Let There Be Music!
By Sister Karen Belliston
“Members who acquire musical skills will be an asset to their units in the future wherever they live. On that happy note, those who are now students can become the teachers of tomorrow!”--Sister Margaret Nielsen
In 1830 a revelation was given from the Lord through Joseph Smith to his wife Emma: “And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church.” Many of the hymns Emma selected are still used today in the Church’s book of Hymns.
The singing of hymns is an important part of our worship services, and it has always been so. Mention of musical instruments is made in the Old Testament—the psaltery, organ, harp, and others. We are fortunate today to have pianos and, many times, organs in our chapels to accompany our hymn singing. But we are not always so fortunate to have people to play these instruments. Many wards and branches are blessed to have senior missionaries who voluntarily teach members, usually on a keyboard, how to play the piano. In South Africa, as well as other African countries, many private and group lessons are being taught. It is expected that these students will progress and use their talent to accompany worship services in their own wards and branches.
Sister Margaret DaBell is serving a mission in Johannesburg. She teaches piano to five students. One student, Susan Nkomo from the Ennerdale Branch, started learning from a former missionary and now travels to the Africa Southeast Area Office in Parktown nearly every week for a lesson. Four children in the Tshabalala family are also learning from Sister DaBell. They are in the Benoni Ward.
Saturday mornings find Sister Margaret Nielsen at the Area Office in Parktown teaching several women from the Alexandra Branch. They travel by taxi-bus at their own expense to these lessons. “Those music sessions are the highlight of my week!” exclaimed Sister Nielsen.
(L-R) Patricia Tladi, Tinhiko Nkuna, Sinah Monoalible, Sister Nielsen (instructor), and Theresa Motsheweme
Sisters Ricki Klingler and Debra King are both teaching piano lessons to eager students, hoping they will be able to play simple hymns for sacrament meeting. Sister King said, “It’s been fun seeing their enthusiasm for learning.” Sister Klingler’s student, Emelda, also wanted to learn how to direct music. After her first lesson, she led the music in her YSA branch.
The Relief Society president In the Orange Farm Branch asked Sister Connie Rose if she could teach the sisters how to direct music. Each week in Relief Society, Sister Rose explains the time signature and then invites the sisters to lead the music along with her. After a few weeks, several of the women have felt comfortable enough to lead the music on their own. Instructions for beginning music directors are located in the back of the hymn book on pages 383 to 385. Sister Rose has gone on to teach several students basic piano skills, using a keyboard. The students are given a cardboard keyboard to practice on.
Elder Stanley and Sister Eileen Kraczek, assigned to the Pimville Ward in the Soweto Stake, teach a basic music conducting course along with a keyboard class to over a dozen students. They meet after church services each week. The couple also visits the KwaThema Ward near Springs every Thursday afternoon to work individually with students. Another group of students comes prior to the 16:30 seminary class and learns both conducting and keyboard. An adult student, Felly Bukasa, is being taught during his lunch hour. He commented that the only time the piano was played in his ward was when missionary couples were there. He wanted to be able to play every Sunday. “I really wanted to learn, and I am not just learning, but enjoying it.”
Elder Kraczek teaching a keyboard class
In 1998 the Harman Music Fund was set up to work in harmony with the Church’s Basic Music Course. It provides electronic keyboards for loan to students during the course.” At the completion of the course, budding musicians without the resources to purchase their own keyboards can apply for help from the Harman Music Fund” (Ensign, September 2009, 76).
The opportunity for willing students to develop their own talents is a blessing, as it increases self-esteem and gives them an opportunity to serve. It is also a blessing to the congregations, as church members can more easily sing the correct melodies when they have accompaniment. “The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord” (Hymns, 1985, ix).
Members who acquire musical skills will be an asset to their units in the future wherever they live. On that happy note, those who are now students can become the teachers of tomorrow! Those wishing to learn to play the keyboard or direct music can inform their Church leaders or ask the missionaries to help them learn. They are here to serve!