The Page Turn – Lessons from a Piano Teacher
If you took piano lessons like me, you remember sitting on the piano bench with the teacher at your right side. I looked at the sheet music with my eyes while my untrained hands learned how to translate notes, flats, sharps, clefs, rests, and time signatures into music. Starting out, the songs were one page. As I got better, the songs grew longer and extended into two pages.
Eventually, I crossed the monumental threshold of two pages into the world of three pages and beyond. But what do you do when you come to the end of page two and try to get to page three? This is why the piano teacher was seated at my right. She turned the page for me. She helped me get to where I was going.
As I approached the end of page two, playing the notes fast and furiously, when I was ready, I gave her the nod, and she turned the page. Something interesting happens in that page turn. There is a moment where you don’t have any music in front of you. A transition. If the page turn is swift, this is a brief moment. Before that page turn is complete, there is a point of musical and mental limbo. In this moment, it’s your gut. It’s muscle memory. It’s instinct. It can be all of those things. Whatever you play in those moments has to be inside of you. You don’t have any visual reference to play from. You know where you’re going and you are flying free.
When I first tried to learn the page turn it was hard. I remember the teacher telling me “Always know where you’re going.” I believe this is valuable advice.
In the page turn, there is a wonderful combination of being in the moment, playing music from memory, but also being keenly aware of where the music is taking me, and where I’m trying to go with the song.
Could the page turn have something to teach us today as we lead worship? As worship leaders, we need to be prayerfully aware of where we are going. Where is God leading us personally? How is He directing our congregation? What are the songs that bring Him glory? What are the messages our church family needs to hear? What struggles and victories are going on in the life of the worship teams we shepherd?
If our faces are too locked down on page two of the sheet music, we’ll be caught off guard when page three comes. If we haven’t learned what it’s like to fly free in moments of unscripted worship, we can miss a potentially beautiful worship experience.
For some of us leaders, we are afraid to turn the page. We’re stuck on page one or two. We like to stay there because it is comfortable. It’s warm and cozy. The thought of turning to page three is intimidating. We would rather stick with what we know than venture out into the unknown. Sometimes, powerful kingdom work awaits us in the unknown.
For others, we are flipping through the pages too fast. We are convinced that we accomplish greatness by delivering the latest songs, performing vocal gymnastics, and killer riffs, but we’ve run so far ahead of our congregation, we don’t even see it. We’re creating music, but we’re not leading worship. We’re leaving the people we lead in the dust. They just can’t keep up.
As I kept practicing, in piano lessons and piano competitions, eventually I learned to turn the pages myself. I found comfort there. When you get to the point where you can turn the pages for yourself you have a greater sense of where you’re going and what it takes to get there. You find your pace. You find your rhythm. You are making your music.
I believe you can find the perfect pace and rhythm for your church. If you ask God for the wisdom to lead you, He will. If you pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you, He will. God has put you in your church for this very time in history. Maybe you will be there for a few months, or a few years, or a few decades. Time will tell. But as long as you are leading, look out at your congregation and be aware that God has put these people in front of you to lead. Nobody can lead them like you. Nobody can be you, like you.
Be yourself. Be real. Lead well.
Check out Doug’s book The Worship Unicorn– a book reminding us that we need true worshippers. Not just imitators, or song leaders, but true worship leaders.