Music instruction for classical instrumental musicians, no matter the material we work on is always approached in a non-sectarian way.

Why? First of all, in any orchestral setting I’ve been part of over the last 50 years, including participating with a few church orchestras over the years (I was not a part of their congregation) there have only been 2 types of sectarian discussions that I’ve seen:

  1. a historical reference about the piece, the title of the piece and/or composer, we were about to play (this is the most common, at most the conductor explains some of the political happenings of the time period). This is mostly a brief history lesson, there is never any discussion of current beliefs. Perhaps how prolific the composer was on behalf of the church, never specific religions.
  2. a person (never the director/conductor) mentioning their beliefs. Usually, this is just like a child speaking up about what they had for dinner, or watched on TV. As such, it is usually glossed over, and attention moves on. Occasionally something inappropriate is said in jest.

Sectarian instruction, would have to include the words assigned to the music. This would be problematic if we were singers, or part of a chorus, or if we rehearsed with a singer or chorus. There might need to be discussion of the wording, perhaps meaning and how to interpret it. Instrumental musicianship does not spend any time here. 99.9% of the time, we get music without any words.

I really don’t dwell much on historical references, other than this is the same composer that we played last year, etc. And talking about what we ate, believe or watched is quickly dismissed.

We need to use every moment to move closer to being a better musician, understanding more by spending more time doing, less time talking. If a student is unable to move on and must dwell upon something. We make sure that by doing so, they are not bullying someone else. Most of the time, the best thing is to get back to playing.

Making music is a trans-formative activity. It can remove frustration and be a source of accomplishment.

However, other than discussing the reverence that is necessary to play the songs (also needed with songs of sorrow, or about romance) there is little that we have time to dwell upon.

Musical tempos like Allegro (faster), or Adagio (slower), and styles like detache (detached), tenuto (with a strong attack, different from what was just played) are where we spend our time. Low second finger stretching from the third, and how to tilt the bow. The key and time signatures and all those darn transitions are where we spend our rehearsal time. Practicing over and over adding more and more musicianship.

However, every year as we go in and out of store from October through December, we hear holiday tunes. I find that allowing the kids to play these tunes without any discussion of the meaning behind the words (which are not on our parts) is a great way to help the kids become musicians faster. Greensleeves has been around for 400-500 years, and is sometimes performed under the title of What Child is This? I don’t discuss who the child is, but we perform it year round.