I have been playing the organ and piano at special events for forty-five years. I'm not complaining, just making observations. I started very young, with limited skills, and there were times when I barely had it together. At first I wasn't asked because I was capable but because I was available. Weddings, birthday parties, baptisms, there was need for music and I was there. Funerals have always been especially interesting. As a young mother in Provo, Utah, I made it on a list of available organists at a local funeral home. I would get a call a day before and many times I did not know the individual who passed away. There are funeral songs like there are funeral potatoes. A ready repertoire was essential because, well you just can't plan ahead.
A musician at these special events is a witness. We are often up front, close to the main participants. Sometimes it feels like we are part of the family. We see the joy and the heart breaking sorrow come across the faces of those who's lives are changing forever. I've witnessed a lot of sorrow in forty-five years. I participate but I do not speak. In fact I pray that I am not noticed. My voice is the instrument in front of me. I hope that it is soothing yet a foundation of strength. I hope the music is familiar yet calls to a place no one there has yet visited. I leave unable to socialize. I feel mute. I have extended all I have and all I am into the music.
Is being a witness a good thing? I think it is. It has helped me during my own special events. I recall the musicians who played at my family's special events. Wait, I think I was singing or playing there as well. The music at my mother's funeral was blurry and I remember relying on muscle memory. Music is a safe place. It can transport and soften the starkest journey. I am grateful to serve. Even more, I need to serve, with this gift given me and sustained by my parents.