While waiting for my car to be serviced I thought I would spend my time perusing a book I use regularly. Yes, a book. Not a screen with words on it, but one of those charmingly old-fashioned things with a cover and paper printed with ink. Books are delightful. Some seem like old friends: life is always more comfortable with them around and they are never boring. For me such is Richard Miller’s book The Structure of Singing. I acquired the book while in college and have used it ever since. I use the exercises in this book on nearly a daily basis. The Structure of Singing is a pedagogical work that addresses the needs of the singer in well-defined chapters and clear language. I love the lay out of the book. The exercises are clearly defined, and their execution is very beneficial to the vocalist.
"Life being brief and art being long..."
Richard Miller, The Structure of Singing
At the end of the introduction Miller states, “Life being brief and art being long, one should spend only the minimal time each day required to deal with the technique of singing so that one may move on to those much more important aspects of the art that have to do with musicianship, interpretation, and communication.” Miller is basically telling the singer to work on technique (the how of singing), but even more importantly work on the ART of singing: the aspects that really touch the heart of the listener. This was a wow moment for me. It was a thinking moment, a moment of contemplation, a time of self-examination. Life indeed is brief, and one could spend an entire lifetime studying the art of singing or music in general and barely scratch the surface. Not everyone understands that the study of music is unending. Whenever I went to graduate school to pursue my master’s degree we had a family friend who asked my mom something like, “John’s going to get a master’s degree in music? Is there really that much to learn about music?” Indeed, there is that much to learn and so much more. The more I learn the more I realize I don’t know. Boundless things to study, unfortunately so little time in which to learn it.
Miller’s statement to “move on to those much more important aspects” applies not only to singing and music, but to every area of life. One should focus energies and attention on those elements that are the MOST important. Focus on the things that really matter and are lasting. Life is not about impressing others or gaining their acceptance. Our lives are about fulfilling the Master’s plan, pleasing Him and being yielded to His will. Some things are just not important. Let them go. Some things are important, but not the most important. While not allowing the important things to go by the wayside, keep focused on those facets that are most important.
Life’s journey can be difficult. We are constantly bombarded with opportunity to be sidetracked. The mundane, the habitual, or even the new and exciting distraction diverts our focus from goals that matter. Life is brief. Time is fleeting. Find the things that matter most and invest wisely.