A few years ago I attended a piano recital. The young students were scheduled to play in order of ability starting with the least experienced. Six-year-old Caleb was the first to perform. It was his premier recital and he was obviously excited. From where I was sitting I could see he was to play a standard beginner’s tune. The staff was large. The rhythm was simple. Yet when he started to play I was amazed at what I felt. His energy, enthusiasm and love for the music shone through loud and clear. He was doing more than just hitting his fingers against the keys. He was playing music.
The recital continued through the attitude-laden middle schoolers and on to the more musically mature; each performer displaying more experience and technical ability than the one before. Though most of the pieces were technically well executed, not one of their offerings exceeded the performance that Caleb had given. Yet after seeing the level of difficulty that had been mastered by others, I thought Caleb might need some assurance that his performance was appreciated and enjoyed. It would be so easy to feel insignificant compared to the more advanced musicians. I sought him out with the intent of lifting his spirit.
“Thanks Caleb,” I greeted him, “I really enjoyed your performance. I loved hearing you play.”
“Thank you,” he replied with bright eyes and a grand smile, “I did my best!”
I realized very quickly that this young boy did not need me to lift his spirits or to teach him that experience does not equal worth. He knew it already. The real question was, did I know it? Not just with my head, but did I know it in my heart? Did I know it when I stumbled through my first calling as Primary pianist? Did I know it when my hymn playing skills were less than the other young women in my ward? Did I know it when I, without any organ training whatsoever, began my service as a ward organist? Probably not. But I know it now. How did I learn this? There are many contributing factors, but probably one of the greatest is the sincere acceptance and encouragement I have received from friends and ward members.
I believe that many musicians (both more and less experienced) have already learned what I learned from Caleb—one’s level of experience has very little to do with one’s ability to play music, to reach others, to share, to be appreciated and to be of worth.
No matter your level of experience, I invite you to attend to your musical responsibilities in the spirit of Caleb. Know that the value of your contributions have nothing to do with your training, or lack thereof. Bring your heart, your enthusiasm, your love of music. Just bring you. That will be wonderful. That’s what we need, because being you is something no one else can do.