Beethoven, fourth graders and me.


Press Record
Today at my kids’ school, all the fourth graders were given, as part of their music curriculum, a recorder.

This is clearly part of an insidious agenda designed to destroy America.

Because after school today, at my kids’ school, you could hear the sweet, mellifluous sounds of dozens of nine-year-olds completely butchering classic songs, like Ode to Joy and London Bridge. It almost made you wonder why Dante didn’t add this to one of his levels of Hell. Just mind-numbingly awful. Like someone took a herd of cats and threw them down an aluminum laundry chute. And then the cats landed in the middle of a pack of hyenas.

And those hyenas also happened to be listening to Nickelback.

“I pray that Beethoven – where ever he is in the afterlife – is preoccupied so that he doesn’t have to witness what is being done to his music,” a nearby parent joked.

Which made me laugh.

Mainly because it gave me a picture of Beethoven, hearing restored now, carefully sipping a mojito and then delicately placing the sweating glass on a ceramic Han Solo coaster on top of a dark maple grand piano, while he and Johnny Cash and George Frideric Handel and Whitney Houston all hung out in a rotunda with gorgeous acoustics. And as they stood there, a sound drifted up to their ears, from our little elementary school. And Handel turned his head and said, quizzically, “Is someone murdering a yak with a tin whistle nearby” when suddenly, Bob Marley and Bach burst into the room, trying to distract their friend.

“Hey, Ludwig, uh, so Bob and I wrote this song together and we NEED you to hear it right now for your feedback! Hit it Bob!”

And just like that, the first appearance in the Universe of Reggae Bach.

At least I’m not that guy
But as I stood there, after school, I was overcome with an emotion. Gratitude.

Because, as much as my life is not perfect, at least I am not a fourth-grade music teacher.

I mean, can you imagine?

Why would ANYONE sign up for that. To put up with all the terrible wrong notes? Who would willingly put themselves through that? Why would any sane person make it their actual job to hear some kids play instruments so very badly?


One reason, I guess.

Because the Symphony is so stunningly beautiful that it deserves to be played.

Chances are, if you went to elementary school, there was a music program. And chances are your elementary school had a music teacher. And chances are, that person was an insanely passionate teacher. These heroes are absolutely indefatigable in their positivity. They never stop smiling, never stop encouraging and usually never even wince.

They take music from geniuses like Beethoven and Bach and Mozart, and the kids absolutely butcher it. Why would they endure that punishment?

Because the Symphony is so stunningly beautiful that it deserves to be played.

If you think about it, the Church – being a Christian in a local community – is a little like that bunch of fourth graders playing the recorder.

Jesus not only wrote the most awe-inspiring, soul-lifting, Earth-shattering piece of music – the perfect Symphony – but He then performed that symphony live in front of the world. And Jesus is inviting all of us to join His orchestra, and play that amazing Work of Grace.

I remember sitting on the hard, grey tile floor of the auditorium of my elementary school as a 4th grader, listening to our band play Beethoven’s famous Fifth Symphony. It was terrible. And the band instructor stood on the stage waving furiously, attempting to coax brilliance out of this motley crew of misfits. Automobile accidents have sounded more pleasing to the ear.

But it was clearly Beethoven. With that famous “Bum bum bum bum” intro.

And the simple fact of the matter was this: it was the only Beethoven that some people in that gym had ever heard. Or would ever hear.

One of the girls from my 4th grade class went on to play flute in high school. She was in the marching band and the concert band. She then went to college and played flute in the marching band for her college. She then went on to have a career, get married, and have kids. But she’s also a member of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. She volunteers her time – and untold hours of practice – to that orchestra. Why? One reason.

Because the Symphony is so stunningly beautiful that it deserves to be played.

It struck me that my life as a follower of Jesus is similar.

As my community of friends and colleagues all come together and learn, we will play wrong notes.

Sometimes, we will not play correctly.

But if we keep listening to our Instructor, if we take His instruction, if His passions become our passions and if we dedicate ourselves to this task, then we can play the Symphony of Grace.

And it could be beautiful.

And – here’s the kicker – for many people, our broken and at times off-key version will be their only exposure to Jesus’ perfect Symphony. But, with God’s grace, He will help us…

Play the right notes, play our instrument, and help us, both individually and as a group, play the most beautiful Symphony humankind has ever heard.

And that can change everything.

But if we don’t try, it definitely won’t.

So let’s try.

(But let’s try to not make people’s ears bleed, okay?)

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One Response to Beethoven, fourth graders and me.

  1. Kathleen Welch says:

    Dave, I recall Mrs. Owens at Fairbrook as a very dedicated music teacher. She smiled through all of the wrong notes and singing off key. I have VHS tapes of the choir concerts that my dad graciously recorded all of those years ago. They are hilarious to watch and my kids get a big kick of seeing them. Just wanted to say “hi” and let you know how much I enjoy your writing !

    Take care,
    Kathleen (Wallace)Welch

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