Singing the praises

keys_treble_clef_music_notes_74359_2560x1440by Brandon Pafford, Choir Director

Greetings from the TCS Choir Director! Teaching choir is a fascinating position with many challenges and rewards and I am honored and blessed to teach at TCS. I love working with the students on the aspect of music making. In my first TCS blog post, I’d like to share a little about myself as well as what I am trying to achieve at TCS.

My journey as a pianist began under the tutelage of my piano teacher-mother. I vaguely remember being given a choice to either do dishes or practice piano after supper. In our house of mostly boys (Dad, two brothers, and myself), Dad made it a rule whoever cooked does not do the dishes… In high school I enjoyed making music at the piano and took that skill to college. Then I earned an undergraduate and Masters in Piano Performance and a Masters in Accompanying and Chamber Music, and soon I was working as a musician in Houston.

So where does children’s music fit into that, you ask? I asked the Lord the same question when I kept bumping into Neil Anderson around Bethel (my church). The topic of TCS needing music in their curriculum came up each time. I told the Lord, “All I know is piano, theory, music history; not teaching music to children.” But you know the Lord, always stretching and wanting us to go places seemingly foreign for His purposes and not ours.

The blessings were immediate. I experienced satisfaction and fulfillment through tough lessons and students, as well as the Lord’s guiding presence. I realized I had retained a lot through my parents’ years of teaching children’s music at church, experience which I believed the Lord instilled in me from their instruction over my entire childhood.

So my background, albeit void of traditional music education, was preparing me for Trinity. Besides my history, I have specifically trained in a method called Kodàly. Basically, a Hungarian composer sought to make the whole country improve music literacy so that every student could read music when they graduated from traditional schooling. He used the folks songs passed down from generations to instruct students in singing, reading, and creating music. Due to poverty, musical instruments were not as readily incorporated, as in other more prominent European countries. I have found this same method engages students in music.

Think about it: where did you learn “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “London Bridge is Falling Down,” “Ring-around the Rosie,” etc.? Through “classic” folk repertoire, children learn and enjoy music. At TCS I like to take this a step further to traditional Christian folklore, such as “The Wise Man Built His House,” “Deep and Wide,” “I am a C-H, etc. There are literally thousands of folk songs that simplify music to the basics of tuneful singing, rhythm/beat development, and—probably the most important aspect—love of music. You’ve heard those waiters in the restaurant trying to sing “Happy Birthday” haven’t you? They never can quite stay on pitch. Hopefully every TCS student by graduation can not only stay on pitch but also read music.

So those are the basics—but for what? What then do we do with that? I’ve tried to wrestle with this and ask the Lord how to take it a step further. I have two main objectives.The first is that music making through choir or singing is to glorify God. The Psalms are saturated with praising/glorifying God through singing (Psalm 13:6, 18:49, 96:1, 104:33). Scripture clearly tells us to sing. I saw a quote on another music teacher’s window that proclaimed, “Music is what feelings sound like.” It is my prayer that TCS students can learn to sing well in order to express their feelings and grow closer to their Creator.


The second aspect was actually made clearer in last quarter’s morning assembly passage, Romans 12. Of course v. 16 stands out to me because of the musical term “harmony,” but I also hear the theme of “discipline yourself to be selfless.” The word “choir,” derived from Latin chorus, has the meaning of “uttering the same thing simultaneously.” I love the vowel ooo. For some reason a true unison and perfect intonation is achieved. There is something moving when 50+ 3rd graders do that on a single pitch. Why not direct that to the Lord for His glory?

It is my goal at TCS to discipline and teach the students to “live in harmony with one another” through music making to praise and glorify God. I understand if choir is not everyone’s favorite part of TCS. I understand it can be difficult to love and enjoy music when I make them sing silly songs like “Mrs Murphy’s Chowder” (for pitch tuning), or say tah and ti-ti (for rhythmic literacy) or singing solfège hand signs every lesson (do re mi fa sol la ti do for music literacy and pitch recognition). But the overarching goal is for the Lord.

I hope that gives you insight to choir if you’ve never known what really goes on. I also hope you  see the importance of music. I didn’t even mention the studies that say musical training results in improved cognitive skills, higher paying jobs, and literal growth of the size of the brain. That can be another blog entry.

My prayer for your TCS student is to enjoy music and use it to glorify the Lord.