I started taking piano lessons around the age of 8. In the fourth grade, I signed up to take flute lessons, and then in high school I began studying with a voice coach. I stuck with all three of them through high school, begrudgingly, though I absolutely loved music (still do) and very much wanted to be a performer. What I wanted was to be good with little effort.
In truth, I wanted to be great, but I had little patience for running scales and drilling the mechanics of playing the same measures over and over till I had them down cold. I’ll confess there weren’t many times during all those years when I ever had the music “down cold.” I did my obligatory practice time and moved on to the next thing. And if I wasn’t good, in my mind I was good enough.
By high school graduation, I no longer studied the piano, and I’d given up on the flute. In my second year of college, I found my way into the music program and under the tutelage of Dr. Blaine Shover, who to this day earns every bit of my admiration for his continued and untiring, earnest teaching of students who love music. Shover’s Madrigal choirs over the years are something of legend to those of us who are alums. It was that college experience that really brought out the music in me and made me want to keep singing. Yet after college graduation and a move to another area, I fell away again from music performance.
It wasn’t until 10 years ago that I made the decision to recommit to vocal performance, and I looked up my former coach from my high school days. It was my luck that she agreed to take me back under her instruction. Through her efforts and patience, I’ve moved back into performance—nothing big, but enough that’s it’s opened a few doors, including an annual summer choral festival with my beloved Dr. Shover and so many talented people that I look forward to singing with every year.
When I was eight, I had no time for patience, and no patience for learning lessons. The mechanics of making music didn’t come easily to me. Even now I still need to practice and drill; I need to study my music and work out the measures one by one. But now I know that there will be accomplishment in the process. And enjoyment.
I look at this experience much like I do the one of coming back to the Church. For so many years I did the whole faith thing by wrote, there was nothing personal; I just didn’t connect with it.
It’s taken me years to get to this new point of learning to be diligent in practicing patience, and I’ve got work to do. But now with the experience and effort to learn more about the actual “mechanics” behind Catholicism—and taking an active part in my own parish, like I do in a choral setting—I’m hopeful that I’ve found what I need to stick with it this time around.
With God, as with all other things, there is no way to be “good” with little effort. I’m still learning.