I taught myself how to play piano using a chord chart, and my church plopped me down in front of the organ. Just play the chords! Organs are easy, right?
I did it. I got good at it. And then eventually I got to play the church piano at age 15. After I’d been doing it for a few years, I had an opportunity to go to a Saturday seminar in Anchorage. They were going to teach us how to lead worship even better.
I’d picked up a few things. The bass player had been part of a band, and he gave me tips on free worship (now I might call it interstitial) music should be structured. Major 1 and major 4 progressions are thoughtful. Throw in a major 7 chord and it sounds like triumph. I had seen how the congregation or audience responded, and I could see the musical affect.
While I played, I was thrilled to have the chance to practice by performance. I could do this thing that I loved and was needed. I was part of worship, and I felt like I was serving a higher spiritual purpose to play as well as I could.
The seminar in Anchorage was intimidating. I felt like real piano players and worship leaders were attending. They actually knew what they were doing, while I had only memorized a chord chart from the back of a songbook.
But when the teacher got up and started talking, my mouth filled with ash. He was so calculated.
The bass player hadn’t felt that way.
This guy told me things I already sort of knew, but instead of feeling like I was helping the Spirit he felt calculated. Like a puppet master.
I felt humbug and complicit. I played as usual that Sunday. I didn’t feel as I used to, part of the mighty rushing wind of inspiration. I felt like the overgrown girl assistant to the tawdry magician.
Well. As least the music was mine. Regardless of how the masses were swayed, I knew what I was making.
Why remember this now?
I’m preparing to tell people about The Russian American School of Tomorrow. <~MARKETING!!!~>
The experts say to appeal to the audience’s emotions and give a compelling call to action. I feel right back in humbug city.
The Russian American School of Tomorrow is the most authentic and real thing I’ve ever written. Now I have to take those skills I learned while writing it
And use them for manipulation. Or what feels like exploitation. It’s uncomfortable. I don’t like that side of human nature and I don’t like that side of my nature.
I don’t like how we have these strings exposed to the world, which almost anybody can pick them up and play us.
There must be a positive side to it. Not all manipulation is exploitation. The people that I love can play me, and I am in many ways grateful for it. Yes, I am glad to do that thing, make that food or that trip which makes my family react in that way.
Is it mutual manipulation? Perhaps it’s mutual gratification. Or maybe it could be called love.
I wrote The Russian American School of Tomorrow for the love of creating it. I knew that if I wrote it well, it would be a great story that would help a lot of people understand themselves and each other.
So maybe if I take the next step, and learn to love telling people (the dreaded marketing) about the story I wrote from love, it will be a good feeling. Not exploitation and manipulation, which I deplore.
But a true authentic gift, a favor. I’m not going to hide behind a curtain like the humbug Oz. I’ll stand in the open and let people know.
As soon as I figure out how.