Converting to Judaism

The Oys and Joys of Choosing A Jewish Life

Planted From A Seed

on May 24, 2014

When I was 14, I started the Teen Choir at my church. There was a kid’s choir (2nd-7th grade), an adult choir (more of a senior citizen choir if you ask me), and a youth band, which featured a collection of brass, strings, guitars, and a guy on set that we called King Nebuchadnezzar for his role in a local neighborhood play. They only played at one mass each year, graduation mass, in which a handful high school soon-to-be grads would sit in the front row in their robes, bring up the gifts, and exit the sanctuary to a rallying chorus of “Go Make a Difference.”

So, there was never really a place for teens who wanted to sing. And when I’m frustrated about something, I let someone know and I do something about it, if it’s important enough to me. Which is why an ad appeared in the bulletin and I was sitting a few weeks later in the basement of the Catholic school with a box of pizza and one quiet, punk-ish, emo-ish girl. She turned out to be one of my best friends and a lovely singer, and the very first teen choir started as two singers and my mom on piano. By the time I graduated high school, it had grown to about five singers and a flutist, with my mom still on piano.

Just last night, I heard them rehearsing for the first time since I’ve been home from college. The sounds of saxophones, voices, flutes, and cellos drifted up the stairs to my room. I smiled at all the different textures and sounds. How wonderful for something that started so small to grow into something mighty.

Liturgical music, to me, has always been set apart from other forms of music making. It doesn’t really matter about the skill level of the performers or who sings more solos or who looks better. It’s about glorifying God and making beautiful music that will inspire people to sing along with your praises, bringing them closer to God though song. For me, there’s no greater purpose than that. Teaching that to teens gives them the opportunity to use their musical talents in a way that transforms them and their music into something more meaningful than just notes on a page or words of prayer.

As the director of the kids’ choir always said, singing is like praying twice: once for the words and once for the song. A prayer, a song, a single voice is only a seed. My teen choir, small and quiet, started almost afraid to bloom. Purpose, music, and the congregation encouraged growth, and with time, blossoming. Watching others nurture this group with care assures me that it will continue to flourish, allowing the music to take root here and reach out to the heavens, creating a connection to something greater than ourselves.

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