Lessons Learned from a Music Curmudgeon


I was a music major my whole freshmen year of college.  Those were far different days and it seems like a century ago that I spent every day pouring over music textbooks and in practice rooms.  I really enjoyed my days as a music major and learned a whole lot about discipline, but there were just some things I never understood.  One of those was recital etiquette.


Recital etiquette, you know, where you have to look like you’re at a funeral at all times and not allowed to clap at the end of a piece no matter how much you enjoyed it?  I’m a very expressive person, and if I really like a piece of music, I want to clap more than anything.  I would always compromise by offering some goofy facial expressions and silent claps, but I never dared to make a noise for fear of being looked down upon by the recital etiquette gods.


This past Saturday night, a few friends and I got tickets to the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra where they were playing one of Beethoven’s most famous pieces (I forgot the name…this is why I’m no longer a music major.).  Jackson’s elite was in attendance decked out in the finest tuxes and ball gowns and speaking of their dinner dates with the governor and such. Surely these people would adhere to proper recital etiquette. The first movement of the piece ended, and the audience exploded into applause!  “What?!” I thought with joy, “the dreadful recital etiquette has been violated!”  In response, I also gave hearty claps.   However, not everyone enjoyed this uncivilized behavior.

An elderly gentlemen behind me who was dressed to the max in his tux and matching pretentious expression audibly expressed his disgust at this behavior.  “NO NO NO!,” he protested with spit flying into the row in front of him, “how dare they applaud?!”

I immediately stopped clapping and could not believe how mad this old curmugdeon had become just because people were clapping for a piece of really good music.  Really dude?  You let simple clapping ruin your experience?  Just because they clapped did not make the piece sound any less wonderful.  Just because they clapped, Beethoven did not roll over in his grave (it’s not like he could hear them clapping anyway).   I just couldn’t believe it!

After that, I could not stop thinking about how many times in life I’ve been like that old man.  Admittedly, I did not pay attention to the next movement because I was thinking of how many life applications could be found (sorry, Beethoven!).  Here are two of the ones that stuck out to me:

1. We let small  things ruin all of the good things.


Ever had a really good day and then something small comes along and ruins it?  Yeah, that’s happened to me a bunch.  In fact, on my birthday, it was one of the greatest days in my life until I spilled a whole grande Pike’s Place on my nice button up shirt.  I was so mad until I realized that it was still a great day after a quick change of my shirt.

Why do we let that happen to ourselves?  We are creatures of negativity and we let something tiny and negative overshadow a whole lot of positive. Next time this happens, I encourage you to overlook the small, negative and focus on the good that has happened and will happen.  Bad things are going to happen, laugh about that coffee spill on your shirt and move on and enjoy the rest of the day!

2. We let other people’s actions turn us into grumpy people instead of loving people. 


I grew up in a great church for the most part.  However, occasionally, we would have someone who would come in who was not raised in church and might not have dressed in their “Sunday best”, or whatever that means.  I would always feel so bad for them as I felt the judgement cast from others who could not believe someone would text, or come in late, or speak in certain ways, or dress a certain way in the church house.  I’m sure this is the same for most churches.

Let’s love people. Let’s not focus on how they act when they might not know the “rules” or social norms of a certain part of life.  Especially in church. Let’s welcome them in and love them instead of focusing on how they act or the things they don’t know. The greatest thing is love, so as believers, we should love above all else and if their behavior is truly bad, then it will change because of your love.  Accept them, don’t judge them.


So ultimately, don’t let the small, bad things in a moment kill your joy, and don’t let the actions of other people cause you to be a grumpy old man.  And if you go to a recital, be sure not to clap until the very end.