Music can really change a person. And a few thank-you’s.

Yesterday, I was in my car a lot. Driving to and from work (with a morning stop to drop off Reagan and an afternoon stop at Kroger) & driving to and from Walmart to get some tools. Each time I was mobile, I had some music going. It might have been my favorite radio station (95.3/97.7 The Rebel) or it could have been my iPod on various settings. While listening  on my last trip home, the following five songs played successively:

  • “End of the World” by The Carpenters
  • “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” by Matt Papa
  • “All My Exes Live in Texas” by George Straight
  • “Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (excerpt)” by the London Symphony
  • “Neverland” from Peter Pan by Mary Martin

On the last note of “Neverland, ” I began thinking about how my music tastes have changed over time.

Before I graduated high school, my tastes were very limited. I hated country music and pretty much only listened to The Carpenters, showtunes, southern gospel music, and K-LOVE. As a musician of 17 years, that probably surprises a lot of people. I had what I liked and had no desire to change-up many things on my iPod. My musical interests began to shift upon entering college in the fall of 2010 when I discovered Adele (thank you, Mary Margaret Reynolds). They continued to shift as I stopped listening to K-LOVE (thank God), listened to other radio stations, came back to my love for country music, listened to LOTS of classical music in my program of study, and discovered new musicals with addictive showtunes. I made use of these new interests through Pandora. But my ever-evolving interests were made even better when I downloaded the wonder known as Spotify. That was a beautiful day.

Up until recently, I didn’t listen to a specific artist or album while casually listening to music. I kept it on shuffle most of the time. But I soon remembered the anticipation of listening to a brand new album all the way through. So I started doing that again with albums that I owned. I also began listening to specific artists, analyzing how their style has changed (for better or worse) over the span of their career. I listen to full symphonies and movie soundtracks.

So it’s VERY safe to say that I am not the same person, musically speaking, that I was in 2010. And although my interests have a lot to do with that, it mostly comes from the exposure to various kinds of music by my music teachers. That being said, I want to take a moment to individually thank my music teachers and show how they’ve shaped me over time.

Mrs. Rosalind Massey, my very first music teacher. I looked forward to your class every single week in elementary school. Not only were you a fun music teacher, but a loving music teacher. You introduced me to names like Beethoven, Mozart, and Handel. It was here where I first heard “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah. It was also here where I gave my first public performance on the piano (thanks for teaching me how to bow before and after the performance). By the way, you’ll never know how much it meant to me that you came to my senior recital at Union.

Mrs. Geneva Seaton, you took a chance on me 17 years ago when I wanted to take piano lessons. After watching my mom play for 8 years at home and in church, I wanted a turn. Thank you for getting me started, introducing me to music of the church, and acknowledging the Lord for His gift to me.

Mr. Scott King, Mr. Frankie Congiardo, & Mr. Brandon Salmon, my junior high/high school band directors. Mr. King had to endure my horrendous saxophone playing for six months before I gave up and quit. After Mr. C heard me at a piano recital, you convinced my mom (unbeknownst to me) to sign me up to play percussion. You adjusted my schedule (again, unbeknownst to me) and had me in beginning/intermediate band for two years. With Mr. King’s and Mr. Salmon’s assistance, I learned through the AHS Band program the meaning of hard work and the joy when it pays off (2 state championships while I was there). Thank y’all for showing me what it means to work hard at something you love.

Bro. John Simmons, easily the teacher who influenced me the most in my years of music education. I went to you for piano lessons in the 8th grade and would do it again in a heartbeat. You furthered my love for church music, became a mentor, and taught me how to appreciate, and later love, classical music. I learned about the organ and how it works, which still fascinates me to this day. You taught me how to improvise and express myself through music. You even gave me a few voice lessons when I wanted to improve my singing. I am thrilled that we have continued to keep in contact over the years through friendship and your awesome piano tuning service.

Dr. Chris Mathews, my collegiate choral conductor. You taught me how to conduct. You taught me how to be a professional musician, no matter the circumstance. You followed the steps of Brother John and Mrs. Geneva in exposing me to more incredible church music. Your professorship and mentorship would later lead to your performing of the wedding ceremony between my wife and I. I continue to go to you when I need advice about church ministry and you never fail to instill some more wisdom (because Topher never runs out).

Mrs. Kathie Cepparulo and Dr. Terry McRoberts, my collegiate piano teachers. Mrs. Cepparulo, you were a whole new world for me, telling me like it is at every lesson. Once you even said, “I don’t like the emotion you’re giving me in this piece.” While it was a bit intimidating at first (you still are), it pushed me to not slack and keep my head in the game. The first day in the studio of Dr. McRoberts, you told me that I would “learn to play sounds that I could not yet imagine.” And you were right. Three years under your tutelage formed me not into a better pianist, but a better musician. I know you believed in me more times than I believed in myself, and I KNOW you got frustrated with me on many occasions. But you never gave up on me and I will be forever grateful.

Thank y’all. You’ve done and continue to do good things for the world.



2 thoughts on “Music can really change a person. And a few thank-you’s.

  1. What an amazing blessing to have so many talented and caring musicians pour into your life! It’s great that you’re continuing that on in your teaching and music leading.

    Two things real quick: did you get to see any of the Getty’s Sing Conference? I managed to stream a little bit from the last evening/day of the conference. I thought it was great, and it was helpful to me as I’ve recently been pondering and processing several things around corporate worship.

    Second, I wanted to ask how do you select a key for a song for congregational singing? Gone are the days of playing it in the key the artist wrote it in! Digital music makes it almost too easy to transpose to any key. One of our music leaders almost exclusively plays everything in G to suit himself. I remember another song that was far too high for anyone to hit the notes, but someone said we couldn’t transpose it because it would change the feel of the song. So how do you choose a key, presumably that is friendly to musicians (not too many sharps or flats), but also a good range for less accomplished singers in the congregation?


    • I was actually at all three days plus Sunday of the Getty Conference. I sang in the choir, so my schedule was very tight. I very much enjoyed it and it was quite the full conference int hat it covered a huge range of topics. I personally enjoyed sessions on family worship (Bob Kauflin and sons, Sovereign Grace Music), leading change in a worship ministry (Thom Rainer and Mike Harland, LifeWay), and a particularly interesting session on Luther’s radical vision for church music (Steve Nichols, Ligonier Ministries).

      When it comes to keys, I have learned two things: one is that no music leader should every try to sing anything that is not in his/her own range. It makes no sense for the leader to sing something in a key with which his/her range is inconsistent. That leader is setting himself/herself up for a disaster. The second thing is that a music leader should (in fact, must) do some studying to figure out what keys best suit the ranges of untrained singers, which comprise a large majority of the congregation. This will help him/her sing songs that can fit the voice ranges of most of the people in a congregation. The keys used by artists, are only so that artist can sing them. In my studying, I have learned that B-flat, C, D-flat, and D are the most congregational-friendly keys. D is a good key for triumphant or majestic songs. Not transposing a song “because it would change the feel of a song” is a broad and unsupported argument. What does “the feel of a song” even mean? It’s not about how high or low the leader can sing. It really is about what key helps your CONGREGATION sing the most and sing the best.


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