melody that speaks.

The beauty of this expression is that as your soul is poured out into sound, your heart and emotions can feed off of it. Musicians are largely criticized for seeking emotional highs. Guilty and proud of it. God gave us the ability to express and receive deep emotional love. So I'm going to use it as much as I can.

Certainly, growing up around other guitarists and being around other guitarists now generates a sort of competition to be the best. And being great a music can get you a lot of attention. Another thing musicians are generally guilty of: we are attention whores. A sign of a mature musician, however, is humility and self satisfaction with their art rather than seeking the approval of others for their performance.

I find a lot of my identity in my musical ability, the music I like, and my accomplishments as a musician. I am a Christian first and worship leader second. Third, I am a musician. Above all other things in my life, these three get placed first. I claim it because I earned it with the years of work towards it.

Towards the future, writing music is in my sights. It is a rare gift to write songs well. Even rarer to write songs that are genuinely expressive of yourself. I wish to grasp both of these, with some help.

Talking to five year olds about music was easier than I thought. All they need to know is that its work, its rewarding, and I love it.