As someone who’s recently signed up as a new FiSch Fellow, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and my interests. I’m a musician and music lecturer based in York, and I enjoy the kind of ‘portfolio career’ that’s becoming increasingly common for those involved in academia, and especially in the arts. I work variously as a music lecturer, piano accompanist, instrumental teacher, ensemble coach and oboist, with an assortment of other music-related odd jobs popping in from time to time as demand dictates. Demand is high at the moment, as the university’s end-of-term concerts loom, marking starts to build up, pupils enter for summertime instrumental exams, and students gear up for final recitals, hunting around for a pianist willing to accompany them. ‘Scholarship’ for me thus covers a broad range of activities: as well as reading, writing, thinking and teaching, it involves the day-to-day physical activity of practice, rehearsals and performances, as well as listening to, arranging and sometimes composing music.
It’s good to have a moment to step back from this day-to-day activity and think about what it really means to serve God as a musician – and particularly as an ‘academic musician’ (or a ‘musical academic’, or a ‘musical scholar’ – I can’t say I’ve got the terminology sorted yet!). I find the challenge when things get busy is to keep an awareness of the connection between all these different activities, and their basis in the gifts and calling of God. Rather than resenting yet another rehearsal because it takes time from my writing, it’s important for me to remember what that a rehearsal is a gracious, communal act – a musician putting in time to help to serve the composer whose music they are playing. The same goes for performance – part of a musician’s calling to serve their community by sharing their gifts with them – and, more obviously, for teaching. Of course, as someone called to make music for Jesus, it’s not really surprising that when I am able to engage with these activities with the right kind of mentality, I find that it has a positive knock-on effect on my other scholarly activities, too.
I’m looking forward to being able to reflect further on serving God in the field of arts scholarship in future blog posts here, and in the process to get closer acquainted with some of the most important recent writings on theology and the arts. A few questions that I want to think about more as part of these blogs:
How does modern music, and modern art more generally, fit within a Christian worldview? (My PhD study revolved around recent music from a loosely avant-garde tradition, so it makes sense that this question would be important to me.)
What role(s) can artistic activity and artistic scholarship play in building the Kingdom of Heaven?
How can the common Biblical connection between music and communal worship feed into my musical activities day to day?
I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on these topics, too, and other questions about the arts, music and faith that need considering.