Sunday, August 13, 2006

What Would You Do?

We are preparing for stake conference next week. We are getting a new Stake President. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be there to preside and to reorganize the stake presidency.

We are making musical preparations for stake conference. For the Saturday night adult session, we will have 8-10 men sing "O My Father" a cappella. On Sunday, a stake choir will be performing a couple of numbers as well. I will be participating with both groups.

As usual with most church choirs, anyone who wishes to participate is welcome. In fact we have practically begged for people to come participate -- especially men.

In our rehearsals, a rather delicate situation has emerged. We have a young man who just recently graduated from high school who is singing with both groups. Only trouble is -- he's tone deaf.

He has been to several of the practices, singing his heart out. I had hoped that as we got closer to the performances, that things would improve, but they have not. With the choir pieces, there is a sufficient number of voices, along with the piano accompaniment that his voice isn't too prominent. In the a cappella number however, it becomes more readily apparent.

So what do you do in a situation like this? We are all wanting to have everything as nice and close to perfect as possible for Elder Perry's visit. What is the right thing to do? The stake music chairman is singing with the a cappella group, and is doubtless aware of the situation.

What would the Savior want in this situation?

Well, here's what we did at this evening's rehearsal. Everyone there treated this young man as an equal member of the group. No one shunted him off to the side, or in any way made him feel any less a part of the group. We all just sang and smiled - grateful to participate together. I was so proud of the brethren there. It would have been so easy to let our pride get in the way and say or do something that would be hurtful to this young man. The eternal welfare of this young man's soul is far more important than a few missed notes in a song that will be over with in 5 minutes. We'll have plenty of chances to sing together, but this may be a pivotal time in this young man's life. I'm sure Elder Perry will understand too.

Things have not always been easy for this young man. His parents divorced when he was young. He grew up with out much positive influence from his father. His mother did a great job of holding her family together. But this young man seems to have been the odd-man out socially, in a lot of things. Recently, his mother married a wonderful man, who has been a positive influence. Like most young men, he has had his share of ups and downs growing up, but one senses that he may be more emotionally fragile than most.

Dis-inviting him to participate in these musical numbers would be exactly the wrong thing to do. The sense of rejection would be disastrous to this young man. Music is a great conduit for the Spirit of the Lord. Music is not only intended to bless those who hear it, but to bless those who perform it as well. Helping him to feel the Spirit, and to feel wanted, accepted and needed is especially important for him right now as he is preparing for missionary service. Being part of something worthy and good, and to be part of a brotherhood with good men, will help to strengthen, enrich, and bolster his life. I hope each of us takes the opportunity to put our arm around his shoulder, and make sure that he knows we care about him and appreciate his willingness to serve.

I think that is what the Savior would want us to do.


Maren said...

I think you are exactly right. Making him feel welcomed and part of something is far more important than having it sound perfect. That is a wonderful perspective you have. And one that I believe Elder Perry will see and understand as well.

s'mee said...

My mother in law is acutely aware of her talent and feels she has a right to sing out loud just as much as anyone else. I love to sit next to her in church even though it makes it almost impossible to sing on any key! lol
She has a grand sence of humour about it all and it has spred to all of us.

Now about your young guy. I think ya'all did the best thing. I think there will be those who will pull a "Mrs. Olsen" and critisize the non-perfect voice. However, I am positive Elder Perry will enjoy the sounds of what is *really* a perfect choir.

Noelie said...

Let me tell you of a sister in my ward that was also tone deaf, but right there first choir practice after they called me. To make things worse she was more a tenor than some of the men :-)

But I loved Margie, so Margie was staying. Then a couple of the other sisters hit upon making a "joke" of doing the tenor line. It was a fun joke. .not a mean one, but the upshot of the miracle is that Margie GOT THE PART! Never missed. The men often would, but she was always right there on the right note.

I have no idea if it work in any other case, but it sure worked in ours!

Woody said...

Tremendous parallels between this story and a young man from my ward when I was a teenager.

I was pretty full of my bad self as a kid. I was a tenor, which automatically vaulted me into celebrity status in any choir. Also, Dad was the perenniel choir director, so I got to lead out no matter what.

One kid, Bobby by name, was just as tone deaf as you describe in your story. Fortunately, in his case, he was more of a monotone, so he could hit the right note generally at least once during any given song.

My problem was that in high school I was in an award-winning vocal organization that took festival after festival and would accept nothing but the best. This kid was an offense to my finely-tuned ears and musical sensibilities. It astonished me that my Dad - a consumate musician - not only allowed this kid to sing but even encouraged him.

I found out the story later. Dad took me home teaching with him one night, and this kid's family was on his route. Bobby's dad was divorced and working long hours as a butcher for a local grocer. The kids (three or four of them as I recall) ranged from Bobby (13 or so) down to a six year old. Lots of day care, and Bobby had to help raise his brothers.

After the visit (not one of the happier I'd ever witnessed) Dad asked me if I understood why he was so happy to have Bobby sing with the choir. I had to admit I was stumped, but Dad explained it to me.

"Choir," he said, "is Bobby's testimony right now. His dad doesn't have enough time or energy to sit him down and help him understand the Gospel, and he doesn't get to participate in many activities with the youth. He needs choir right now, and I need to encourage that."

End of lesson. Bobby grew into a fine young man, and I have little doubt that angels made the choir sound better than we thought it did.

I think you can guess now what I would have done in your situation.

Tigersue said...

My brothers best friend was tone deaf. He sang in the high school accepella choir. He would stand beside those with really strong voices and he could manage. That is my suggestion, have him sit with those that sing really well and will not be bothered. They might actually have the patience to help him. As Noelie said, maybe he is trying to sing the wrong part. Sometimes I think people thing they are tone deaf because they are singing in the wrong range.

David B. said...

Thanks for all your thoughts and comments.

I feel more and more that we are doing the right thing.

I will just trust in the Lord that things will work out, according to His will.