I am often asked just how it is that I went from being a serious violinist to becoming a pastor. I had practiced for many hours a day for since I was a nine years old. While in High School, these practice hours became a regular four to five hours a day, in addition to lessons and orchestra rehearsals. I was inspired by a dream to play in a major orchestra. This had been my goal and focus since I was twelve years old. I was an amazingly focused teenager and young adult, arranging everything in my life around practicing the violin. I was absolutely certain of the direction I wanted to go, even the path I felt God was calling me to travel. But, at some point along the way, I found myself in seminary, studying to become a pastor. How did this happen? How did I depart from the dream I had worked so hard to achieve? It’s a long and complicated story, but I actually don’t think it’s unusually so. Ministers are often an eclectic bunch, with all kinds of different backgrounds and paths into this work. Part of my story is a theological journey, but a significant piece of my story actually arises from my experience of teaching the violin.
As a young adult, fresh out of graduate school, I was the Director of a Suzuki Music Program at The Cleveland Music School Settlement, a historic music school dedicated to providing music education to all people regardless of their financial means. This wonderful school was located at a crossroads, on the edge of a historically black and impoverished neighborhood, but inside of University Circle, which is the home of many elite institutions like Case Western Reserve University, The Cleveland Orchestra, and University Hospitals. Because of this location, and the school’s commitment to providing financial aid, I had students in my program who came from radically different backgrounds. Some of my young students had parents that were both doctors or university professors. Other children came from families with very little financial means. Our program was racially, socially, and economically diverse. I was moved when I realized that these children and parents who came from such different backgrounds, and were separated from one another in every other aspect of their lives, were forming community together. The children talked about violin and about school. The parents talked about how they managed practicing with their children and about parenting dilemmas. They complimented each other’s children. The children applauded one another at recitals and enjoyed cake after. I realized that this experience of community across difference was changing all of their lives. Stereotypes were being broken and confidence was gained as they each discovered they were capable of learning to do something hard like playing the violin. They formed community around the violin and within the safe space I had helped create for them. I realized that this was the work I wanted to do, but that God was calling me to do it in a different way. I felt called to create communities that transcended our usual cliques, biases, and even daily patterns. I envisioned the church as a community where we all increasingly learned to see one another, and those in the world around us, as beloved children of God.
Although I still enjoy playing the violin, this instrument that was my passion, focus, and dream, for so many years is no longer a major factor in my life. I once found a calling in teaching the violin, and through that I heard God’s call to become a pastor. God calls each of us into ministry and God’s call is often a great surprise. Who would have thought that someone so dedicated to the violin and convinced of her future plans might be inspired to change course? I never would have imagined this future, but God’s future is often quite different than the one we prepared and planned for. Following God’s call requires us to be open to dreaming new dreams.