A Musical Musing of Remembrance
This week I have been moved by emails and social media posts remembering Bob Lamborn. He was the amazing Band Director at LaFayette High School from 1960-1988 and the choir director at LaFayette Presbyterian Church starting in 1982. During his time at LaFayette High School the band grew in number and quality. He was so successful that Johnny Cash even performed a benefit concert to help fund the Band Program’s growing needs. Throughout his tenure the Rambler Band continued to grow in quantity and quality, becoming consistently one of the largest in the region and achieving numerous superior ratings at concert and marching festivals.
More important than his musical talents, he was a leader and mentor to numerous students, colleagues, friends and even strangers! It is readily apparent that his positive influence has impacted individuals miles away from this community as those he shared his life with have taken the lessons he taught and shared them across the world. This is a powerful witness to us about how much influence our lives can have. As my friend David LaMotte says often, “You are changing the world whether you like it or not.”
I also think it is a testament to the power of music. Think of it—have you ever found your toe tapping to the beat even though you did not think about it? Or find yourself singing a song to yourself? Perhaps you hear a song and are moved to tears or it brings a memory and a smile. Maybe you have dreamed of being on the stage and even belted a song into an imaginary microphone while imagining your adoring fans sitting in rapture and then cheering you on via a standing ovation! Our lives are full of music, and every note and lyric touches us all.
In fact, in The Power of Music, researcher Elena Mannes explores how music affects different groups of people and how it could play a role in health care. She discovered that science all but confirms that humans are hard-wired to respond to music. She notes that scientists have discovered that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human activity. That's why as a scientist she sees so much potential in music's power to change the brain and affect the way it works. Studies suggest that someday music may even help patients heal from Parkinson's disease or a stroke.1
Though this research is fairly new, the belief in the power of music is not.
For example, the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche shared this in his 1889 book Twilight of the Idols, or How to Philosophize with a Hammer: “Without music life would be a mistake.”
More recently in his final essay collection entitled, A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut wrote that music, above all else, “made being alive almost worthwhile” for him. He synthesized the sentiment in an extra-concentrated dose of his wry irreverence:
If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC
Of course as people of faith we recognize that music has always been an essential part of our life, especially our worship. Singing praises and playing instruments have been a part of our liturgical experience since the time of the Old Testament. The Psalms are full of praises to God through music. “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live” (Psalm 104:33).
It seems when words are inadequate music allows us to express our emotions and bare our souls to God. Victor Hugo says this better than I can—“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”
Even our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ knew the importance of music. As I have shared with those who have argued for eliminating The Arts from schools, I do not know if Jesus ever played a sport or ran a race but I know he sang. In fact, I remind them that Jesus and his disciples were their very own chorale. When folks look at me funny, I point them to Mark 14:26 which is at the very end of the Lord’s Supper where it says “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
When no one knew what to say on that first Maundy Thursday they sang a song to God.
And Paul and Silas sang hymns of praises to God in from their prison cells.
Friends, our lives should be full of music and songs of praises even in the face of a pandemic. And like so many faithful before us we should march into confronting our worlds injustices with a song on our lips and in our heart.
Let us remember our song, as we also remember the song of God’s faithful servant Bob Lamborn whose tunes indeed made a difference.
'The Power Of Music' To Affect The Brain