Recently, I gave a compliment to some musicians after an entertaining holiday performance. The response I got back was “Thanks for letting us know the effort means something.” It inspired me to write this blog because I think sometimes we forget to tell them how much we love what they do. I once heard that musicians are the athletes of the fine muscles, and when you think about it, that makes sense. When my musician husband heard it described this way he said, “Who needs abs…check out my flexor pollicis brivis, Baby!” and he struck a pose with his thumb. It’s funny, but it is also true that as a pianist and a drummer/percussionist the muscles in his hands and forearms are strong. Same is true for the vocal cords of a singer, or the lips of a horn player, or the fingers of a guitarist. All levels of musicians, from professional to hobbyists, use their fine muscles in amazing ways.
Sports athletes, especially professional ones, are masters of gross muscle movement. The way they move their bodies to accomplish their sport is amazing, but it doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. They work at it. In the gym, they lift. On the field of play, court, or track, they practice. They sacrifice hours and hours of time in order to become the best at what they do. The couple of hours we watch, is hundreds of hours in the making. The product they offer us is a well thrown pass, an amazing block, a spectacular layup, an extra-long, long jump, a super-sonic ace, an impossible spike, or a stunning header. No matter the sport, the gross muscle groups work together in ways we cannot comprehend. It is why we watch, to witness the greatness of how the body can function when trained properly. We regularly are a party to unbelievable feats of athleticism.
Musicians do the same, only with fine muscle groups. This time of year especially, we hear the result of their sacrificial training. They spend hours and hours honing their craft. Each note played requires the dexterity of fine muscles, the specific placement of fingers, lips, or arms and the speed of movement that is awe inspiring. Individual instruments work alone, but then must be rehearsed together as a group to make sure every part flows together with the others. Like a sports team, every person has a role and a place. To create unity for the audience, you must first have it among the players. The product they offer is a beautiful symphony, an inspiring choral performance, a rocking concert, a lovely chamber piece, an amazing band, or a breath-taking ensemble. No matter the kind of musical performance, the fine muscle groups stun us. The elite musicians are like the Olympic athletes of music. When we hear their music, it moves us and takes our breath away. We are all unified for a few moments. Audience and players breathing as one. Hundreds of hours of practice and preparation are evident when we listen. We hear the beauty of how a body can function when trained properly. We witness amazing dexterity which translates to spectacular music. It brings us together in ways nothing else can.
The holiday season is especially busy for musicians because, as much as Christmas is about decorations, gifts, and lights, the music is the foundation for everything. My Aunt Betty usually played nearly every night of the season somewhere. We planned our family gatherings around her performance schedule. Being a music teacher, she didn’t just play the organ or sing in a choir, she took her students to perform, too. I remember going to the lighting of the tree at the Rich’s downtown because one of her student choirs was preforming. Then, on top of her own performances and those of her students, she also attended performances of others. Busy does not adequately describe her schedule at Christmas time. It was more like frantic. Yet, she loved it all.
I think that is what musicians would want you to know. They do what they do behind the scenes, in practices and rehearsals, as well as on stages at performances, because they love music. They can’t imagine NOT playing or singing. It is in them to create beauty and to share it with the rest of us. All the effort. All the hours. All the set up and take down. All the work. It is all for the love of music. Those couple of hours of performance, where they connect with the audience, is why they keep going. It moves them and inspires them to play with excellence and heart.
I for one, am so appreciative of their love and their willingness to share their talent, even though it means I lose my husband for months beforehand. I am thankful for their commitment to the music and playing it, enough to spend the hours it takes to get it right. I love that they don’t mind all the preparation, because it is in them to be the deliverers of the message music brings. Joy. Peace. Fun. Unity. Hope.
So, to all my musician friends…thank you. What you do matters. It is more than just applause at the end of a performance. It is gratitude for all that goes on BEFORE those inspiring moments. The sacrifice of time and effort on the days you are tired and don’t want to rehearse. The gumption to get up and go anyway, because you think of us, your audience, and you want to share your best with us. It is the sore and aching fine muscles from the building of muscle memory for countless hours. Your dedication is admirable. Your devotion to the love of music is inspirational. You’ve got grit.
For this time of year, we thank you. Your efforts are the foundation for our season. It isn’t Christmas until you play. For all the rest of the year, we thank you, because music isn’t just for Christmas. It is your love language, and we receive it gratefully. Your constant efforts to meet with us are appreciated, even if we don’t always remember to express it. Your effort means more than you know. You matter to us and so does your music. Much love and many blessings to you all for sharing it with us.