Thoughts from a Musician's Heart
WHERE THERE IS BEAUTY, GOD CANNOT BE FAR by Julia Bezems
A little over a year ago, I began the inevitable transition from studenthood to professional life. After 5 years of intense study, I graduated with two valuable pieces of paper - one diploma for a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, and one for my Bachelor’s of Music in voice performance. Though these degrees were, as they seem, totally unrelated, they made perfect sense for me - someone who was deeply passionate about music but who was also seeking security, stability, and the opportunity to channel my propensity towards left-brained analytical thinking. I packed up and moved across the country to start my very first 9-to-5 job as a software engineer. Like many students, life outside of school seemed other-worldly. Did the world really operate outside of 15-week semesters? Was I really allowed to put my work away in the evening instead of grinding to the bone for the next exam?
More shocking to me than the transition from life in the university was the transition from being a music conservatory student to operating in a non-musico-centric world. My life no longer revolved around when I could grab a chunk of time in the practice room or schedule rehearsals with my pianist. And this was not just a transition from my college years - I was one of many music students who formed their way of life around their practice habits, rehearsal schedules, and weekly lessons from the time they could barely even read. Realizing that musical life would have to take a backseat to function as a working adult outside the classical music community was a huge adjustment for my life. It felt contrary to my identity as a classical musician.
Musician’s traits are a combination of nature and nurture. The daily habits necessary to become a skilled musical artist are formed by a will-based temperament, but the application of these habits also result in the formation of traits such as consistency, perseverance, and self-determination. In the same way, this formation can also result in ambition, self-deprecation, and perfectionism. A musician’s ego, in the psychological sense of personal identity, is deeply ingrained in their craft and the practice of it.
And yet, the purpose of this practice is often left undiscussed and undisclosed. Underlying these outward traits, for myself and for most classical musicians, is the longing to draw close to beauty and participate in something greater than ourselves. In this way, music and the metaphysical are inextricably intertwined.
What is music if not a discipline and a medium to draw us closer to God?
As a singer, the instrument I use is one with my body. Singers often confuse the quality of the music they create with the value of their existence within their body. A cultivation of healthy separation between instrument and personhood is crucial to the development of a singer’s ego. At the same time, the impossibility of total separation between these two can be a tremendous gift for the artistic impact of a singer. In the same way, for Christians, musical life is often formed in the church. Though we may perform secular works in a secular environment, the nature and nurture of music-making holds its roots in the purpose of glorifying God.
In the formation of identity, musical practice demonstrates what is necessary to cultivate habits and integrate this practice into our lives. Similarly, Christian life requires these same traits to bear fruit, and results in a similar formation of character. So as musicians, with a sense of recognizing our traits as musicians, our identity can fully be grounded in Christ. Music is an invitation from the Creator of the universe to participate in His creative power. Where there is beauty, God cannot be far.