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Life Lessons Learned at the Organ from My Mother by Teresa Posey Miller

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

We all learn important life lessons from our mothers.  As she retires from 40 years as organist of Second Baptist Church, here are just a few of the lessons my mother, Ann Posey, has modeled for me: 

Take every opportunity to grow
Mom is really smart.  She skipped a year or two in school and graduated from the University of Alabama early, so when she started her first teaching job at a little junior college in Mississippi, she was very quiet about her age because she was the same age or younger than her students!  Over a holiday break, she was the substitute accompanist at her home church where Dad just happened to be the minister of music, and she took the opportunity and accepted his offer to drive her home from choir practice one night and the rest, as they say, is history.  They married, and in 1965 Dad had accepted the job as band director at William Jewell College (I was eight weeks old).  Soon after, mom took the opportunity to be an adjunct piano teacher at the college. Later, in 1976, when dad did a sabbatical in Vienna, mom took the opportunity to study organ with Peter Planyevasky at St. Stephens Cathedral, Vienna.  So, when Lydia Lovan decided to retire as organist at Second Baptist Church, mom was prepared to take the opportunity to serve as the new organist (I was thirteen). When my sister Dawn was born a few years later, she did not miss the opportunity to keep playing and would sit Dawn in her car seat or on a blanket by the bench while she practiced.  In 1983, when dad taught in Harlaxton, England mom took the opportunity to study organ with Peter Hereford at Cambridge. She later took the opportunity to finish her masters at UMKC. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Music is a skill that requires constant learning.  Mom spends time almost every day “on the bench” practicing, learning and honing her skills. Whenever and wherever she has landed, she has taken every opportunity to grow.

Music is worship and an offering to God
In music, it is easy to make perfection the only goal, and anything less feels like a failure. This has been a stumbling block for me. Mom is not immune to this struggle, but she always nurtures the focus back to worship.  As in our spiritual lives, God accepts us “as is” and we are made perfect only through Him. Through her example, she has gently reminded me that music in worship is not a performance, and not only a tool to help others worship but my own offering as well. 

Music is an inclusive, participatory form of worship
I love that mom has made it her mission to ensure that everyone who plays an instrument from the very youngest beginner at the Christmas Eve service, to the most senior pianist playing “gathering” pre-service music, has a chance to participate. Young, old, professional, beginner or returning musician, mom managed to get almost all of us into the act at one point or another. I think that is why she likes congregational singing and hymns so much. She understands that there is great catharsis in the giving, in the participating, in the doing of music.  Over lunch, the other day, mom confessed what she would miss most was listening to the congregation sing from her vantage point at the organ. Otis (my husband) suggested that she might like listening to her grandchildren sing sitting alongside them in the pew. I have no doubt that she will continue to participate – to play the organ and piano when needed for weddings and memorial services and to sing with us in the pew, enjoying the organ’s sound from a different perspective.

Love what you do/Do what you love
Most musicians love their chosen instrument, but mom’s love of the organ far exceeds the norm. I think mom managed to sweet talk her way into playing the organ in almost every cathedral we visited in Europe. When a benefactor provided for the organ renovation and continued maintenance at 2BC, it was like Christmas morning every day as she consulted in all the details. Remembering her impish delight over the addition of zimbelstern bells and herald trumpets makes me smile. With all the various pipes, stops and registers of the organ, she has an entire orchestra at her fingertips. 

Vocation is the intersection of gifts, passion, and need. Mom found that perfect intersection at Second Baptist and God richly blessed her efforts. I think it is pretty cool that God created us to worship and, through her vocation, she has been able to devote herself wholly to that task. May we all strive to be that successful.

Lead by example
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about change. The people at 2BC who raised me and shaped me into the adult I am are changing too and moving forward into the next phase. I realize that they are still raising me and shaping me – showing me how to approach my future. I know mom will continue to lead by example: learning, making music, and giving in new ways.  

Mom’s master’s recital piece was Charles Widor’s “Toccata” and it has been her theme song over the years. Whenever she plays it, happy memories of Easters and weddings flood my heart and I am amazed at this tiny woman who tames this monster of an instrument, with more than 2000 pipes, 36 ranks, and 99 registrations, her hands flying across three keyboards, pulling stops and pushing buttons and a fourth  keyboard with her feet (!) – literally using her whole mind, body, and heart to praise God. 

Here is a link to her offering of Widor’s “Toccata” on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 – A wonderful exclamation point to her career as organist of Second Baptist Church. It’s worth a listen. I hope you hear her dancing and enjoy the “Hallelujah!" of the amazing community that is 2BC surrounding her at the end. 

Proud to be your daughter. Thankful God chose you to be my mother. 
Love you, Mom.
Teresa Posey Miller

Ann Posey with three of her grandchildren: Davis, Trey, and Claire Miller


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