Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain
I wanted to take a bit of time to explain the, probably fairly obvious, change of direction here. I’ll try to keep it as short as I can.
If I’m entirely honest, I have to admit that over the past few years, I’ve been very unhappy in my personal relationship with the harp. I went to college expecting one thing, learned that the world is quite different than I knew and changed my expectations to fit the real nature of this industry, and yet still most of my endeavors were fruitless. I won’t go into the whole “sob story” now, because I feel that I am moving past it, but it’s long since passed the point where other people started noticing my rotten luck with the harp.
It wasn’t until a few months ago when I was posed a certain question, that I started to consider where I was with the harp and where I was going with it. The question was “Have you ever wondered if maybe everything falls apart for a reason? Perhaps you’re meant to do something else with your talents.”
Leave to thy God to order and provide
From that day on, the thoughts began to whir in my mind. Maybe she was right. Maybe there was a reason for what seemed like the worst luck in the world. Maybe I was meant to do something else. And a thought that had popped in and out of my head for almost 20 years came back with a vengeance.
I remember one year at church camp in high school, telling someone that I wished I could be like Calvin Talyor, a pianist who had visited our church a few times. I wished that I could use my love of music to share God’s love more intensely than just playing Special Music at church every few months. It’s a thought that has come to mind many many times over the past two decades, but I’ve never lingered on it long. While it didn’t seem impossible, I could never get past a few key obstacles. The main obstacle being the need for public speaking, which anyone who knows me personally can likely imagine why that’s a difficulty for me.
But ever since I was posed the question of whether I was meant to do something else, my fleeting dreams of music ministry began to stick harder. And in these recent months, I feel like I’ve had sign after sign that I was finally on the right track. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when something happened in my relationship with the harp that absolutely devastated me, that I finally had the resolve to make a decision.
In every change He faithful will remain
When I’m upset and don’t feel like doing anything, I often turn to the piano. Playing piano is probably the only thing that I can do where I can just shut my mind off and enjoy myself. Lately, my piano obsession has been some fantastic hymn arrangements by Mark Hayes. Somewhere between “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” and “This is the Day of New Beginnings,” I knew that I’d finally reached the point in my life where I could make that decision, the one I’d been on the edge of for so long. The decision to step away from being a professional harpist and focus on music ministry.
Making the decision was easy, but living with it over the following days was most definitely not easy. Stepping away from the professional side of being a harpist meant a lot of things. It meant stepping away from my students, from possible opportunities in my life, and in many ways felt like “giving up” everything I’d been working towards for the past 20 years. It took me a few days to come to terms with it and by then, I knew even more that I had made the right choice.
Be Still My Soul, thy best, thy Heavenly friend
When I make a new arrangement, I usually sit down and do it in one sitting. The day after I made the decision to leave my life as a professional harpist behind and take the harp into music ministry, I sat down and started on a new arrangement specifically for my ministry. I had a lot of hymns and Christian tunes to choose from, but for some reason, “Be Still My Soul” kept sticking in my head. If you don’t know it, I’ll wait here while you go listen to it.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with it when I first started working on my arrangement, and the final result was not clear to me until I reached it, but it ended up being the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done as a musician. And unlike my normal arrangements that I do in one sitting, it took me 4 days to finish.
Through the arrangement, I realized that my long-felt fears that turning away from being a professional would be like giving up all the time I spent in school, my 3 degrees, and the professional level of talents…those fears were unfounded. I felt like I was able to pull every aspect of my career as a harpist into this one arrangement. Not the least of which is my long-given-up original dream as a harpist, my love of film music and music that tells a story.
I wanted to share this new arrangement with you now. Not because it’s completely finished (I have some little changes I want to make) or because this is a great video. I want to share it because the moment I fully pulled this arrangement together, I felt such fulfillment and satisfaction like I’ve never felt with the harp in my entire life. If I had any doubts before then that I was finally going in the right direction, they left me with the completion of my arrangement. I don’t know that it’s the best arrangement I’ve ever made from a musical standpoint, but from a personal standpoint, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
To me, this arrangement tells a story. It’s the story of a person who can’t find their way, who has stress and anxiety and hardship in their life. They want to let go of it, they want to give it up to God, but they can’t take that step and accept God’s help. This arrangement is a conversation between them and God, in which the person keeps fighting back against Him, unable to let go of the things causing them pain. Until finally, God’s voice calls through to them and they can begin to let go. And in the end, all that stress and anxiety and pain is gone and they’re where they should always have been.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul
After I finished putting it together, I realized that I’d told my own story without meaning to.
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end
Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt happier with myself and my life as a musician than I have in a very very long time. I’ve felt such satisfaction and joy in working on new arrangements and starting down this new path of using the harp for music ministry. It’s been such fun that I can’t even bother to be upset that it took me this long to reach this point. This new joy has bled into other areas of my life besides music, and I’m in the process of making some major changes across the board.
It hasn’t all been easy, but I know it will be worth it. The hardest part is stepping away from teaching. Some of my students have been with me for a very long time, but I’ve been blessed that while not all entirely happy about it, they’ve all been extremely supportive of my new direction. I’m working with each one of them to find the perfect new teacher for their interests and wants out of lessons, and will be transitioning them from myself to their new teacher(s) in the coming weeks and months.
While I’m stepping away from private teaching, I will still be helping and teaching at the Summer Harp Academy this summer and in other professional teaching capacities. I’ll also still be playing with orchestras, because that is a love that God gave to me and I couldn’t walk away from that even if I wanted to. All other gigs and “professional level” performances will cease as I clear out my schedule to focus on arranging, practicing, and traveling around to perform. At some point, I’ll update my website with more specifics about my music ministry. Right now, it’s all a work in process!
As always, if anyone has any questions, feel free to Contact Me. Otherwise, keep an eye on my website and Facebook pages for updates!