Micah: "How many of you get nervous when you perform?"
Flathead Lake Music Camp Choir: [every hand goes up]
Micah: "Why do you get nervous? What are you afraid of?"
Choir student: "I'm afraid of what people will think of me if I don't sound good."
Micah: "Does anyone here feel like they sing their best when they are afraid?"
Choir: [no hands go up]
Micah: "How does that fear affect your singing?"
Choir student: "It makes me hold back."
Another student: "It makes me not enjoy it as much."
Micah: "In all of these nerves, all of this fear, all of this holding back that saps the joy from our singing, who and what is the primary focus that is causing all of it? Who and what is at the center of our attention?"
Choir student: "Me."
Another student: "Protecting myself emotionally."
Micah: "Exactly. I have a proposition for you to consider. How freeing would it be if you truly believed that your performance is not about you?"
Choir students: [collectively nod and whisper in agreement]
Micah: "I know it's hard to believe, but if you can wrap your mind around this now, you can spend the rest of your lives learning to live and perform truly believing it, and you can be free of those debilitating nerves. Here's the truth: Your performance is not about you..."
Choir student: "If it's not about us, who is it about?"
At a public school event like Flathead Lake Music Camp, one can't simply use a choir rehearsal as a preaching opportunity the way one can in a Christian school. Such activity is is called by the state "proselytizing" and is illegal for teachers in public schools, and probably not much less so at a public school music camp. Fortunately, it is still legal for a teacher to share his personal belief if it comes up in the natural course of discussion of class content, and as long as he presents it as his personal belief only. After all, to answer a question like the one above with anything other than the truth would be to give a dishonest, disingenuous answer, which does not contribute to the plurality of perspective that our public education system still claims to value.
The above conversation took place at our final rehearsal on Friday evening (the last night of camp). It was our final rehearsal before our Saturday morning concert, and I knew that enough relationship had been built for my answer to this question to be taken seriously, even if not shared by all of the students. In my job at Stillwater Christian School, I could have started the discussion from the point of that student's final question. At camp, she had to ask it of me, and I am so glad that she did. Because I got the opportunity to answer her in terms she will probably never hear in her school choir rehearsal.
Micah: "You do not have to agree with me, but I have to answer you honestly, and for me, that means answering as a Christian. As a Christian, I believe that what the Bible tells us about God and about ourselves is true. In the Bible, the first things that we learn about God are that he expresses Himself in creation, and that He loves beautiful things. The first thing we learn about ourselves is that we were made in His image - to be like and to imitate Him and to glorify Him. Because God's act of self-expression produced us, our acts of self-expression should imitate Him and direct glory back to him. Think of it this way: if a paintbrush does its job exceedingly well, then the painting looks its best and the artist who painted it is shown in the best possible light. No one looking at the painting thinks about the excellence of the brush, and no one except the artist knows how special and integral the brush is to his work. When we perform, especially with our voices, we are the brush... Our job is to make the music it's best and thus glorify the Artist - not ourselves. The Artist's opinion of the brush is the only opinion the brush ought to value. Those viewing the final product should not give the brush a second thought; their thoughts should run to the greatness of the Artist."
It's not about us. So enjoy your voice!