Parable # 20: Little Missed Key Signature

A Parable by Donald Lee

(This week is the 23rdinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about sacred scripture. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)

All the troubles of the Church, all the evils in the world, flow from this source: that men do not by clear and sound knowledge and serious consideration penetrate into the truths of Sacred Scripture.

SAINT TERESA OF AVILA – (Sixteenth-century Spanish nun, mystic, reformer, and theologian)

“E natural. E natural. Flutes, you’re killing me!”

The high school band was learning a sing-along medley of traditional Christmas carols. After one verse of each carol, we modulated into another key for one verse of the next carol. The younger students in particular were not used to changing keys so often. In case you’re not familiar with reading music, the key signature tells you what notes to use. Key signatures are sort of like road signs, alerting you to what’s coming up. For example, if you cross the border on a road trip and see the sign that says, “Welcome to Canada,” you know the legal drinking age is eighteen and you can smoke marijuana. Yahoo! When you return home and see the sign that says, “Welcome to the United States of America—land of the free and home of the brave,” you know you’d better get rid of the booze and the dope. If you forget . . . uh-oh! (At least in 2019, when I’m writing this.)

In band, we have lots of “uh-ohs” when we change keys. I repeatedly answered questions like “What’s D-flat?” and “What’s C-sharp?” Sweet Avery was one of those asking. She was an earnest student, but if I had a nickel for every time I told her the flute fingering for D-flat, I could have retired five years ago.

“It’s easy. Everything up. Lift up all your fingers and you’ll get a D-flat—same note as C-sharp.”

The flute section sits in the front row, so there’s no escaping them. Hearing them repeatedly assault my ears with a discordant mixture of Es and E♭s, Ds and D♭s, Bs and B♭s, was like driving my conductor’s baton right through my poor band director’s heart. In my despair, it just popped out of my mouth.

“Another missed key signature! Avery. Little Miss Key Signature. Hey, I think I just found a new nickname for you: ‘Little Missed Key Signature.’ Get it? Missed key signature?”

They didn’t all get it. It took quite a while for everyone to groan. Naturally, students don’t all catch on at the same speed, either to key changes or to my terrible jokes.

“Avery, only you can make your flute play in the correct key. It’s in your hands. Please play in the same key as everyone else.”

Avery giggled. “I’m just expressing my individuality.”

“Don’t fool yourself, Avery. You’re not fooling me. Errors and sloppy playing don’t express your individuality. They express your incompetence.”

“Mr. Lee! That’s rude.” She feigned insult.

“It’s not rude, Avery. It’s just honest—blunt, but honest. That was to counter your dishonesty. You have to be alert to the key signatures. They’re like the signs on the road. I’ve noticed that you’ve been studying the traffic laws to get your driver’s license. You have to know what the signs mean, then you have to do what the signs tell you. Otherwise we have chaos on the roads—cars run into each other, and people get hurt. Sometimes you’ll come across a policeman who gives you instructions that are different from the signs. The policeman’s instructions overrule the signs.

“The key signature tells us what notes to use so that, together, we create harmonious music. Sometimes the conductor will be like a policeman and give you different instructions than are written in the music. The conductor can overrule what’s printed. That’s because there are two rules about the conductor. Rule #1: the conductor is always right. Rule #2: if the conductor is wrong, refer to rule #1.”

More groans.

“Let’s try it again. “Joy to the World” in the key of C major.”


Life’s like that. We have to play the music of life in the correct key—the key of God. After all, it’s his universe we’re playing in. The key signatures let us know how to make harmonious music in our lives. They help us to live, work, and create beauty in our lives instead of creating discord, division, and disaster. What are the key signatures in life? Sacred writings—the BibleGod’s instruction book. I know it’s a big book, a library, really, and it takes work to understand it. But the reward is worth the effort. After all, spiritual growth is the most important thing in life. It’s what we’re here for.

I particularly like the teachings of Jesus, but many other sacred writings are great as well. Over the millennia, God has revealed himself and his guidance through prophets and visionaries. We have at our fingertips a vast body of sacred literature—from the most ancient right up to our own time. We don’t all catch on to the key signatures of life at the same speed. In fact, most people ignore God’s key signatures. Yet we cannot make harmonious lives without them. Read. Start with whatever sacred writing you choose—but read.

Like Avery, only we can play our lives in the correct key. Most of us play in our own key, then wonder why there is so much disharmony in our lives. The more we read and observe God’s key signatures, the better we harmoniously connect to the Divine and create Divine music in our lives.

Key signatures are the composer’s road signs for the musicians. Sacred scriptures are the Great Composer’s road signs for our lives.

Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website:, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini e-book and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook

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