November Deanery


By Peter Niedmann

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen

“Children Will Listen”
-Stephen Sondheim

Of all the aspects of a church musician’s job, one of the most important is the interaction with children. The awesome responsibility and opportunity to introduce children to the beauty of music is a gift. When we teach young singers a piece, it is the first time they have heard it in their lives. Remember the first time you heard a beloved piece of music? The sense of discovery, wonder, and excitement is tremendous. As choir directors, we have the honor of unveiling so many moments of beauty and power to young people. We also have the obligation to teach them how to read music, use their voices correctly, understand what they are singing, and so much more. We share stories about the composers to bring their names and dates to life. We explain the theology of the text. We guide them, as they mature, into more refined and precise musicianship. We show them how to work together as a group to achieve great things.

And, if we ever doubt that we are “getting through” to our young choristers, they let us know over and over again—they are “getting it.” Yesterday, in rehearsal I asked them to get out “Praise” by George Dyson. Our youngest singer exclaimed, “I love this one! I sing it all week!”

Before the Pipescreams concert, the Orgelkids organ was being assembled for the very first time by an enthusiastic group of kids. When they completed building the organ (in record time!) they all played tunes on it. One boy took his turn at the keyboard, and called me over. He started playing a melody and smiled. I said, “What’s that?” He repeated it. It was the organ introduction of my Five New England Songs—a piece he had sung four years ago when he was ten years old. I was touched. Something I had written had become a part of this boy. I was overwhelmed. It made me realize the importance of what we offer young singers. They don’t sing it and forget it. They sing it and it becomes a part of them.

We need to always be aware of our role in young people’s lives, and not take it lightly.

Children will listen.