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Music Mission: Jamaica Edition

This past May, I was invited by Venita MacGorman to travel with the St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church team to Jamaica on a music mission trip. Our goal was to equip the local congregations with enough music reading skills to make use of their new Caribbean hymnal on a regular basis. We did that through music reading sessions with adults and children as well as small group guitar, piano, recorder, and drum sessions.

Since my return from Jamaica. I've had countless people ask: "How was the trip?" My first instinct is just to say, "It was great," and it was. But when I take a moment and reflect I realize that, "It was great," is not really an adequate answer. The truth is that although it was great, it was hard. I've been involved in music education my entire adult life, and my experience in Jamaica was one of the most challenging music education experiences I've ever had. The hours were long, the schedule was rigorous, the resources were not plentiful, and it was HOT! So it was hard, but it was a mission trip - not a vacation; and despite the challenges it was very, very rewarding.

My team taught the adult group sessions and keyboard classes with a mission team colleague named Sally. We were starting from scratch with our classes, but our students were very eager to learn. Sally and I were amazed at how far they came in a very short amount of time. It's very hard as adults to try to learn something completely new from scratch, and it can really make you feel vulnerable. We were so impressed and inspired by the local’s eagerness to play our music games and take a chance on something new. Some of them took pages and pages of notes and asked lots of questions. We had a few ladies that would "reserve" their spots to be in our keyboard classes, and two of them traveled a great distance on the last day just to get more keyboard lessons! Hearing the children and adults singing together on the last day and accompanying themselves with guitars, drums, and keyboards was overwhelming. The look of joy on their faces as they sang and played made all the hard work and long hours completely worth it.

So now when people ask me how the trip was I say, "It was hard, but it was very, very rewarding and inspiring - I hope I can do it again some day."

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