Two Sundays. Two Sacrament meetings. Two different wards. Two Primary Programs. One revelation:
Primary Music Leaders rock!
Two weeks ago I was able to watch my seven-year-old son and four-year-old daughter participate in our ward's Primary Program. I sat and beamed with satisfaction as they spoke their parts and sang the songs they have been rehearsing since the Sunday after the 2007 Primary Program ended. Last Sunday we were in Georgia spending time with family and were able to see their ward's Primary sacrament meeting as well. After witnessing the back-to-back junior versions of Music and the Spoken Word, I came to better appreciate Primary Music Leaders everywhere. These two Sisters leading the songs were on fire! But before I get into that, a little background may be helpful.
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Primary Music Leaders. You see, when I was a kid in Primary I used to purposefully change the lyrics to the songs in an attempt to be funny. Take the song "Love One Another", for example. The correct lyrics at the end of the song are, "By this shall men know, Ye are my disciples, If ye have love, One to anooooooooooother." My version of the song went like this: "By this shall men know, Ye are motorcycles, If ye have love, One two three foooooooooooour five." I always thought it would be ironic to get the Primary Music Leader to flip out on me after singing "Love One Another", but those good Sisters never took the bait.
I was also one of the kids who yelled, "Eee-Eee!" after every line in "Book of Mormon Stories", but I can hardly be solely blamed for that one. You did it too. Admit it! You did. Does this sound familiar? "Book of Mormon stories that my teacher tells to me (Eee-Eee!), Are about the Lamanites in ancient history (Eee-Eee!) Aaaahhh, memories (Eee-Eee's!) Again, those patient Sisters never yelled at me, they just kept on magnifying their callings.
While I did everything humanly possible to be an annoying little twerp in Primary, the music that I learned was very important in my spiritual progression as a child. I always felt the Spirit when we sang the boy/girl "Mine Is a Home....." and "I See My Mother Kneeling..." song (Love is Spoken Here?) I used to try to drop my voice an octave or two when I sang about the priesthood and it helped me to appreciate having parents who lived the gospel and loved their family. While I do not remember many of my actual childhood Primary lessons, the music has stuck with me throughout my adult life and I still to this day find myself occasionally humming a Primary tune. Well, either a Primary song or something from Sing Star Pop Version 2, but it's all good.
Now, back to the reasons I was left so impressed with the Primary Music Leaders that I just witnessed in action. After watching these Sisters lead the music, I realized that a good Primary Music Leader must have four important qualities (you can vote on which is most important):
1) Drill Sargent
2) Saturday Night Live Cast Member (Minus the coarse debauchery)
3) Multilingual Interpreter
4) Warshack Test Administrator
The Drill Sargent - It is a minor miracle that a Primary Music Leader can look at fifty kids and get them to stand up and sit down on cue with just a raise of her hands. How do they do this? Seriously. It sometimes takes us seven minutes to get our two kids to sit down at the dinner table, and that's even after we threaten to withhold dessert. Yet somehow the PML can control their every move as if they were programmable robots, like Vicki from the TV show Small Wonder. Or Dakota Fanning. They can also get the kids to sing louder or softer and smile bigger by simply gesturing. Amazing.
SNL Cast Member - The pressure to perform is on every single Sunday for the PML to do something fresh and innovative. She has to devise creative games, prizes, contests, props and pictures to keep things new and exciting during music time. As soon as she starts recycling material, she will lose her audience. Once a week for 48 weeks it's lights! Camera! Singing Time!
Multilingual Interpreter - Between the two Primary Programs we watched I think we heard or saw the children sing in nineteen languages, including English, Spanish, Spanglish, French, Sign Language, Chinese, Latin, Sweedish, Vulcan, Ebonics, Panguitchian and Mental Telpathy. How does one woman pull this off? From one song to the next she may be saying, "Erin - you're stressing the wrong syllable in 'bautismo' - it's bow-TEEEES-mo, not BOW-tees-mo." Then, "Mike, you need to bring your left hand higher when you are making the ASL sign for love!" Talk about the gift of tongues in action.
Warshack Test Administrator - One of the keys to being a successful PML is having the ability to make signs that represent the words that need to be sung. This is a particularly important skill since most kids in the United States between the ages of 3-12 cannot read anything beyond the controls of their iPods. I am always sitting behind the PML and cannot see the pictures that get held up to prompt the kids, but it has to be hard drawing images that represents song lyrics like, "...down in the River Jordan....." How do you draw that? Here is what I would be holding up:
Okay, the kids today might not get the River Phoenix reference, but it goes to show how much creativity the PML's must have to come up with enough of these things to last an entire 45-minute program.
So, for all of you Primary Music Leaders out there, thank you! Thank you for the energy. Thank you for the creativity. Thank you for the patience. Thank you for inviting the Spirit. Thank you for drilling uplifting songs into our heads. Thank you for teaching my kids. Thank you for surviving one difficult Sunday every October or November. Thank you for magnifying your callings.
You are all an inspiration to me.