Musical Homonyms

Those of us attending a recent Shabbat service at the Bethany Center witnessed a unique and vivid demonstration of life and the difference between illuminating a thought or idea with extensive life experience and maturity or presenting a new canvas, ready to experience with youthful energy.

Neither being right or wrong—just incredibly different in a profound way.

That evening, we had the blessing of having two visiting musicians for Shabbat. Highly efficient and gifted, they both had mastered the basic functions of the craft.

However, one brought something incredibly unique to the table, something it would take the other decades of trial and error, successes and heartaches, to acquire.

Visiting us that evening with his family was young Logan. He appeared to be around 20-years-old. Accompanied by his mom and dad (who was wearing a handsome Stetson Range 6x cowboy hat) the young man was a fledgling but gifted musician. He was at the Bethany Center not only to hear a renowned master violinist play (and to glean some of this expert’s technique,) but to also be given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play alongside a violin maestro.

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a Russian-Jewish family with a rich musical heritage, Maurice Sklar began playing the violin at age four. By nine he was winning awards, at 13 he was studying with Fredell Lack in Houston, Texas, and at 15 he was accepted at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. At 16, he won a scholarship to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with the great violin teacher, Ivan Galamian. In 1990 Maurice was chosen by Musical America as one of the top ten “Young Artist of the Year,” and for over 13 years, he was Artist in Residence and Professor of Violin at Oral Roberts University.  Awarded a Doctor of Ministry status in 1997, Dr. Maurice Sklar has performed as a soloist with countless orchestras and continues to perform concerts across the country and abroad.

However, it’s not the extensive education and exceptional technique that sets Maurice Sklar apart. It’s the way he has absorbed and interprets his life experiences that have helped shape and mold him—and his music. He has intimately felt the beauty of new life and languished in the bitterness of lost life, and his personal relationships have developed him into the man he is today.

Maurice was in town with his wife, Devorah, to record with us on our new album Desperate for You. Five plus decades of life experience have made their way into the living cells of Maurice’s psyche, from the innermost man to the outer most exterior, synthesized and flowing outwards into his music. The addition of his life experience to the production of Desperate for You has been an incredible blessing.

That evening, on what would be a landmark moment in young Logan’s life, the plan was for this duo to play a Bach concerto together. Many of us in the audience understood what a rare and profound experience this must be for the young man—the ability to play alongside a master—and we fervently prayed for him.

And together, they played that Bach concerto.

The notes were the same, the pitch was perfect and the unity in spirit was evident, yet something was different.

In grammar, we have words that sound the same, look somewhat the same and may or may not be spelled the same, yet their meanings are totally different from each other. “Homonyms” can be quite perplexing, for example; bear/bare, board/bored, or the noun “quail” and the verb “quail,” and then there’s the homonym trifecta; to, too, and two.

As I listened to Maurice and Logan play, it appeared to me that I was experiencing a musical homonym.

Individually, each musician was clearly gifted. They knew the notes to play in perfect pitch. Side-by-side they appeared similar. Yet as I listened, it was as though I heard two distinctly different—separate—concertos.

It was then the comparison became evident to me.

Quite simply, their musical interpretations were totally separated from life and it’s many lessons. The color of Maurice Sklar’s music was vibrant and deep, compared to the lovely yet lighter shades of pastel pigment in Logan’s interpretation.

It was a testament to the value of what we learn through life experience.

With every year lived comes a deeper pigment of perspective that adds a richness of color to artistic expression. The experiences of the soul, the “dues” Maurice paid gave him a depth to his music that is seldom demonstrated by youthful artists.

While there is no doubt that youthful exuberance, love, and laughter can fuel artistic expression, it is the profound moments of loss, pain, and regret that feed the creative spirit with emotions that are indescribable. Something only time can provide, and young people often haven’t experienced.

I have found in my own life, that I interpret a song more vividly after a deeply emotional episode than I do when “it is well with my soul.”

This grand musical experience of two men—one seasoned and one just beginning to bloom, was such a strong picture of “What a Difference a Day Makes!”

Maurice gave young Logan a life lesson and musical lesson combined into one exquisite experience. I suspect this experience from a violin master will be, for Logan, a profound moment in time, a moment he will remember and cherish.

Artists interpret life through experience and share that vision in music, art, poetry and in so many other creative expressions. We are all a total of life experience, and there is much to be learned as old blends with new.

Although we would never wish heartache and pain on anyone, it is through difficult experiences that our Creator instills great insight into our spirit.

With each year lived, the notes young artists play will increase in richness and depth, becoming more euphonic as they become more seasoned and wise.

And those of us with some grey in our hair will continue to paint with our gathered colors of time and space. Ever thankful to interpret our world through the colorful experiences of life that have made us who we are today.

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