Selected Non-fiction


In music, as in all other arts, there are two supreme elements that must be united in order for a performance to be truly moving and convincing to the listener. I think it is quite logical to say that, while listening to a piece of music, it is not merely the presence of “a stunning technique and work of the fingers” which will rouse our curiosity and fascinate our imaginations–although the great importance of technical precision must never be forgotten. Technique ought to be looked upon not as our master, but as our faithful servant, the tool through which may flow our deepest and most profound emotions. In all branches of art, a faultless technique alone is cold and unfeeling if it is not coupled with the essential warmth and fullness of the heart, and a deep sensitivity within the artist toward the music, painting or poetry he is producing; a sensitivity which seeks to draw the audience in through the means of what John Ruskin has termed, “mental power of expression.”

This type of expression lends itself to a performance first, through the artist’s own thorough understanding of himself and his personality, and the peculiar traits of the character which he desires to reveal through his interpretation of a piece, and, secondly, to his willingness to share those inner mysteries with his listeners, without the fear of being criticized or the trepidation of making a mistake. I think that, under most circumstances, the predicament of “stage fright” stems not necessarily from the performer’s doubts over his own technical skills as much as from his apprehension and fear of revealing something of his heart before the eyes of a curious or, albeit, critical audience.

If we look at history and contemplate the art of the great masters of music, painting, and literature, we will see that one of the great secrets, if not the greatest, to their lasting art, was truth; their ability to see themselves and the world through lenses unmuddied by the pressures, styles, or expectations of the society in which they lived. It is the artist’s own honesty towards himself and the world around him, and his ability to understand his feelings and emotions for what they are, which makes the production of his art beautiful, lasting, and true. It was not their dread of making a mistake which made the great masters great, but rather it was their honesty toward themselves, and their inner courage to surmount the dilemma of imperfection in order to reach a higher and more sublime level of art, which celebrates expression over perfection, and embraces exertion before criticism.





Children love to create things. Whether it be a tall tale of fantastical characters living in magical, make-believe lands, or delighting in hands-on projects, children’s fertile imaginations thrive in atomosperheres that reflect their joy and creativity.

A painting instructor recently told me that in order to have her paintings vividly express a particular mood, she paints while listening to music that reflects what she desires to show on canvas. I decided to experiment with this idea by reversing the artist’s technique for my beginner Suzuki violin students. I assigned one of my young students to draw a picture of what she imagined her song (Lightly Row), to look like during her daily listening. The following week she came to her lesson, smiling as she proudly presented her masterpiece. Her picture cheerily illuminated a host of sea creatures conversing beneath a small rowboat sailing in mid-ocean. The impression that her careful listening had made upon her mind was astonishing! It had made her song a living, breathing experience in her own mind. This experiment was so successful that I have encouraged my other students to do the same. The poster-boards of my studio are now covered in imaginative renditions of Suzuki pieces, each imbued with the young aspiring artist’s personal artistic flair.



CHEERFULNESS: A State of the Heart

Similar to thank fulness, cheerfulness is a decision, ultimately a state of the heart. Proverbs 15:13 teaches us that “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “merry” as; “to be joyful; pleasant; agreeable; delightful. Causing laughter or mirth.” From Galatians 5:22 we learn that one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy. A result of our relationship with the Lord is the fruit of cheerfulness. However, as erring human beings, we often find ourselves face to face with trying circumstances that cause us to struggle against our own selfish nature. I have often found that my “joy tank” runs empty if I have failed to partake of the joy of the Lord.

There is a way to “fake” a cheerful attitude. We might term this “artificial cheerfulness.” Like artificial sweeteners, it often tastes like the real things, but it can be loaded with harmful ingredients that with long term use may cause damaging side-effects. It can be tempting to resort to a facade of artificial cheer, if, as a result of neglecting our personal relationship with our Creator, we have robbed ourselves of the strength which comes from the joy of the Lord.

Cheerfulness is connected to Thankfulness, and both claim sisterhood with Sincerity. To be sincere means to be pure, to be real, and to be free from hypocrisy. Essentially, sincerity is honesty manifest. What is the state of our heart? Matthew 10:26 says, “There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid that shall not be made known.” If we indulge any form of outward appearance that cannot be felt and seen as sincere, whether it be happiness, fear, contentment, or sadness, if we “fake” our feelings, not only is it unattractive, but, because it is a form of falsehood, it is unbiblical. Feelings are not wrong in themselves; it is what we do with our feelings that matters. It should cause us to search our hearts when we realize that, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7)

We all must ask ourselvs, “Can I face my feelings with the inner strength needed to conquer anything that would pose a threat to my relationship with my Heavenly Father?” I am not suggesting that we give way to the impulse to be miserable if we feel like it. I am suggesting that we search our the source of our discontentment, and put the ax to the root. What is it that causes us to feel sulky, or like flying off the handle because someone has crossed us? I think we can agree that, again, it often has to do with the state of the heart. Selfishness is a bitter enemy of sincerity. When we are miserable, it can be easy to feel like dragging other people down into our own pitiful Slough of Despond, just so we don’t feel like the only nasty person on the block. This indeed is pure selfishness, and a sign of spiritual depravity.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Have we been robbing ourselves of the sweet joy of our Saviour? Have we ignored the gentle prodding of His Holy Spirit by indulging in our own vainglorious pursuits, forgetting that His Word says that His joy is our strength? Have we forgotten to count our blessings? Instead of pointing out the ugly faults of others, let us seek out the beautiful the good and the true. Do we lack the inner strength to decide to be pleasant even when we feel the urge to murmur and complain? II Corinthians 9:7 says, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” Notice that it does not say that God loves those who simply give, but those who do so cheerfully. This gift of mercy can only be extended from our hearts after the hideous weed of selfishness has been rooted up and replaced by a flowering herb of contentment and humility.

Each day we are given a choice; we can decide to live for ourselves, our whims, our desires, or we can decide to crush our selfish nature and embrace the calling of Christ, to be a beautiful emblem of His great love and ever-abiding joy.