Encouragement is a beautiful thing. We never outgrow our need for it or our delight in it. Tonight it came in waves. I play bassoon and upright bass in our local New Horizons Band. Tonight was concert night; time to shine, but shining is hard when your playing is as rough as mine usually is. Some of our members are retired music teachers, others have played semi-professionally in various bands and groups. Most of them are far more accomplished than I. So when I play, I'm happiest when I'm so surrounded by sound that my squeaks and squawks get swallowed up in the sonorous melodies of my more accomplished neighbors. I'm not a solo performer.
A couple weeks ago in practice, it suddenly dawned on me that one of the pieces we were playing had a mini bassoon solo. It was only about six bars long, and although it consisted of sixteenth notes, the piece was so slow that it looked doable. Actually, it had to be; our first chair bassoonist was conducting this particular number, leaving me high and dry. So after completely muffing it in rehearsal, I practiced it. Over and over again. And tonight when I played it, I actually hit all the right notes. In order.
At intermission, Jim, one of the trombonists who sits behind me, congratulated me on that little solo. It felt pretty good! Mind you, it was such a small solo that after the concert, my wife asked why I hadn't played my solo. "I did," I protested. "It was in the second piece." She had been listening for it, but missed it.
The jazz band played three numbers in the middle of the concert. The original plan was to mic the bass, but for some reason that didn't happen. So instead, they put me up front between the saxes and the piano. The strange thing about the upright bass is that because I stand beside and somewhat behind it, I cannot hear how it projects into the audience. I'm the only bassist, competing against six saxes, five trombones, and as many trumpets. So when one of the concert band members who was in the audience for the jazz band part told me how well it punched through and laid down the beat, I was over the moon. Jazz band is my favorite part, so I worked hard on those three numbers, and since I've only been playing upright bass for a little over a year, Mike's comment was music to my ears. In Ephesians 4:29, St. Paul said, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Tonight I'm grateful for Jim and Mike, the encouragement they gave me, and the reminder of how important such a word can be to someone else.