Are you playing notes or playing music?

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I was an unusual kid (in some ways). For one, I liked classical music. Blame it on Looney Tunes, I guess. Bugs Bunny as The Barber of Seville is a classic! Whether or not that was the genesis of my interest in classical music, I did develop an amateur appreciation for classical music. Granted, I never learned to play an instrument, so I am missing out on some of the finer points of refined listening. I may not fully understand the technical complexities of music, but I do know what I like and I know if it sounds good or not.

Over time, I have discovered the difference between playing notes and playing music. Playing notes is the foundation of music but it does not necessarily equal playing music. I can finger the notes perfectly on an instrument but it may lack “flow.” Flow is what makes music beautiful. Flow is when the musician effortlessly plays each note and creates a beautiful experience. He is one with the instrument – in fact, the instrument is just an extension of his being, a different voice with which he speaks and sings. Flow is when the musician loves his art and tenderly expresses himself in his wonderful, melodic language. Love of music drives the musician and his love is passion, understanding, and expression rolled into one.

When I listen to music, I don’t hear notes; instead, I hear weeping and joy. I experience the music instead of just listening to it and this transcends the passivity of being in the audience; I am brought into the moment with the musician. Although I cannot feel what he is feeling, I can at least understand what he is feeling and I am made richer for the experience.

Everyone plays music of one sort of another. In the symphony of life, we have many things to do. Of course, we can get through life, punching the clock, doing what is required, doing what is expected. But that is only doing the minimum; it is the difference between “have to” and “want to.” I suppose “have to” can be satisfying, in a way, but it does not satisfy the soul. We can do our work and make busy, or we can perform our work and make meaning. It is the difference between getting the job done and doing the job well.

Our calling, whatever it may be, is our music. Don’t be satisfied with just playing the notes.