A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dave's Deep Thoughts - In Loving Memory of Dr. Thom

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.
I first met him my first year out of college.
He had quite a reputation
Anyone who was serious about singing
knew of Dr. Thom.
When I took my first position as a school teacher,
I found myself within ten minutes of his home and teaching studio.
I decided that this was a person I needed to meet
so I called him and arranged for a vocal analysis.
I walked into his Victorian home
deep into the heart of Amish country
fully intimidated by this man
who was a vocal coach to opera & Broadway singers.
What I could not see
was that this was the beginning
of a 33 year coaching relationship and rich friendship.
His studio was filled with stacks of pedagogy books and songbooks.
Photos of well known singers
from the past and present
graced the walls.
Singing that first song in front of him
was more terrifying than
singing in front of a thousand people.
When my song was done, He spoke.
He spoke kindly.
He spoke with great insight.
He spoke as though he had known me for years.
He spoke as though I was his son,
because he considered me (and all his students)
as his vocal children.
To those that we ourselves would go on to teach,
he considered them his vocal grandchildren.
He was a man of great wit.
5 years later when I relocated back to my hometown,
I mentioned in my next lesson that it took me
ninety minutes to reach his studio as compared to the
ten minutes in my first years with him.
Within a few minutes,
he let me know of a student who was
flying in from Germany to take a lesson.
Lesson learned.
My living circumstances changed
several times during the next 5 years
but I was able to remain a part
of his teaching studio.
Bi-weekly trips into Manhattan
to his New York studio when I lived on Long Island......
Summers home from grad school in California,
I would return to his studio.
An hour with Dr. Thom
was not just about singing.
Through the years,
he would come to know about my family,
my work,
my hobbies,
my stresses,
my joys & disappointments,
my faith.
And I came to know much about him.
It didn't take long to know that
Dr. Thom lived out of a deep well of faith.
A scripture would be cleverly
thrown into a teaching situation.
We encouraged each other
through the death of parents.
When I took a two year break to build my home,
he would email me with encouragements.
When he underwent surgeries following an auto accident,
I would send cards and emails to speed his recovery.
This past summer,
my dear friend and teacher Dr. Thom died
suddenly of a heart attack,
one week after my last lesson.
When I heard the news,
something inside me felt like it died.
That is,
until the memorial service.
Three weeks later,
in his church, 4 blocks down from his home,
600 friends and students from across the country & world
came to honor the man
who had so profoundly touched their lives.
Many wonderful words were spoken,
but there was no greater tribute
then when his vocal children arose,
and collectively sang a version of the 23rd psalm,
without rehearsal.
The voices soared throughout the sanctuary
and ultimately to the heavens
as the legacy of Dr. Thom revealed itself.
We meet people who touch us and shape us
into being persons we could not otherwise have become.
Those who are wise
realize when we have met such a person,
and have longingly dipped into the well of that person's spirit,
that we are sent to do likewise.
Dr. Thom,
I thank you for all that you were and are in my life.
Lord, Jesus,
I thank you for blessing our lives
with such people,
so that we may go and humbly do the same.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for Thou art with me.
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23

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