About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“I still haven’t made up my mind whether I shall publish it all. Some people are so humorless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one’s efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them. Most readers know nothing about canon law. Many regard it with contempt and find everything heavy going that isn’t completely lowbrow. Some are so grimly serious that they disapprove of all humor. Others come to different conclusions every time they stand up or sit down. They seize upon your publications, as a wrestler seizes upon his opponent’s hair, and use them to drag you down, while they themselves remain quite invulnerable, because their barren pates are completely bald, so there’s nothing for you to get hold of.”
— St. Thomas More to Peter Gilles, 1516

Don't Tell Me What You Can Do: Show Me
published 13 April 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

930 Ben Carson ANY ASPECTS of Dr. Ben Carson’s life are inspiring. His mother made him complete book reports every week when he was growing up. Carson didn’t realize that his mother (completely illiterate) couldn’t read his reports. He kept doing them because she gave him no choice in the matter. He eventually became a respected neurosurgeon—the first to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head.

However, I don’t believe Ben Carson will be elected president, and the reason can be tied to church music. Let me explain.

Dr. Ben Carson is attempting to go from having never held public office to the highest seat in the land. Everyone agrees that being governor of a state—for example—is easier than being president of all fifty states. If Dr. Carson, or Ross Perot, or any other civilian wants to be elected to the highest office, the least they can do is govern a state for a few years. If their ideas are sound, they will have no problems running that state; and they can then seek the presidency. Nobody would accept an argument which says, “Although incapable of properly running a single state, I would be capable of running all fifty states.”

HAVE YOU GUESSED ALREADY what this has to do with church music?

Anyone who’s been involved with church music soon realizes that everybody has advice for you. This is especially true on the internet. Some people spend all day criticizing other church musicians. They will pontificate for hours and hours. What they will never do is post actual recordings of their choirs. Believe it or not, the ones who pontificate the loudest usually have never conducted a choir before. Don’t forget that directing a choir is extremely difficult. The obstacles often seem insurmountable. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the entire world.

Anyone can talk about church music. The quickest way to silence somebody—especially on the internet—is by politely asking, “Why not post a recording of your choir from last Sunday?”

While teaching at the CMAA colloquium, I once used this tactic on someone who’d been loudly critical of efforts by the various groups. The fellow pulled me aside and said:

“Oh, I can’t show you how my choir sounds; I don’t have one. I got fired as assistant organist more than a decade ago. Moreover, I’ve never had a choir bigger than 3-4 people because my singers kept quitting, saying they can’t stand the way I direct.”

I was speechless!  I gently suggested something to the effect of, “Perhaps you should go easier on the CMAA directors, considering your own attempts.”

Years ago I knew a carpenter who constantly bragged about how great he was. Once, he was trying to get hired to work on a house, and I could hear him bragging to the foreman. The foreman immediately cut him off:

“Here’s a hammer. Don’t tell me what you can do: show me.”

Construction workers are not generally known for their eloquence, but I’ll never forget those words.