THERE are three groups of people that I had in mind when I first started planning local music concerts in our area: young musicians, adult musicians, and the audience (those who can play the radio really well).
What is it that challenges our young musicians to become better on their instrument or voice? If they do happen to find something or someone to challenge them and they start to improve, what’s going to keep them going and growing until they achieve something higher and of great value – the skill to perform great song selections in front of a large audience and awe them?
If a musician is to improve upon their skill, they must have two things built into their character: one, they must love to inspire and desire to spark delight into the lives of their listeners. Many have dulcet talent and skill, but just don’t take much pleasure in creating joy in others through their music. These will usually not continue with their musical development at some point in time.
Secondly, if a musician is to continue to aspire to higher competence in their level of expertise, they must have a platform to display their hard work and accomplishments. The bigger the stage, the higher the challenge and commitment level. This is where I come in – providing a venue to do just that. It’s probably more fun to play in a smaller, more informal Home Concert. But the inward satisfaction of facing and overcoming appalling fear, and practicing with formidable time and energy exerted in preparation for performing in front of large crowds, has immense personal rewards. Nothing accelerates the skill level of a musician more than this.
When an audience brightly applauds a musical performance, most musicians recognize that this is an expression of appreciation for all their hard work and labor to get to this developed level of proficiency. Some may do it for self gain, but that hasn’t been my experience working with musical artists over the years. True musicians truly love making people happy and contributing toward making their lives better than it normally is in everyday life. Take our great music and musicians out of this world, and what do we have to replace them with? Music is like love; it’s the salt of the earth. Without it, where’s the flavor?
Then there’s the adult instrumentalists and vocalists. Again, without a platform for these musicians to maintain or further develop their ability toward musical artistry, what’s their motivation to continue the path for further advancement? Too often I run across former musicians who have lost their enthusiasm and purpose for continuing to play or sing. Their arena for performing has disappeared. It’s very difficult to create a spark to renew their musical interest after that. The only reason I’m still playing the piano today is because I’ve always had somewhere or someone to play for every now and then – sometimes just barely enough to keep my skill level from sliding too far down the scale (no pun intended). However, a few of those times I took advantage of the opportunity and really developed my clarity for more musical precision.
For the one who has maintained their musical talent and is still willing to perform before large groups of people, there’s another characteristic that they must have: they must be a little crazy. I say that to myself often when I honestly think about the potential for total and outright embarrassment, and all the things that could possibly go wrong. Who in their right mind is willing to risk total humiliation in front of a crowd who allow little to no error? That’s why we are driven to practice, practice, practice, and pray that it just comes together. And somehow it does. If for some reason it doesn’t, oh well. The sun will still come up tomorrow. It was worth the risk. It’s easier when you start out young when there’s greater tolerance and you don’t know better. I guess that’s why I always liked to play the piano loud and fast when I was young. No one really knows when you make a mistake then, though they’re listening for one.
For a musician to continue providing this world with beautiful sensations of melody, there must be an audience. Sometimes an audience of one will do, if that person thoroughly finds great satisfaction in what they hear. I’ve played for a few of those kind of people before, and I still have very fond memories of those moments. But for the performer, the more joy they can bring into the lives of others, the greater joy it brings to themselves.
In March of 1978 I attended a special music program presented by the 150-member choir and 60-member orchestra at the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, Texas. I remember the date because Arkansas was playing in the SW Conference basketball finals that week. The famous “triplets” of Brewer, Delph, and Moncrief were playing that year and Eddie Sutton was their coach. It was one of the few years that Arkansas would get to play in the Final Four a few weeks later. Anyway, I had to miss listening to the end of one of Arkansas’ early tournament games on the radio in order to attend this musical presentation. That was very difficult for me to do since I loved the Razorbacks so much, especially that team.
But it ended up being far worth it. John Peterson, a songwriter who had great influence on Christian music from the 50’s to the 70’s was present, and was being honored that night for the contribution he had made through his many compositions. The choir and orchestra combined together that evening with the right blend of contemporary-styled songs that ended up being one of the highest musical experiences of my life. I can still remember leaving the church that night and getting into my car thinking to myself, “If heaven were measured as a G on the musical scale, then the encounter that I had just witnessed was a F#,” or about as close as we can get to heaven while on earth for those of you who don’t know your musical scale. I experienced first-hand what music can do to elevate the soul to a higher place. At that point it didn’t even matter to me whether Arkansas had won (which they did) or lost, for I had been a part of something even greater, at least for that one night.
Since then, I have observed or been a part of many other similar musical programs over the years that have helped to elevate me to higher thoughts and feelings of joy than words can describe. That is really what drives me to put together these community concerts. If I can be that blessed by the right music performed by the right musicians during a live performance, then I know others can be as well, as has been witnessed in all three of the SMF concerts last year . So I’m inviting and looking for 420 people from our community who love music and would be willing to come out on Sunday afternoon, April 21st, and fill the new auditorium at the Siloam Springs High School and participate by being a live expression of the 19-performances being prepared.
Music performed by our local students and their teachers will help make your Spring blossom into full color!
By Mark Barnett (updated 03-22-13)