Upcoming Performances

December 1
3:00 pm Eastern

Messiah organist, First Presbyterian Church, Statesville, N.C.

December 3
8:00 pm Eastern

Haydn Creation organist, Rosen Concert Hall, Appalachian State University

December 13
12:15 pm Eastern

Music at Midday, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

February 9, 2020
3:00 pm Eastern

Inaugural recitalist, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Columbia, S.C..

February 16, 2020
5:00 pm Eastern

Evensong recitalist, Church of the Ascension, Hickory, N.C..

March 6, 2020
7:30 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, Tenn.

April 5, 2020
2:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Macon, Ga.

April 18, 2020
7:30 pm Eastern

Concerto organist, Milligan College

May 12, 2020
12:35 pm Central

Tuesday Series recitalist, Church of St. Louis, King of France, Minneapolis, Minn.

June 21-26, 2020
Worship Organist, Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts, Lake Junaluska, N.C.

Entries in Answer me! (2)


Answer me! Part 2: Responding in-kind

This is a bit of a rant, but honestly, I feel fine. This is based on past – not current – experiences:

Have you ever worked and slaved and …

1) spent lots of energy writing a

2) complete,

3) thorough,

4) fully explanatory,

5) passionate letter,

… only to get a one-line response to it (if any at all)?

And so next time around, you write a terse letter? And then you get a one-line response to that, asking for …

1) more energy,

2) completeness,

3) thoroughness,

4) explanation,

5) and passion?

You write a lot and get asked to pare it down. You summarize and get asked to clarify, magnify, explain, or provide more information. You answer a question and get told you didn’t answer the exact question asked. But when you answer the exact question asked, you are then asked for the extra information you already provided so eloquently in your original answer. Some people are never pleased. If Microsoft ever invents a way to reach through a computer and tweak someone's nose, the world will be a better place.

Having written lots of letters and explained myself in many ways to many people, this phenomenon has carried over into my speaking, as well. Sometimes I have trouble carrying on a conversation because I’m formulating the perfect sentence that will explain my thoughts in as few words as possible yet leave no room for question or interpretation. That is a tricky (and fully unnecessary) balance, and Freud would probably have a field day with it.

Those of you (or us) who play cat and mouse with one-line responses designed to make you look superior rather than help the other person, let’s re-learn and re-invoke that whole Do Unto Others thing. Every communiqué is important to its writer. No one composes their thoughts just to practice their typing! The writer doesn't have to know your reaction; most of the time, they just need your considered answer.

My rules:

Communiqués from students are always important. After all, I’m in the business of communicating with students.

Communiqués from family members are always important.

Communiqués from old friends are always important.

Communiqués from administration are (usually) important.

Everything else can wait.


Answer me!

Communication is more rapid than ever, and modes of communication are more numerous than ever. And yet how often do emails, texts, phone calls, snail-mail letters, and Facebook messages still go unanswered these days? We’re doing better with communication options, but the actual communicating could still improve dramatically.

Several times during my career, I have written detailed, almost passionate letters, most of which were not only ignored but also not even acknowledged. Recently, I sent an article twice to one of my professional organizations and received no acknowledgement whatsoever. (Was it something I said?) I have used online forms, as instructed, to apply for being considered for several recital series. Nothing.

Here’s one for my students: Too many people won’t answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number. What is up with that? What do you think the caller is going to do, kidnap you over the phone? The caller could be someone borrowing a phone to get an important message to you. Answer your phones; it won’t hurt you. Unless you’re in class or church or court.

I learned to stay in touch by invoking the “Do unto others…” rule. If I don’t want people going AWOL on me, then I won’t do so to them. I don’t trust people who don’t answer messages, and I wouldn’t expect them to trust me if I did the same. No one sends messages to practice their speaking or typing skills, you know. Answer!

At one church were I served, brides and their families were often pleasantly surprised when I returned their emails and phone calls so quickly. Apparently, they had gotten used to delays from other staff members and outside vendors. Aside: They were also usually surprised to find that the church organist was so young and personable. [Mercy, people, were organists of yesteryear so surly that laymen automatically thought all of them were?!] And although I’m still personable, that “young” bit is fast fading in applicability.

An out-of-state student once contacted me about double-majoring in organ and a certain field of mathematics. He said that no single institution in his home state offered both of those degrees. When I responded to him, his mother sent me an additional email, saying that they were amazed and grateful that not only did I respond, but I also responded the SAME DAY. As it turned out, they had been inquiring at other schools and had not received ANY responses. I was horrified that other schools had not responded, but I was delighted to help this family out. I was also glad to enroll that student the following fall, thank you very much.

So if good communication boosts “business,” why on earth don’t more people exercise it? Dropping the ball on good service can be immediately soothed through good communication. I would forgive a multitude of sins, if only the sinner would stay in touch. For every day the painting crew doesn’t show and doesn’t communicate, the less willing I am to have them do the work. For every day a student absence goes unacknowledged, my willingness to forgive it wanes.

Good communication is probably not included among the great virtues of human existence. But it works for me, and I develop an undying loyalty to anyone who exercises it. Good communication has become the exception rather than the rule. My students WILL learn the rule from me. Or else.