Invitation to Listen

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be talking about “ear training” in the Epiphany Blog. “Ear Training” refers to the part of our mission at EIS to invite people to broaden and deepen their ability to listen to the voice of God.

The first time I ever heard the term “ear-training” was in a music theory course I took my first year of college at Appalachian State University.  I did poorly in the course mainly because of my lack of discipline, but when the instructor, an Alfred Hitchcock look-alike named Mr. Disbro, began to point out the subtle differences in various chordal structures and musical scales, I found myself amazed.  I had sort of been aware of the tones, textures, and qualities of the musical phenomena he exposed to us, but I’d never really identified them.   I had played cello in high school, but my high school orchestra teacher felt he’d accomplished a lot simply by getting us to practice the pieces we were planning to perform in the year-end recital, let alone teaching us the intricacies of music theory.  

Mr. Disbro, however, called us to a higher level and held us to a stricter standard than what I’d been exposed to in high school orchestra.  Now, years later, despite my low grades in the class, I hear depth and texture to Dvorak and Beethoven I never would have known otherwise.  I understand the logic behind key modulations and can discern the quality in performances from symphonic to choral.  All sorts of music – even Bluegrass – are much more alive to me because someone challenged me to train my ear and develop greater depth.

Ear training can also apply to the life of the spirit.  If we’ve never studied how to listen, how to center our spirits, and settle our thoughts, the possibility remains that we’re missing “music” that would otherwise delight us and make us stronger.  What might we be missing because we haven’t learned to listen?

But there are other kinds of trained ears out there.  

Next time – what my redneck dad could hear.

About Drexel Rayford

Drexel has been senior pastor of four churches in Kentucky and Virginia, a psychiatric ward chaplain, denominational bureaucrat, and an erstwhile indie singer/songwriter/story-teller and seeker of authentic human vocation. Currently, Drexel is working at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center in the capacity of The Support Team Network manager, a hospital-based community partnership aimed at nurturing healing communities for discharged patients. He loves kayaking, road cycling, hiking, and all kinds of photography, but he loves his wife Vicki and blended family of three adult children more. He holds a Ph.D. in the Psychology of Religion and a pastoral counseling certificate from the University of Louisville, Department of Psychiatry.
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