Not long ago a young friend of mine was placed in charge of the music activities of one of our training schools. Desirous of being of some help to him, I wrote him a letter. And believing it may prove helpful to others in similar places of opportunity, I give here that part of the letter referring to musical leadership:
"It occurs to me that in the opportunities which will now present themselves to you, you have a great opportunity to demonstrate that musical leaders can be developed in this denomination who are quiet, simple, and unaffected, and who have but one thing in mind in all their leading,--to glorify God instead of glorifying self. Some of us who have been a long time in the evangelistic work of this denomination have come to fear that there is little possibility of Seventh-day Adventists' ever seeing that kind of music leader in their work.
"My own experience, I suppose, has been unfortunate. So far as my experience extends, we have not had any outstanding music leaders whose sole purpose has seemed to be to glorify God. We have had the other kind to such a degree that most of us who love music and love the cause of God have been so distressed that we have about given up hope that music can ever come into its own in connection with the preaching of this message. The circus-performer type of leader seems to have crowded all others off our platforms.
"I have been present on more than one occasion and heard you protest that music is not appreciated among Seventh-day Adventist evan
have pointed out that it is not given the place it deserves in connection with our public meetings. Indeed, if I remember correctly, you have done some rather earnest missionary work with me on several occasions because I did not pay more attention to the importance of music.
"Let me say to you now that what you look upon, in me and in many others, as failure to appreciate music, is not at all a lack of appreciation. It is an attitude which is due, rather, to the fact that we are surfeited with the kind of music which we have observed in connection with our efforts, accompanied, as much of it has been, by foolishness and outright violation of all the music standards of this cause.
"I love music. I believe it can be made a great power for good in this cause. I cannot help observing, however, that it is constantly prostituted to the glory of the human instead of being used to glorify the divine. I have come to the place, along with many others, where if I cannot have music that glorifies God, then I will endeavor to get along without music.
"It is because of this that I am wondering whether you may not be induced to see that now, in a new field, surrounded by new people, you have an unparalleled opportunity for working out a change and providing a demonstration before it is forever too late for some of us. Do you not want to show that music really can be led in an unaffected, yet dignified and impressive way without one thought of self, and with but one thought in mind, that of worship?
"I would have you eliminate all parade, all showing off, all display of ability, and in the place of these, endeavor to get every person's mind on the glory of worshiping God in this most beautiful way.
"Any evidence of pride on the part of the leader will be copied by his chorus. If the leader shows off, the chorus will show off. If the leader manifests a tendency to display his ability, the singers will want to display their abilities, too. What the leader is, the singers are going to be. Every demonstration of self-glorification on the part of the leader will lead to a demonstration of self-glorification on the part of the singers. If the leader's central thought is on worship, and all his actions correspond with that thought, then those who sing under him will have as their central thought the worship of God. If the leader approaches his task with a sense of its sacredness and is impressed with the opportunity of worshiping God in the sweetest and most profitable way that God can be worshiped, then the singers will approach their task in the same way. Such a leader will be a true leader. The other kind are only performers, and not true leaders at all.
"If you will let your mind pass over the memories of the great musicians, some of whom you have been privileged to hear, you will not fail to recall that the ones who made the greatest impression upon you were those who were the simplest and the most unaffected. Do you recall Jascha Heifetz as he stood there on the platform of Carnegie Hall, and without any affectation, without a false movement, without any showing off, or swaying, or moving about of any kind, just played? Do you recall the effect it had upon us as we sat there listening? There was the world's master of the violin! But there was no solitary evidence that he was thinking of anything in the world but the music. It was clear that he was not wanting anyone who heard him to think of anything but the music. I do not doubt that that is just the reason why he is the world's master of the violin. He lost sight of self and was absorbed in the music.
"Think of Walter Damrosch, without exaggerated movement of any kind for forty years in all his leading! Think of Paderewski, so wholly absorbed in his music that he did not seem to realize there was anybody within a thousand miles of him.
"I wish you might have had the opportunity, as I have had many times, of seeing Charles M. Alexander as he led the great throngs that waited on the ministry of J. Wilbur Chapman and R. A. Torrey. He was all aflame with the desire to lift men, on the wings of song, into the presence of God, and did not seek glory for himself. There were no circus antics, no running about over the platform, no rushing toward a group of singers and attempting to pull music out of their throats. His was just a quiet, impressive dignity, an altogether Christian demonstration of musical leadership.
"Now, dear friend, these men and others like them have been able to pass beyond the things of earth that hold some of our other leaders to their foolish antics, because they became absorbed in their task until it was the greatest thing in all the world. If men outside of this cause do this, do we not have an even greater incentive? We can become absorbed in music just as they do, but with us it must always be a medium to lead us to something else, a means to an end. We should become absorbed in music because it glorifies our Maker. Sacred music is worship. When music is used in connection with religious services for any other purpose than worship, the man who so uses it is repeating what Nadab and Abihu did—offering strange fire before God. Such men have no place in our evangelistic services.
"Well, perhaps this is enough. I have no doubt you will be able to gather the general thought. I should like to see you set yourself to eliminate from your leadership every element of self, and to discover the great possibilities of restoring music in this cause to the place from which it has fallen and to which it will never rise again unless we can develop such leaders as I have described."