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February 11
Inaugural recitalist, Casavant organ, Forest Lake Presbyterian Church, Columbia, S.C.

March 9, 2018, 12:15 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

March 11, 2018
Guest recitalist, Waldensian Presbyterian Church, Valdese, N.C.

May 13, 2018, 5:00 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, N.C.

September 23, 4:00 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, Schantz organ 40th anniversary, Culpeper Baptist Church, Culpeper, Va.

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Thursday
Jun022011

’Til we meet again

Last night, I said goodbye to my seventh church choir, that of the First Presbyterian Church of Lenoir, N.C. My time with them comes to an end on July 17, after two years’ service.

I remember vividly every church I have played for regularly, and I remember all the goodbye parties for each. Every group is different, and they all say goodbye in different ways, and they all remember different things about me. About the only constant to the goodbyes is the covered dish meal, and such a thing makes saying ANY goodbye easier. (And last night’s cooking should not be missed by anyone, if you can help it. Get to Caldwell County, N.C., and feast as soon as possible.)

If you’re the organist, the choir of a given church becomes your family, your Sunday School class, your eating/drinking buddies, your support structure in times of need and in times of celebration. They become your traveling companions, your fellow Super Bowl partiers, your fellow warriors against mediocrity, and your faithful few in the dead of winter. The Lenoir choir is no exception, and they have my thanks and enduring fondness.

The First Presbyterian Church of Lenoir, N.C., houses a lovely Aeolian-Skinner from 1949 that I have enjoyed playing and maintaining. It also houses wonderful, supportive people who love music and who have enjoyed my work. I know this because they have told me. They have also told me that I came along at a critical juncture in their life as a congregation, infusing fresh energy and sincerity into their musical lives. I am grateful to them for telling me so, and I am pleased that my work does such a thing for people. I hate to leave a place where I can still do good, but leave I must.

This church job represented the first time I had kept all three careers of teaching, performing, and service playing going at the same time. It has been rewarding, but it’s time to cry “Uncle!” and drop back to maintaining only two of those careers. My hat is off to my colleagues worldwide who pull all three careers at the same time. Honestly, I don’t know how you do it, and I’m not sure I want to. Teaching consumes about 60% of my life, and performing consumes about 80%. That’s a total of 140%, and that’s quite enough for one life.

This is a good time to reflect on my professional life so far and to acknowledge that my work does, indeed, change lives. I used to think it was just part of the job, but many years on that job helped open my ears and my mind to people around me who know how refreshing it is to get more out than you put in. It is also worth noting that the work I do as a musician is the very kind of work I was actually trained for, AND I enjoy doing it. What is a hobby or avocation for many others is my bread and butter. I am truly fortunate, blessed, lucky, and devoid of any excuse to complain about my lot in life. I’m sure I’m not alone, and to all organ teachers, performers, and church musicians, I say, “Thank you, and hang in there.”

To my other six churches listed below, I say, “Thank you for all you taught me. I like where I am and how I got here, and I look forward to where I’m going:”

-- Crossnore Presbyterian Church, Crossnore, N.C., 1988-1989 (college junior year; the learning curve begins)
-- Boone United Methodist Church, Boone, N.C., 1989-1990 (college senior year; top of the world)
-- Church of St. John the Divine, Houston, Tex., 1990-1994 (the most formative of all; I'd be nothing without this one)
-- Church of the Holy Spirit, Houston, Tex., 1994-1995 (a quiet interim period)
-- St. Philip Presbyterian Church, Houston, Tex., 1995-1997 (the smartest congregation on earth)
-- First Presbyterian Church, Houston, Tex., 1997-2005 (the choir, director, and organ from heaven)

Now that I have the other two careers where I want them, it may be a long time before I add another church to this list. Substitute work will beckon, of course, and I will gladly heed its call when possible.

Meanwhile, 'til we meet again...

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