I'm just certain I've mentioned before that, while I do have a modicum of musical talent, I have never undertaken any real formal musical education in my life.
Oh, yeah, okay, I did take a couple of semesters' worth of theory and such on the off chance that I might parlay that into a career as a music teacher. It only took a few months, however, to realize that I could never get serious about such a career for one reason, and one reason alone: I don't play the piano.
Music majors are expected to be able to hammer out their "compositions" in theory class, for example, and my piano skills were (and still are) non-existent. A few years (okay, many years) later I tried one last time to get serious about studying music, despite my fear of learning to play piano. I applied (and was even accepted!) for the musical pedagogy course at Southern Utah. I auditioned for a man who told me that his own reputation as a pianist was to be nicknamed "The Claw" by his professors in college. I suspected that I would never rise to that level, even, and soon dropped out without ever having set foot on campus as a new student.
I find it thus ironic that I have been asked to teach men at church how to sing.
Our Stake is sponsoring a music workshop this coming weekend that is designed to help folks get more comfortable with certain basic musical functions. Things like learning how to conduct hymns, for example, or beginning organ skills. When I saw that there would be classes in learning how to sing different parts, one for women and one for men, I wondered what poor sucker they'd nail to try to teach a bunch of recalcitrant men to follow a tenor or bass line in a hymn book. What loser would even attempt to teach men who have never sung anything but melody by rote for the last 50 years to sing a tenor line?
"Hey, Brother Woody, I've been meaning to ask you something!"
That this person is our Stake Music Chairman fills me with a sudden dread.
What ensues is begging at its most refined. She was so desperate to find someone to take that workshop that she even contemplated asking her husband to do it. I know her husband, and he is a terrific guy, but music is not his strong suit. I think he plays some piano, but in the six years we've been in the ward, I've never once heard the man sing. She had wanted to ask me sooner, but knowing of Mrs. Woody's convalescence had been hesitant to ask at all.
"Will there be a pianist?" My last possible out. I don't do piano.
"I'll make sure you have one!"
I really can't turn the lady down. She was my first choir accompanist when I got the calling in our second year here, and I'm sure I owe her far more than this measly workshop will ever repay.
"Sure. I'll just make sure it won't conflict with anything we've been planning at home." (It doesn't.)
So now I'm on the hook to teach old dogs extremely new tricks. For some of them, at least. My current plan consists of dividing them up by voice, hammering out their parts on a hymn or two, and telling them what a wonderful job they're doing.
I plan to wear ear plugs and smile a lot.