I was born into a family of musicians and I was three-years-old when I began playing piano, taught by my mother who is still a piano teacher. I was blessed to be surrounded by music, so much so, that as a preschooler I thought everyone played the piano, it was just what you did — like learning to tie your shoes or write your name.
I knew about quarter notes and Middle-C before I knew about nouns or subtraction. I sang from the time I could speak, bursting out into “Joy to the World!” with the grown-ups at Christmastime, and in the countless videos taken of me as a pre-schooler where you hear my parents behind the camera prompting, “Sarah, what else do you want to sing?
As an elementary schooler, I remember playing with my very awesome karaoke sound machine with a double tape deck, and figuring out how to record and overdub on top of that so that I could sing duets with myself on tape (Did I mention I am also an only child?). ”Part of Your World,” “Colors of the Wind,” and the entire Mariah Carey discography up until about 1996 were favorites, for sure. As the years passed, I continued to sing in choirs, play piano, and grow as a musician, graduating on to harder music. I remember being so excited when I finally got to play out of the piano books that my mother’s “big kids” played out of. As God knitted me in my mother’s womb, He laced in plenty of sonatas and serenades, chorales and cantatas. Yes, I was a musician, but I didn’t fall in love until I was 12.
A little background music for you:
This song that you are (hopefully) hearing now is the reason I fell in love with music. I was 12-years-old, and had spent the better part of a long weekend in January rehearsing choir music in a hotel ballroom with elaborate chandeliers under the direction of Z. Randall Stroope. My peers and I had learned these notes forwards and backwards before we all came to Tampa to put it together. We already had the notes, but in that weekend we learned how to make music: rich, beautiful, lush, beyond-our-years music, music with weight and importance, music that said something we had been trying to say. I don’t believe I’m too presumptuous to speak for all of us when I say that we learned about the sacrifice, the tension and the growing pains that come with turning notes on a page into something worth saying, something worth hearing. I find it difficult to really put into words what this song has meant to me, but as they say, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture,” so I’m not going to sweat it. I hope you’ll hear it for yourself.
Since then, I have fallen in love many times over with everything from Stravinsky to The Civil Wars, Rachmaninoff to Justin Timberlake, Dashboard Confessional to Derek Webb, Ned Rorem to Stevie Wonder… and all the other many gaps in between. And no, it’s not all beautiful, and it’s not all worth saying or hearing — but you don’t have to look very far to find that there are so many beautiful things that have been said in so many gloriously different ways through music.
Measure me, sky!
Tell me I reach by a song
Nearer the stars:
I have been little so long.
Weigh me, high wind!
What will your wild scales record?
Profit of pain,
Joy by the weight of a word.
Horizon, reach out!
Catch at my hands, stretch me taut,
Rim of the world:
Widen my eyes by a thought.
Sky, be my depth;
Wind, be my width and my height;
World, my heart’s span:
Loneliness, wings for my flight!