Every couple of months, I buy myself a trip to the massage therapist. I usually see Judy, a small muscular woman with thumbs that don’t take no for an answer, but she was out of the office last week and I couldn’t wait. I was skeptical about working with a new therapist; massages are not cheap, and a bad massage can be worse than no massage at all. My skepticism grew when my new therapist went to the CD player and loaded in a mix of classical piano/vocal duets played by a synthesizer and pan flute. Unwilling to wait another day, I decided to forge ahead and trust this new person with my sore shoulders and my sixty-five dollars.
For the first half hour, she chatted happily in broken English about everything from her garden’s latest parasites to the food processor her husband bought her so she could make him juice in the morning. My answers were short; I don’t really like to talk during this time of relaxation and I was hoping she’d pick up on my hint. She started talking about how much she loves the piano. She regrets that she quit playing when she was a little girl and wants to get her daughter piano lessons. She asked me if I play the piano and give lessons, and I say yes. Now she’s doing more than just chatting–she’s gushing about her favorite Bach prelude, the first movement of Moonlight Sonata and the handsome French man who plays Chopin and always wears a red tie. I told her I’m not really a classical pianist anymore because I’m more interested in jazz. She’d never heard of jazz, so I tried my best to explain it to her. She paused for a moment, then perked up when she remembered Frank Sinatra. I told her yes, he was a famous jazz singer, and named off some of his hit songs. Her enthusiasm couldn’t be contained. She asked me to sing one of his songs, and I mumbled a few bars of Fly Me To The Moon from the hole in the massage table. When I’d finished, there was silence and I looked up and see she was wiping tears from her eyes. She thanked me deeply and said, “You have given me a gift better than what other people give me, because your gift is free.”
Sometimes I forget what a powerful medium music can be. When I see such a strong reaction to just a few notes, I thank God for the ability to freely share music with others! In past years I didn’t see music as being free, because of the countless thousands spent by myself and my parents on years of private lessons, schooling and equipment. The audience member, though, doesn’t see all the hours and dollars that go into a performance. What the audience sees is the performance. In the church, the “audience” doesn’t have to pay to see music performed every week. Music is a free gift for the congregation, and an expression of the very essence of God. Every church musician can then rest assured that the talents he or she possesses are gifts from God, and are given freely to all who hear them. Thank you, Lord, for this gift!