At the recent gathering of some YouthCUE directors in Newport Beach we were all asked to prepare a 6 minute CueTALK.  Here is mine!

The App on my phone says Lazy CD Free. The CD is for “countdown”. 

Today, the number in the square is 486. The countdown? It started on May 30, 1968 the day I turned 16, it will end on May 30, 2017. 

You see, on that day I will receive the last pay check I will ever receive for being gainfully employed. Every one of you in this room have a count down going. 

For some of you, the number in the square is 16,425 if you are 20 years old. For others, the number is 12,775 if you are 30 years old. And, of course, that assumes that you, like me, will retire at the age of 65. 

Regardless of the number on your countdown, if, as they say, “the Lord tarries” or chooses to take you home earlier than expected, every one of your numbers will eventually reach zero. 

What will you have discovered about life, about directing student choirs, about loving kids when your number hits zero?

Since I have one of the lowest numbers in the room, let me tell you some of the things that I have discovered as my time to weekly direct (w-e-e-k-l-y) students choirs comes to an end. 


Change is the only Constant


I began directing youth choirs in 1968 (actually Tom Mosley directed the choir, I was the student director, script writer and drama director). In that day, we had the full length youth choir musical. Read that—”Broadway eat your heart out.” 

There might have been only 3 decent songs in the entire musical, but nevertheless you sang them all. Yes, we sang the “we are three kings” from Celebrate Life—even though, we probably shouldn’t have. 

Have you even known anyone for whom, instead of change being the only constant, CONSTANT was the only CONSTANT? 

I worked on staff with a Music Minister, who is now deceased. He lived like that. In the 1950s his music ministry was on the cutting edge in all of the USA. He started things in churches that became national institutions. 

But, he was stuck there—the 1950s. 

By the time I came on staff there in 1974 as the Associate Minister of Music The cutting edge moved on, he didn’t. 

There are some advantages to ministry like that, if you are no longer on the cutting edge, there are way fewer sparks to worry about. Parents don’t ever question what you are doing because, unfortunately, no one cares any longer what you are doing. 

In my nearly 50 years of ministry, I have had so many mid-course corrections that you would wonder if my ministry ship even HAD a navigator. 

But even THIS year, with the 34th high school choir that I have directed just at Tallowood, even this year, I have to make changes in 2016 to literature, approach, scheduling, and parent relations, that I was not planning to have to make when the school year began. 

But I better make them—because Change is the only Constant. 

A second thing that I have learned from directing youth choirs about reaching end of days is this: 


Figure out a way to leave it all behind. 


Let’s all join in singing, “Let it go, let it go. . . . ” Yes, youth choir is YOUR baby! 

It’s MINE! 

Well, MINE and God’s, but, as Andrew Rannells sang in the Book of Mormon—but mostly MINE!

When it comes time to hand over the reigns of the choir you love, whether because your number has reached zero, or it is time to pass the choir to the new associate on the block, pass it. 

Don’t hold to mane of even ONE of the horses—like the old song says, Pass it ON! The alternative? 

I saw it played out before my eyes with a minister whom I will NOT name, but should I name them, everyone in this room would know who I am speaking of. 

He criticized everyone who followed him with impunity. He didn’t reach his zero with the dignity that I hope to have—that we should all hope to have. 

Decide right now, that, just like “Home, Home on the Range” for you—”never is heard a discouraging word.” 


When it is time to let it go, celebrate every success of your successor—and let the challenges that he or she will have to face, be just that, theirs and only theirs to face.


Don’t Judge the Person by the Cover 


Finally, the last thing that I hope to carry with me as I step away from the full time music ministry is this: 

We all have had those perfect students come through our ministries. They are talented, good-looking, popular, have great parents, and perfect attendance. We LOVE having those. (and may their tribe increase) 

But through the years, the kids that are less talented, less good looking, a bit less popular and, sometimes, the kids that make you pull your hair out! (just saying, I had a full head of hair when all of this started editors note: bald, yep, that’s me!) 

It’s THOSE kids who come back, years later and say something like: “remember, that time when all of THAT was happening and you said to me THIS” I rarely remember it, but they can’t forget it. 

As I head into retirement, it is a cliche, but you can’t judge a book by its cover. In my most cherished relationships I want to look deep inside and see what God is doing in them and celebrate that. I would even love to be a part of that. 

So, what’s YOUR number?