top of page

A Second Fiddler Musing February 24, 2022

Most of you who will be reading this will remember the late Leonard Bernstein. If you don’t remember who he was or perhaps are more from the Bieber than the Bernstein generation, here is a little bit about him.

For decades Leonard Bernstein was undoubtedly the most influential American composer and conductor in the world. In fact, many consider him the first truly great American conductor and composer.

During his lifetime, Bernstein received international critical acclaim and more awards and honors than certainly, I can list in this musing.

For Bernstein, however, his work was more than simply composing and conducting great musing. Bernstein loved sharing his love of music and recognized the power of radio and television to do just that. I can recall my grandfather enjoying watching him conduct orchestras often via PBS specials. In fact, from what I could gather, it seems Bernstein was the first conductor to share and explore music on television with a mass audience. Through dozens of national and international broadcasts, including the Emmy Award-winning Young People's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic, he made even the most rigorous elements of classical music an adventure in which everyone could join. Through his educational efforts, including several books and the creation of two major international music festivals, he influenced several generations of young musicians.

A lifelong humanitarian, civil rights advocate, and voice for freedom, he engaged in multiple international initiatives for human rights and world peace. Near the end of his life, he conducted a historic performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. The concert was televised live worldwide on Christmas Day, 1989. Until I began writing this musing, I had forgotten I watched that with my family- my first Christmas home from Presbyterian College and the last Christmas I’d celebrate B.L. - Before Laura!

Although Bernstein passed away, his music continues to have a profound effect around the world. And young people have gotten to know his most famous work West Side Story in its recent most recent adaptation for the film that was released in theaters and via streaming services 2021.

According to music critic Donal Henahan, Bernstein was "one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.”

You would think then when he was interviewed and asked about the most difficult instrument to play; he would have given a technical answer based upon his profound knowledge and vast experience. Instead, when asked this question, the celebrated conductor replied without hesitation: “Second fiddle.” He went on to explain, “I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet, if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”

In Mark Chapter 8, we see Peter (who it seems was drafted to speak for the 12 disciples) and Jesus in a bit of an argument and what Jesus and ultimately their role was. Seems they had not quite caught on to the idea of servant leadership.

“Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Later, Paul expands further this idea of humble service to others when in Chapter 2 of his Epistle to the Church at Philippi to imitate Christ by serving others.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Later to the Galatians, Paul writes - You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Leadership guru Ken Blanchard stole this idea of Servant Leadership from Jesus and the Apostle Paul and turned it into an entire business. Blanchard never speaks to groups without saying something like this.

“I think a great leader is somebody who realizes it's not about them, it's about the people that they're serving, that they're really other-directed rather than self-directed.”

Friends, we are called to serve others in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ so that the Kingdom of God might be on earth as it is in heaven.

Because this is our calling, we are to play second fiddle to our Lord. Of course, we are told by the world we are to lead for our own benefit so that we will gain power and glory, and praise.

Instead, we are always second fiddle to Jesus, serving others with humility and love. And in doing these countercultural acts, I believe we will get glimpses of that promised day of God, and we will hear the harmony of creation quietly singing if we will but listen.

In the name of God, the creator, redeemer, and sustainer. Alleluia, Amen.


bottom of page