We Didn’t Sing at All

Resource Type: Articles
Topics: Church | Family | Music | Singing

For this article, I asked my pastor, Kevin Brechbill, about his experiences with singing. This interview is part of a series of articles on how best to encourage music.

Lynn Martin: What’s your experience with music?

Kevin Brechbill: I grew up appreciating music, but my family didn’t sing, and we weren’t all that musically inclined. But I saw other families loving music and singing together, so that created value in my mind toward singing. From a church standpoint, I saw an abundance of value—for example, in youth getting together to sing, and sing well. I realized that singing isn’t something you can just let it happen.

Some people seem to sing naturally, but in general, if you don’t put energy into it, you won’t learn to do it well, and then neither will you enjoy it.

My wife came from a singing family and loved singing, so I had it made, in a way. She loved to do the hard work of teaching my children and she started to teach them the value of music. Now most of our children love to sing—some of them not as much as others—they got some of my DNA in them.

It does matter that you’re very intentional about learning to sing, because of the value that it brings. For families and youth that sing together, that brings both the value of discipline and the spiritual aspect of music. Music is something where you can continue to grow and grow, and you can pour your energies into it and never regret learning to sing well. That can be really valuable for learning discipline.

For the spiritual side, if you put good music into your mind, it will stay with you for the rest of your life. And I’ve noticed that music speaks to my wife more than to me—it speaks to everybody, which is the beauty of it, but it definitely speaks more to the people who have put energy into music.

LM: Who teaches music in your home?

KB: My wife and her sister taught my children music. There was a lot of one-on-one teaching, teaching them the basics of music and singing with a piano. Most of my children took music the whole way through school.

LM: When did you start connecting with music?

KB: We didn’t sing at all as a family. My dad appreciated music, so he helped lay the foundation for my own appreciation of music, even though our family couldn’t really sing. I will say, as I got into my teenage years, seeing other youth having that passion, I acquired the taste, and I intentionally pursued music a bit to learn to appreciate it.

LM: What are some Bible passages that you employ in understanding why music is important?

KB: I don’t have specific verses. But the book of Psalms is full of praise, and when the patriarchs and prophets praised, they would break into song.

The book of Psalms is full of praise, and when the patriarchs and prophets praised, they would break into song.

It’s how we’re made to be, and you see that all throughout Scripture, from the Old Testament all the way up to the New. And in the New Testament, we are told to sing and praise God as a part of how he wants his disciples to be, to worship him in song. (But when I worship him in song, it’s off tune, so he has to translate it.)

LM: So you do sing sometimes?

KB: I don’t sing publicly, but I do sing privately, like sometimes when listening to a song on the road. I wake up a lot of the time with a song on my mind. I’m not good at memorizing them, but short phrases will be with me.

LM: What types of music are you interested in/do you think much about? 

KB: I’m most interested in hymns and a cappella music. I think that’s going to be lost quicker than anything else. I see lots of value in learning to sing well in church. And going to a singing or program is something I appreciate, as well as people who record their music.

There’s millions of songs out there, and music controls the world in many ways, because of how much people are affected by it and moved by it. From a spiritual standpoint, I’m all for good-quality music being recorded so that Christians have something to listen to. It’s like a good sermon being recorded—you can listen to it over and over. 

All these music mediums have their important place. I don’t think any of them should be discounted at all.

LM: Why do you care about music?

KB: I care about music because of what I think it does to your soul. I think music affects our emotions and is part of who we are. Music a God-given part of us that you can either use to the passions of your flesh or to bring comfort. The Bible mentions how David’s music affected Saul spiritually.

The more you can instill good music and the understanding of the spiritual nature of music in each of us, the better rewards will come of it.

That’s why I pushed for my children to have music lessons when they were young. If you’re like me and can’t make music, you might appreciate it, but you can’t go out and use those tools. I want my children to have those tools so that they can actually experience music well.

LM: How does music affect you? How does it grow you? Does it differ based on the type of music?

KB: It can lift my spirits, and it can put my spirits down. There are certain times in life that if you listen to the right music, it inspires you. And I can see that, in other people that love music with a passion, they are definitely even more affected than I am; and when I see that, it convinces me of how important music is.

Music is one more area where your family can be united. And the more areas you can be united around something healthy and spiritual, the better.

LM: How does music influence a culture? What effects have you seen?

KB: It affects cultures in such incredible ways that I find it hard to communicate them, but I think music is at the core of a lot of movements.

You take a young person that gets involved in bad music—that can affect him the rest of his life. Those songs can be burned into his brain.

Music affects you in deep ways that are hard to put into words. And music is also one of the concerns that every generation has. Preserving good music is one of the reasons why your work at music camp is important.

LM: Have you seen any specific effects that music might have had on any of the communities you’ve associated with?

KB: Music wasn’t a big part of the culture where I grew up. So when I came to a different community, specifically in Shippensburg, I saw a tremendous focus on music that hadn’t been a part of our culture. My original community has changed some—they’ve been trying to make music more a part of their culture, and I’ve seen a lot of good come out of changes like that.

Not only does music have a spiritual side to it, but it’s also just a healthy avenue for youth to pour themselves into. If you don’t have that opportunity, then the youth will do something else that may not be as good for them.

LM: What values do you look for in music?

KB: My answer is yes, but I don’t know how to tell you what they are. There’s music that speaks to the deep things of the soul, maybe even beyond the emotions. I’m not saying that every song has to be so deep that you can hardly smile, but there needs to be room for that kind of music.

Lynn Martin

Lynn Martin serves as administrative assistant at SCMC. Because he loves to sing, he's often been a student at the VA camp and has sung in other choirs too. He writes poetry and edits the Curator (thecurator.org), a publication for Anabaptist poets and writers. He also enjoys such things as theology, playing oboe, and lame jokes.
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