This will come as a shock to absolutely no one, but I’m not a classical-music guy. I’m totally inspired by the hard work and precision of an orchestra, but the truth is that I don’t listen to a lot of orchestra music or attend that type of concert very often.
But, I have seen enough live performances (and TV broadcasts) to know that at the end of a concert, the conductor gets applause. A lot of applause, actually. In addition, the conductor is always listed in the top-line credits when a song is being played on the radio or broadcast on TV.
Why is that? Think about it—the musicians in the orchestra learn the music. They spend hours practicing privately. They attend long, tedious rehearsals and when it’s time, they are the ones who perform the music. So why does the conductor seem to get just as much (sometimes more) credit as the people who actually make the music happen?
Now, if you know much about classical music, you know that the conductor actually logs more hours than anybody getting ready for a concert. The conductor is making notes, learning the music, even conceptualizing how to create a unique musical experience within the boundaries of precisely written works. The maestro is there before the rehearsals start and long after everybody goes home. So, you could make the argument that we applaud him or her for all their hard work.
But I think there’s another reason. An ever better one.
We applaud the conductor because he or she keeps everyone together. The job is taking a mass of musicians—varying in age and experience (and even ability)—and helping all of these individual musical voices join to create something cohesive and compelling. The conductor shines because the conductor’s goal is to make the musicians shine even brighter. All those hours in pursuit of helping players to achieve beauty and inspiration are what fuel us when we applaud.
I don’t think anybody should applaud you at the end of a worship set, but I do think you and I could learn a lot from the conductor. Too often, we devote our hours to making sure we come off as musically astute or highly creative or even simply “cool.” But there’s a higher goal in our music making: The people you lead need you to lead them. To stretch them. To grow them. To encourage them and to be the ears that help them to find something beautiful and inspiring when they make music for God’s glory.
Spend your hours wisely. Toil over music in a way that brings your players closer together and focused on God’s glory in our corporate worship. It’s time well spent!