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Editorial Notes.


“Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.” The much-quoted “Ram’s Horn” says: “God never made a man to whom He did not give the power to excel all others at something.” But how are we to learn what that something is? The answer can be found “between the lines” of the first quotation above. Moses received his call from the burning bush; Paul, from the vision at mid-day near Damascus, and I doubt not but both men found that their mission gave them the greatest pleasure of their lives. All great inventions and achievements were worked out by their authors in the happiest moments of their existence. When the little boy spent his time in practicing on an old spinnet in the garret, away from the hearing of his father, he was following out his God-given work as truly as a prophet of old, and it certainly was the boy’s chief delight, or he would have been doing mischief with other boys and so have grown up to be an ordinary man instead of the immortal Händel. The little Bach delighted in music so much that he copied a score of music by moonlight, when other boys would have been asleep. Mozart, when a mere babe, could hardly be kept from the harpsichord, this instrument taking precedence in his boyish tastes to toys and sports; his father saying that he never played games, as other children do. A great number of similar instances could be mentioned, but the above serve to illustrate the important truth that the bent of a child’s life-mission can be seen in what he finds to be his chief pleasures. If, when speaking of music or hearing it he is at once interested, this should be a hint as to what his life work should be; but if he especially delights in it, this is more than a hint, it is a God-given message—I had almost written command—that he be educated in the art for a professional career.


The amateur is “one who has a taste for the arts; especially one who cultivates any study or art from taste or attachment, without pursuing it professionally,” says Webster; but, says the same authority, substantially, “the business which one professes to understand and to follow for subsistence, as theology, law or medicine, makes one a professional.” But in defining these two classes there is a distinction of quality as well as quantity, at least in the popular mind. Some amateurs are better musicians than are some professionals, while the professional should be the better, that he may rightly command “a subsistence” from the practice of his profession. One honest act does not make a man honest, but one defalcation makes him a thief. A man must be honest always if he gains a reputation for honesty; and, likewise, the professional musician should do truly artistic work always, while an amateur is not held up to as high a standard by the public or by critics. Amateurs are a most valuable factor in an art, when they keep themselves from encroaching on the field rightly held by professional artists. An amateur musician is out of his place when he spends his days in an office, store, bank, etc., and plays an organ on Sunday for a salary that should be given to a professional musician, for he gets his subsistence from his clerkship, and the musician from his music. The amateur musician, broadly speaking, should not fill any musical engagement that would bring money to some professional musician; but there are exceptions to all rules; however, the principle holds good. But in no way, in music, is so much wrong and harm done as in amateur teaching, for good teaching demands extensive and thorough preparation, which few amateurs possess; and those who have the necessary preparation should either enter the profession or leave its work to professionals.


Many teachers desire larger fields of usefulness and feel competent to fill them, but dislike to leave a position where they are doing well for one that may perhaps prove a failure, while promising success. Churches, seminaries, conservatories, and communities are as anxious for a fine musician as you are for a good place. Representatives of these, now and then, come to your towns on business or pleasure, and hear of you and your work, perhaps hear your organ playing and choir directing, and an engagement grows out of it.

More and better fields of this kind would be filled if teachers were always working up to their ideals. Too many allow themselves to drift with the popular desire for mediocrity, and so do not try to do better work and use better music, in fact, cease to do anything towards elevating public taste. They give no musicales and concerts, they play the same old hackneyed voluntaries on the organ, their friends and pupils speak of them with no enthusiasm, and thus they miss the call to higher positions and wider fields, forgetting that “if you want a better place, you can get it by filling the poorer place so thoroughly well that it is self-evident that you have the ability to fill a larger.”

Some of the most useful articles that we publish are a record of the teacher’s every-day experience in lesson- giving. We ask that the teachers among our readers will write out such things and ideas, ways of meeting difficulties, interesting pupils, of teaching time, stories to pieces illustrating their content, illustrations used to make easy the obscure and difficult points to a pupil—in short, whatever has proved of value and a help in your own work. A suggestion: write your thoughts as they come to you in lesson-giving, and then elaborate and polish up for the article.

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