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Thoughts from a Musician's Heart

THE RHYTHM OF REST by Heather Bixler

While studying at Juilliard, one evening in late spring while rehearsing a Mozart Sonata, my pianist pointed out to me that I was skipping over the rests. I thought I was counting correctly and coming in at the right place. But he explained that I needed to be as engaged during the rests as I was when playing the notes, and that I should not rush through the rests. I have never forgotten his words.

On January 5th, my family and I returned to New York from spending the fall semester in Ireland. My husband’s sabbatical project was studying traditional Irish flute and we enjoyed four months living in a cottage in West Clare playing Irish music and soaking up the Irish countryside. However, our return to New York was difficult. Some background: Six years ago, I enrolled in Columbia University for neuroscience because of our youngest son who has suffered from epilepsy his whole life. However, about three quarters of the way through my degree I realized that as much as I enjoyed science, I really just wanted to be a violinist again. Still, I accepted a job working in a lab at Columbia after graduation. After completing my 2-year experiment in the lab, I planned to return to music full-time.

Now suddenly that time had come, and I didn’t have a job. I spent the past year praying for one, and preparing my resume and cover letters thinking that for sure God would provide a job for me in January. Yet here I was without work, and I was confused, frustrated and angry.

Every day I poured out my heart to God asking him what I was supposed to do, how I was going to pay my bills, and why He was not answering my prayer. In desperation, I signed up for an on-line prayer time. At the end of the session, one of the prayer partners (who was not a musician), prayed that just as a musician does not rush during rests, I would not rush this time of rest that God was giving me. I was reminded of my pianist’s words from Juilliard all those years ago and how the absence of sound in music is just as important as the notes.

In fact, rests serve an essential function as a contrast to sound and have a specific shape, size, weight, length, and character which we need to identify. In discussing beauty and esthetics, Augustine described silence as a contrast to sound just as darkness is the contrary to light. Rhythm is created by sound and silence, and both are equally important.

I need to enjoy this God-given time of rest. I now have time to practice, to contemplate music and be creative. God has provided for my material needs with some students and upcoming gigs, as well as an audition that I am working towards. And I will look to God for my cue to come in again after the rest.

Dr. Heather Martin Bixler, DMA 

Classical violinist /Irish Fiddler


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