Thoughts from a Musician's Heart


MY WEEK WITH JUD by Wes Nance

Last month I spent a week with Judson “Jud” Carithers, age 13. Our friend, Alana, finding herself with a week off in Richmond, was hired to sub in our orchestra in Rochester and asked to stay with us. We were happy to oblige, and when Alana mentioned that her son, Jud, who was homeschooled, would come as well, Shannon and I didn’t hesitate.

I’m not sure what I was expecting- the last time I saw Jud was back in 2017 he was a cute 7 year-old. Now he was a teenage boy, the most unpredictable of all of God’s creation. But there was no moodiness, no boredom, no grumbling about being away from home, just a happy kid who engaged me in conversation and wanted to hang out and play board games. We were brainstorming fun things to do in Rochester and Alana made a comment that stuck with me: “It doesn’t really matter where we go, Jud will love it. He’s happy wherever he is, and, if there are other kids, he’ll also make some friends by the end of the day.”

Here’s the thing- as musicians, we are often not happy wherever we are. There is grumbling and complaining. Our joy is conditional:

If we could just…

get into *that* conservatory and study with *that* teacher…

win an audition and get a job in an orchestra…

win an audition for an orchestra that was bigger/better/paid more than ours…

play under a better conductor or have better/different players in our section…

as teachers, make it to the end of the semester…

get out of this pandemic

…then we would be happy!

We focus a lot of time and energy trying to unlock that next level of achievement and often run a lot of people over in the process.

The Bible has a lot to say about being happy where we are, including:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Phil 4:11)

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Tim 6:6)

The COVID pandemic provided a perfect opportunity to observe my restless and fickle heart. Like many orchestras, the RPO was not able to perform concerts for live audiences, instead we recorded concerts in an empty theater for online streaming. It was a strange way to perform and I longed to get back to performing in person for our patrons. Indeed, our first concert back with live audience this fall was a profoundly moving experience, but it took about a week for all the old grumbling about conductors, players, management, the busy schedule, etc., to return with renewed vigor. I was back in my old, familiar pattern.


Does choosing to be content mean that we give up our dreams for the future, stop practicing for auditions, and just grin and bear it? No, but it should mean finding joy in our daily work, reaching out to love the people we encounter, and having grateful hearts for what God has given. I realize now that this was modeled to me recently by a 13 year-old boy.

Be like Jud.

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