Attribute #7: In the previous six blogs, we have seen that the complete contemporary musician will have a meaningful purpose for his work (Attribute #1). He will be open to cultural influences, learning from great artists of the past (Attribute #2), as well as embracing the creativity of other contemporary artists (Attribute #3). He is able to both improvise and read music (Attribute #4), and is willing to study and participate in new innovation (Attribute #5). He will have a rich understanding of both composition as well as performance (Attribute #6).
In this seventh and final blog, we will discuss that the Complete Contemporary Musician is willing to teach and train the next generation of artists.
It is not enough to simply achieve artistic greatness for the sake of one’s own personal goals. That is certainly more noble-minded than the pursuit of fame and fortune, but there is yet a deeper and more profound meaning to an artist’s existence. He must be doing more than serving his aspirations for the sake of his own name, or the duration of his work, but rather have an awareness of a larger historical context.
The sincere artist is part of a much bigger picture. He is part of a community that is influencing the course of human existence in the expansion of noble purposes and eternal consequences. Upon the accomplishment of his life’s work, a sincere artist will have influenced society on a much more profound level than what can be measurable by Billboard’s top 10 list.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13)
An artist’s ultimate goal should not be that of fame, notoriety, wealth and personal gain. Rather, it is the propagation and continuance of the very inspiration and beauty he has stewarded throughout his life. The flow of the creativity he has nurtured, and the inspiration with which he has co-labored, must be carefully handed over to the following generation. Successfully passing the baton insures that this flow will continue to influence succeeding generations. Some call this an artist’s legacy, but it is really not about the artist at all. It has more to do with the inspiration being transferred than it does the skills and philosophies of the artist himself.
“And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2)
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior…teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women…” (Titus 2:3-4)
The Scriptures are full of admonishment to train and educate the younger generations.
“He has also set eternity in their heart…” (Eccl. 3:11)
Whether we like to admit it or not, our journey on this earth is finite. We can somehow perceive eternity, but this eternal vision should not cloud our thinking when it comes to how precious the commodity of time really is.
The priests who ministered in the temple were given a set number of years that they would serve. “This is what applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting. But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work any more. They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting.” (Num. 8:24-26) There is a time in life to shoulder the burden, and then there is a time to step back and help those who are carrying the load.
Teaching and training is a precious commodity. “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” (Prov. 25:11) “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.” (Prov. 27:9)
The willingness to give the wisdom and skillful knowledge gained, combined with the inspiration from which it came, is seed sown, ultimately producing a harvest. This harvest is not just for the student, but for the teacher, as well. As we give away what we know, more is given back to us. This miraculous process of teaching and training deepens the roots of the very things we have shared, giving us even richer insights than what we initially gave away.
Perhaps J.S. Bach did this out of necessity, but the role he lived as teacher to those around him produced exponential benefits in his artistic work. Even though he didn’t have the modern tools of our day, he was able (through delegation, training and leadership) to produce a huge quantity of music, arguably greater than anything produced in our generation.
The only way an artist’s 'legacy' can be perpetuated into history, causing exponential influence, is through this process.
There is a sacrifice, however. It takes a willingness to look beyond the natural human desires of today’s prestige. It takes an eye to see another artist’s burgeoning creative pursuits, along with the compassion to give away time and energy you would otherwise have used for your own work. It takes patience to help the maturing artist see in himself what you have seen in him, and the willingness to push past his natural human failings, knowing that the treasure hidden inside is worth mining.
The sacrifices, however, are well worth the effort and even though the giver may only see the results through heaven’s eyes, ultimately, there will be a harvest of eternal proportion.
(for more, I encourage you to read “What About Fame?”)