Sunday, October 3, 2010



My teacher with one of his teachers (instrument is an old Contra Bassoon)
These three words were drilled into my brain every day of my life between 2004 and 2007... they are a faint pounding behind the resonance of my metronome and my unquenchable desire to practice things accurately and patiently.

A metronome that is also a tuner.
As a student they feel like a wet blanket.
As a teacher they feel like black magic.
and as an alumni they feel like confidence and empowerment.

My teacher performing a piece called "Dead Elvis"
The fundamentals of music are scales, intervals and long tones. 
Practiced with attentiveness and priority they will enable you to play music without hesitating, they will free you to express yourself within the creativity of the composer's expression, they will liberate you to improvise.

The fundamentals of the Christian life are called the fruits of the Spirit and are the characteristics of God: Love, Joy, Patience, Faithfulness, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Kindness, Self Control, and Goodness. Practiced with attentiveness and priority they will enable you to live free of hesitation, they will free you to express yourself within the creativity of God's universe, they will liberate you to improvise.

But you must practice them.
So, the point?
How about another picture instead:
The Fundamentals-Learning Process

After I started REALLY, ACTUALLY, FOR REALS, NO KIDDING practicing my fundamentals, something amazing happened...I could see something new, everywhere. In every piece I played, I was no longer concerned with the me part of performing, I only (well mostly only) thought of the music, the ensemble, the connecting of the two.  It was amazing. It still is - when I practice my fundamentals correctly and consistently, my musical life is better and as things improve in my musical life I kinda crave my fundamentals practice time.

Repetitive Fruit Picture

If you practice the fruits of the Spirit, the same thing will happen. Understanding and enabling the mind of God in your life takes practice and complete trust that God knows what He is doing and means for you to be as capable as you can ever be.  Just like my teacher wants every student to see, open and walk through the doors that lead to their talent being heard and used in the world, God wants each of us to be unique and useful, to be connected, but do different roles.  Just because I practiced the exact same things as all 7 other students and the dozens of students before and after me at my school, no two of us can ever sound alike or maybe more importantly - we can never sound different than ourselves, we just become more free to express all that we are.  You can identify similarities because they have a similar admiration for the same master teacher, but each person sounds different and uses their talent in a very different way. My teacher is an enabler, and he enables through extreme practice of the fundamentals.  God is not unsimilar.  Seeking the fruits of the Spirit and honoring them as priority in our lives will look vastly different to every Christian - each person will have to be patient for their own individual struggles, they will suffer for a long time or be in love for totally different reasons and they will be faithful to different ambitions.

These two links demonstrate vary different types, styles and sounds of playing from four people all studying at Rice:
"Dead Elvis" by Michael Daugherty performed by Rice bassoonist, TK DeWitt
Three Rice Bassoonists playing a bassoon trio by Julius Weissenborn

My teacher asked me two questions during the first week of school.
Keep in mind, I was a pretty good bassoon player at this point.  I had been accepted into his studio as well as a few other prestigious studios around the country and I had an identity in music, I had a thorough understanding of that identity and music as a whole.  I don't say this to be arrogant. I say this to be honest.  No one is perfect...but I thought I was pretty close. And I didn't want to change anything, I wanted to add to what I had already made - I certainly didn't want to destroy any of the main components of my playing.  I think a lot of Christians feel this way and close their mind and most importantly, their hearts, to the idea of being reborn.  Being "Saved" doesn't mean a one time decision, but a continuous priority to choose to do what is right.  Think of your longest relationship with anyone...I bet you, when it is good, you are thinking about those fundamental fruits and forgiving the other person when they aren't - or maybe they are doing that for you.  Selfishness or self obsession is rarely at the root of relationship gold.

I recommend that everyone asks someone the following two questions during their lives at some point.  God puts people in our lives to teach  us and in August of 2004, when asked these two questions by my bassoon teacher, in relation to my bassoon playing, I said yes and I am forever grateful for it.

The questions were:
Question 1: Are you willing to change?
Question 2: Do you trust me?

Ask yourself those two questions about God.

Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. - John 3:3

you must submit to the changing before you can know the value of the changing, the purpose of it is hidden...this is faith. 

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. - John 3:6
I couldn't understand my teachers perspective until I trusted him and continually demonstrated that respect through practicing the fundamental exercises that he gave me to do.  


More Slow Practice


  1. Abigail,
    I absolutely love this post. The writing is good, the analogies are great, the pictures, the music. I love that you are doing this kind of creative writing. You are very good at it, and I am better for having read it. I need to figure out how to forward it to some people.

  2. Thanks. Just copy the link, open your email and then paste it in there. Or you can send them to and tell them which post you like.