Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Mom, the Musician

Here's my current favorite picture of me and my mom--with the added bonus of my sister:

Having blogged now for many years, I've written before about the ways my parents shaped me.  I realize that I'm lucky for all the ways they supported me in my youth.

Today I want to write about my mom as an artist, about what I've learned about being an artist from her.  My mom's chosen art form is music:  she sings, and she plays piano and organ.  She's one of those musicians who can transpose music from key to key without thinking about it.  She can improvise in intriguing ways.  She can play by herself or fit in easily with many a musical team.

I've watched her play for many a worship service, and she's the type of team player who keeps an eye on the action and supports and furthers the objectives.  For example, I remember the time I was an acolyte having trouble lighting the Advent wreath that hung high above my head.  The congregation sang the hymn they were supposed to sing, and I still hadn't lit the last candle.  My mom played an improvisational bit and filled in what would have been uncomfortable silence if she had stayed to a strict script.

The most important lesson that my mom taught me as she has lived her life is that you can make your art form a daily part of life, not matter how busy you might be.  True, it will be easier for some of us than others.  She has had a piano most of her life--but she has always reminded us that the voice is the first instrument, the instrument that we carry with us all the time.

If she mourned the years that she spent far away from the nation's cultural centers, we never heard her say it.  We spent a chunk of years in Montgomery, Alabama, and she filled her life with music by way of the church and community groups.  She has since played a Reformation service in the National Cathedral and organized all sorts of impressive concert series--if she had stopped being involved in music in the earlier years, she wouldn't have been ready for those opportunities.

She's also taught me the importance of giving back to our communities.  Her work for the church has been both paid and volunteer.  Lately she has developed a music series for an Alzheimer's unit in a retirement community--in ways, it seems selfless, free of acclaim.  And yet, they are an appreciative group in ways that other groups aren't--another important lesson.

We teach each other lessons in so many ways--but one of the most powerful ways we teach each other is in the way we live our lives.  I feel lucky to have been able to witness my mother who has lived a life in accordance to her values.  I hope I'm doing the same for others.

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