Sunday, July 28, 2013

The bassoon and the Bible

I am a bassoonist.

Upon first read, many of you may wonder if this is an admission to some sort of disease or phobia. Is it a point of view or a recent fad?

No, my friends. It means I play the bassoon. I was first introduced to this extraordinary instrument in 1997 as a wide-eyed fifth grader exploring the instruments I had to choose from for beginning band class (read about this experience and more here). During my first three years of playing, my private lesson teacher assigned me to buy an etude book that, looking back, was way out of my league. Even with a background in piano and choir, I did not understand half of the musical markings in the book, I knew how to finger only a fraction of the notes, and I had little-to-no concept of the musicality such an advanced book required.

Why would she assign this expert level book to me?


She believed I had the potential and capacity to learn those markings, fingerings, and the necessary understanding of musicality. She saw beyond my limited skills to what could be. She knew that over the next sixteen years, I would develop the necessary technique on the bassoon to be able to play these challenging studies.

I slaved over the etudes in those early years, employing all sorts of techniques in an effort to just get through them (writing note names above every note in tenor clef sections, etc.).

Milde "50 Concert Studies, Opus 26, Nos. 1-25 Vol. I for Bassoon

As with most things we do not understand or find "too challenging," I decided I didn't like the music in that book. The fact was, I just did not have the experience yet to be able to succeed at playing these pieces or appreciate them for the challenge and beauty they offered.

Fast-forward sixteen years.

The other day, I came back to this etude book. I found that the fingerings that used to plague me now flowed easily. The clef changes didn't phase me a bit. I was able to transition between moods and styles in the etudes as though they were my own. What a difference a few years and a great amount of experience make.

Isn't it like this in our understanding of the Bible, as well? As children, we study the stories that are easy - the ones we can grasp. We avoid the ones that seem to pose more questions than they provide answers or that challenge us in ways we are not yet mature enough or ready to face. Then, as years go by and experiences build our spiritual "muscles," we not only begin to understand these more challenging stories, but we also see the "easy" stories with a different perspective:

  • Noah's ark is about more than saving two of every kind of animal.
  • The Ten Commandments are more than a list of things to do or not to do.
  • Daniel and the lion's den was not just a story about God shutting the mouths of hungry lions.
  • David's victory over Goliath was not the end of his battles.

I wonder how the next sixteen years will shape my understanding of the bassoon and the Bible? 

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