Playing Piano for Worship 101

I was taught piano by my mom (music conservatory trained) from a young age, before preschool, to play the piano. I am classically trained but also trained to play for church/worship. These are two differing philosophies. While both are fun and rewarding, one, classical, is played to show off your skills and the composer’s skills and one, worship, is to show off God. The key to being successful in leading hearts into worship lies in whether or not you have adequately prepared, and I do not mean having the chord sheets or notes ready or memorizing the song, though that is a tiny part of it. “You cannot teach what you do not know.” You will never lead another to worship if you are unfamiliar with the concept. You must worship as a lifestyle. Loving God, studying the Bible, praying, serving Him and others, loving people are all forms and extensions of worship to God. When you live in that and keep humble, God will play through your fingers when the time comes to smooth out any imperfections or distractions during live worship after you have practiced ahead of time and lived in this state of worship. As you are diligent to God, He rewards with blessings of being able to share that and draw them in. And do not underestimate the power of a sustain pedal and inflection- building up a song vs. quiet moments of contemplations. Be ok with pauses. Be comfortable in your skin. You play for God and not people. That is a key ingredient. I always sing, out loud or in my mind, while I play. When you mean it, you play from the heart fearlessly and just play for Jesus, like it is you and He in the room. I do this whether I play for Jesus alone or play before thousands of people gathered to worship Jesus. Same thing. Numbers never matter, but your heart does. I detest emotionless playing for worship. God deserves our passion, our putting of ourselves and intention into what we play for Him. We represent His worthiness to be worshipped when we play so it must reflect that. It is an honor and a privilege to lead worship from the piano and He blesses those who do it well, meaning from a heart of constant worship and dedication to God. Nothing is better, so do it right, do it well. Go with God!! ❤

Music of the Divine

Nothing stirs the soul, awakens the imagination or feeds the mind like music. It is a dance of the Divine on the ears and hearts of its listeners. It is constant in nature and can be heard always when still. People recreate it to their best abilities, people try to capture and convey and tell their own story as it is played. Music can go against its nature and denote pain or upheaval, express negativity and rebellion, hatred, evil. Everything good can also be used for evil, but in its pure form, in its purest self, music speaks of Divine things, joy, peace, hope, gentleness, it is a love thing. And when I have hiked alone and sat for days under the sky and found rest and solitude in the world God made, the music of nature sounded sweetly in my ears as strongly and as real as the best of Braums or Mozart or as sweetly as Jewel or Fernando Ortega. Yes, it sometimes had the fun of Marley or passion of Santana or expressiveness of Adele but in its subtlest form. In nature you have to be still and quiet to hear it but it is there as strongly as you or I. It breathes out the music of the Divine and breathes in the unclean then out comes the clean music. It cleanses the soul as it plays this timeless rhythmic original piece. Nature orchestrates the Divine music with clarity and distinction so beautifully that tears flow. I long to hear it again. I long to play it. When my fingers lightly touch the keys, I work to repeat the sound I hear in my soul from these visits. I work to portray the fingerprint of the Divine in my expression of music. I long to play with other musicians with such similar longings of the heart and together it is so beautiful. To come close to the emotion of the Divine music which flows and encompasses the very soul of a musician is to share a very special place which no one but a musician can possibly understand or appreciate but enjoys hearing when pure of heart. To open one’s self to the expression of music is to become vulnerable to other’s interpretation of it or knowledge and rejection of you personally because it is such and part of you. But to express yourself to the Divine is to worship Him and the rest takes care of itself. A musician is being who they were meant to be when they tap into the natural music of the Divine and deign to play what their heart finds. It is truly beautiful!

Discussion on Gifts versus No Gifts

I am not talking about presents, so sorry to disappoint those looking for ettiquette on when to purchase the white towels versus a vase of flowers, etc. for different occasions. There arose of late a deep discussion on whether people are really gifted at all or not gifted. It was an unheated but passionate discussion with a teenager who may or may not believe in God but who believes people are not really given gifts from Him, they just like something and practice it to become better. So, I played a scale on the piano (one of my alleged gifts) in a cold straight way. And I said, anyone can do this who likes to play the piano and practices. But were I to ask someone without a gift for music to play the same exact scale conveying happiness or sadness or ambition or hope, chances are this practiced person would look at me confused and play it exactly the same way. However, someone with a gift for music would not hesitate to express those exact things using those same notes. Unbelieving me, I did it. I made that simple C scale be whatever emotion I stated. You see, when you see a gift of God, some particular ability that may not be exclusively given to you but is definitely unique among many, it can only be described as a gift from someone able to do more than most people are able to do. And God of course is the creator of life and giver of gifts. Someone who does not possess advanced knowledge cannot give to someone what they do not have. In an easier manner, I can’t give you a pizza unless I can make pizza first. So, gifts, special abilities that seem to amaze people in that particular area of giftedness, are from God. And here is the rub, He gives us these gifts for a reason. The reason is to help people and worship Him with it. He gives diverse gifts because when everyone uses their gifts, collectively everything we need is provided. It is a big picture perspective that explains everything. All these detailed gifts are for the collective and ultimately for God who made them all. It is beautiful to be a part of such a cohesive unit, a purpose we can all believe in and be for. If you contemplate this for a bit, you will find a new passion for your gifting. It is beautiful to consider!

Tickling the Ivories or Ode to Piano and Music

The absolute best thing in the world my mom taught me was how to play the piano. I could play and read music before I could read books well. Not always the best student, I readily admit, I often did not practice. But when it came time to perform, I nailed it and no one ever knew. Except me. And mom. But I digress. I loved playing, could play for hours at a time on a rainy or snowy day, wrote many many songs and loved hearing the music that came out of my emotions and thoughts of the moment. I was encouraged by my church and played for church. Music is a benefit to the soul and the body and mind. It was a gift of healing from God. Many years I left it alone because of no access to it with school (too many years of college) and work and life. One day I went to the music department and asked for special permission to use a practice room. Hadn’t played in years and had to try out for a college piano master teacher. I played a little piece I wrote and he offered me not only the practice room but also a position in his department teaching dynamics and original composition. I had to turn it down (like a sensible idiot) because I was in premed and had a full time PCA position at the hospital. But I felt confident again and started to play again when I could. Years passed, I tried out for a band at a church playing piano. Then I had access to the church piano anytime. A gorgeous grand, I loved going late at night and playing on it. Piano has always been my staple, my comfortable home wherever I have been. When nothing else made sense or when crazy became too crazy, piano was my outlet and calm. It was my friend I could turn to wherever I was for any reason or emotion. It was always also my saving grace link to my God, who I am so thankful provided music to my life. And when the kids came, I lost it again, having much to do until the last several years of being in bands at church and oldies rock and roll. I even got some of my classical pieces out the other day and was surprised I could play them, though a tad rusty. Piano is my home. Nothing is more perfect than standing or sitting behind those familiar keys, always beckoning me to play, always accepting of my successes and failures, the perfect way to express where my heart is, the love of my life. I think all musicians feel this way with their instrument of giftedness. So musicians speak in this language of mutual respect for this same deep bond of music we share. It is sacred and irrevocable. No one but a musician can truly get that aspect of another musician. They can try but never quite understand its importance. So, play on and rock on, my beautiful musician friends. And thank you, God, as always for music, a piano, the opportunity to play and a mom who started me on this path of no return.