I was fascinated.
Fascinated. Well, of course I was. I’m a music nerd. I love music—making it, practicing it, learning new techniques, even (and perhaps, especially) listening to others make it.
I know it’s odd, but I even enjoy watching the coalescence of musical styles which occurs when great minds come together to learn from each other.
The video program I watched one night recently gave stellar evidence of that process.
I hope those of my readers who don’t love music all that much will stick with me. I’ll try not to be too detailed in my description. I hope the conclusion will be worth the journey.
They called them master classes. Professional musicians sat onstage with up-and-coming stars and listened to them perform. Then the professionals made suggestions. Not corrections—suggestions.
Their goal was a path to improvement, suggested in a non-judgmental manner.
I listened to the talented young man play that beautiful Steinway grand piano masterfully. An old Billy Joel song. I could just hear Billy singing and playing as the young artist performed. It was obvious the young man had studied the original recording. He wanted to get it just right. And, he nailed it.
It was perfect. If you were Billy Joel.
The professionals, sitting at a little table off to the side, clapped and cheered along with the crowd. Then one of them said the last words the young musician expected to hear. Perhaps they were the last words he wanted to hear.
“I think it’s good sometimes to do a song without the piano. Try it again and leave your hands down.”
The young man’s face fell, but he nodded. He positioned his mouth against the microphone before him. Nervously, his hands reached for the piano keys, almost of their own volition. Embarrassed, he let out a little almost-laugh and looked pleadingly at the pro.
“You want me to not play the piano?”
When the teacher responded in the affirmative, the young man breathed a sigh of disappointment, perhaps even of frustration. Laying his hands in his lap, he began to sing.
He began to sing. Billy Joel wasn’t there. At all.
It was an amazing transition. The melody was still the same. The words were still the same raunchy words that Billy sang.
But, it was all him. His voice. His tonality. His inflection.
All him? Just because he stopped playing the piano? No, not really.
It was because he stopped hearing the music the way someone else had performed it. This was just him and a song.
I almost cried. The message was so powerful.
I wrote down these words in a note to myself, so I wouldn’t forget.
Tell your story. YOUR. STORY.
Unaccompanied. Pure. Fresh.
It has always bothered me. On television, I see all the Elvis impersonators. They all dress alike. Comb their hair alike. They even talk alike.
“Thank you very much.”
Admit it. You said it like they would. Like he did when he was alive.
Their sideburns are trimmed like Elvis’s. The cape hangs over their shoulders with the stiff, high collar sticking up against the fringe of the greasy pompadour they have slicked back to mimic the so-called King.
Have you ever thought one of those impersonators was actually Elvis?
Of course not! They may remind you of the man, but they could never be the man. He is dead.
The king is dead.
We spend our lives imitating others. Parents, teachers, sports idols, Hollywood stars—the list is endless. We imitate them.
It’s not all that bad a system. We say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We even understand that we learn more quickly when we have an example to follow. Imitation to learn isn’t the problem.
The problem is we imitate to live.
We pick another human being and model our life on them. Another flawed, fallen human being. Disappointment is not just a possibility. It is inevitable.
Tell your story. Your. Story.
It is true if you write, if you paint, if you teach, or even if you perform on a world-wide stage. When you live your life, simple or elaborate though it may be, make sure it’s your own story being told.
God made only one of me—only one of you. You are already the best you there is, simply because there isn’t another one in existence.
Be you. The way He made you.
We don’t need any more Billy Joels. We don’t need any more Elvis Presleys.
There is One we are called to follow, though. It’s interesting that we don’t know more about the physical methods He used in His activities on this earth. There are no photographs, no videos to imitate. No expose’ of His taste in homes and shoe fashion will ever be leaked to the Internet. We can’t mimic His hairstyle or vocal idiosyncrasies.
He doesn’t want or need a bunch of impersonators running around, sighing piously and pretending to do the things He did.
No one buys that act anyway—no more than they buy the Elvis impersonator’s schtick.
We don’t know all that much about what He did. I think that is purposeful. What we do know is who He was. And is.
We get to love as He did. We get to have the same mind that He had.
You still get to be you. The best you there is.
You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant?
(Dr. Seuss ~ American author ~ 1904-1991)
Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…
(Philippians 3:5 ~ ASV)
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
(John 13:34 ~ NIV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.