Ever since I was little, music has been an important part of my life. I grew up listening to a lot of different music, but some that really impacted me throughout my life was music by Keith Green. As a close friend of mine mentioned (I think he was explaining what someone else thought of Keith's music upon listening), Keith really meant what he was singing about. He was authentic in his music and praise towards God.
As I got older, my parents gave me the opportunity to start taking piano lessons in elementary school (maybe around second grade). It was a rich learning opportunity, and I'm really thankful to my piano teacher Mrs D. who took time to teach me a lot about music and how to play the piano. Sadly, though, I didn't make the most of my time back then. I didn't practice all that often (as far as I remember), and I think there could have been more improvement over time if I had done so.
Later, I had the opportunity to be in orchestra for maybe a few years. It was fun to be part of a musical group like that, but I'm not sure how much I liked the violin. I learned a lot, though, but again—I don't think I practice all that much. Thankful to Mr. K who headed up the orchestra for most (if not all) of the time I was in the orchestra. From my memory, I think he was sad to hear that I wasn't going to be in orchestra in high school, though.
At some point after high school, I began to record low quality instrumental recordings on the piano. I think it turned out to be good practice for learning how to improvise a little, though not as complicated as playing something like jazz improvisation.
While I like at least some of the ideas presented and formed in these instrumental recordings, the recording quality and playing quality (e.g., missed notes, inconsistent timing, or other issues) left a lot to be desired. I think a friend of mine (T) encouraged me to re-record some of these a long time ago. Sadly, I still haven't gotten to that point.
In the past, though, there was a point where I started working on transcribing at least one of the instrumental songs (A Walk Home), but it might be worth redoing that sometime.
But the direction of this music work in life began to take another direction after encouragement from friends and after spending time in a place far away.
There were times where I tried writing some sort of poetry back in high school, but for some reason I didn't think about putting those types of words with music back then. By 2004, though, I was writing simple songs. But there was a lot of room for improvement. Also, I think my singing sounded really nasally at the time.
Around this time, I also was singing a lot of praise songs and cover songs. When I was studying abroad, this practice continued for a while. Towards the end of the study abroad time, however, there were some new songs being written as well, like Desert and Osaka Song. Of the two songs, however, I think Osaka Song was something that tries to share a deeper meaning.
One of the side effects of singing a lot of praise songs and cover songs over time was that it was getting easier to sing and play songs. Though I know God gives gifts and abilities, I think taking the time to practice more can possibly help nurture musical gifts. That is something I've been coming back to, at the time of this writing in November 2021, in that I want to be willing to practice more and not get too busy (or lazy) to practice singing/playing music.
When I began singing songs in front of people, I think it was tough. There are times where it's hard for me to speak in front of people with any sort of confidence—though it might depend on the topic. I think singing in front of people can be difficult because it can be hard to hide your emotions when singing. Also, I think it's easy to fear what people might think if I make a mistake while singing or playing music (which I've done a lot). I think it can get easier to play music in front of people, but I think the fear factor is still there to some extent. Maybe it's comparable to walking on a high wire—maybe it gets easier once you get used to doing something enough times, but there's still the potential to make mistakes in front of an audience.
In reality, though, I want to be looking for God's approval rather than an audience's approval.
Over time, I found out that I like to tell stories in music to some extent. Maybe this was partly from seeing past examples of musical concept projects or things like modern day musical rock-related operas. But just like how I generally like serial stories over a short story (for example, a TV drama over a movie), I often like to break up these types of musical stories into "smaller" pieces.
One of the earliest story projects that I've had the opportunity to work on is the "Life of Christ" project over many years. For a while, I had the opportunity to come up with a song for an annual talent show event at my church. Over time, songs related to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ kept being written year to year. For now, many of these songs are informally part of the overall "Life of Christ" project.
Another project, though not as important, that relates to telling a story through song is the "Dream World" project. This was a project that allowed me to try out some different approaches to songwriting and music composition. It turned out to be an ambitious project, however, and I haven't gotten very far in the production of the project.
Throughout these projects, I've learned a lot about trying to tell a story through a song. Unfortunately, however, sometimes I wonder if songs were really meant to be used for this purpose. I think it can be difficult for the audience to know what's going on in a song if one main person is singing the parts for different characters in the story. Maybe these projects would work better if more people sang the different parts.