Parable # 27: We Have to Perform

A Parable by Donald Lee

(This week is the 30thinstallment 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 “doing” It’s not enough to just think and speak. Action is necessary. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)

The real test of a musician is live performance.NEIL PEART (Drummer for the band Rush)

“Come on, everybody, let’s get set up and ready to play. We’ve got lots of work to do today. Our Christmas concert is in two weeks.” The grade-eight band students were gradually wandering in and preparing for the rehearsal—with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

“Mr. Lee, do we have to have a concert? Why can’t we just have band class but no concerts?” Lindsay flopped into her chair like a rag doll and flicked her head to toss her auburn curls over her shoulder. She had that whiney moan of a thirteen-year-old who doesn’t want to do the dishes.

I was shocked. The thought seemed like sacrilege. Music is a performing art. How could Lindsay question the very foundation of this massive educational edifice we call band?

“Of course we have to perform, Lindsay. Your parents want to hear your beautiful music.” I tried to sound calm and nonchalant.

“Not mine. They don’t care,” was Lindsay’s flippant comeback. She casually pulled parts of her clarinet from her case and slid them together.

“I don’t believe that. Your parents care about you. They care about what you’re doing in school, and they care about your music. And even if none of that is true—I care. And so should you.”

I could not let this mortal stab at the heart and soul of music, at my heart and soul, go without a counterattack.

“Listen, everyone. This is important. Performance is essential for many reasons. Our performances are goals, rewards, tests, and achievements all rolled into one. If we had no performance to work toward, there would be no reason to work at all. It really wouldn’t matter if we played the right notes or the wrong notes if we learned something new or just played the same song a hundred times. We would quickly find the whole exercise a waste of time and no fun at all. The concert is our goal. It gives us a reason to learn and justification for our effort. Concerts in band classes are like the final exams in other classes. We work toward them, and when we play well, we have a profound sense of achievement and satisfaction.”

“I’d be satisfied to just play in class.” Lindsay was stubbornly unrepentant. At least by this time she had assembled her clarinet and was searching the case for a reed.

“You wouldn’t be satisfied for long. Sometimes I’ve had grand intentions of practicing my clarinet really hard. But if I had no upcoming performance, my efforts quickly dribbled away. Every little distraction became more important than practicing. Only when I have something to practice for do I actually practice. And I like practicing.

“There’s an even bigger lesson here. Music is a microcosm of life. We are built to do, built for action. Our human bodies and minds atrophy if we don’t actually do things with them. We have to move, work, learn, produce—to experience what it is to be in this physical body in this physical world. That’s how we find meaning in life, how we express what it is to be alive and to become what we are meant to be.

“Of course, there’s the spiritual dimension as well. We are here for a purpose. God put us here to do something. We find our mission, experience our mission, fulfill our mission—all by performing—that is, by doing. So performance is not optional in this life. It is life itself.”

Almost all the students were ready to play by this time. Even Lindsay’s resistance had been worn down by my long-windedness.

Let’s play music.


In the great performance cycle of life, there would be no cycle at all, in fact, no life, if there was no performance. We must do. It is the necessary third part of the creative process: thought, word, action. We thought about the music we wanted to create. We held the sound of it in our minds. We spoke it—talked about the music as we were practicing, what it should sound like, and how to get that sound. Now we have to do it. Then we will create the music, and, more importantly, we will create ourselves as the musicians we imagined ourselves to be. Being is the ultimate step of creation. We must think, speak, do—then we are. We must experience what it is to be musicians. Then we are musicians.

“We must experience what it is to be musicians. Then we are musicians.”

Our purpose in life is to become musicians—metaphorically—to constantly become that ever-changing vision of our highest and best self, in the same way, musicians constantly strive to improve. Life’s performance cycle can be either a virtuous or vicious cycle depending upon what vision of ourselves—what state of consciousness—we choose to create through our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Of course, our daily “performance” happens whether we want it to or not. We are thinking, speaking, and acting at every moment, so we are constantly creating our experience. The real question is, are we consciously creating ourselves from that vision of our highest and best self, or is our daily experience simply an unconscious reaction to everything in the world around us? It’s far more satisfying to consciously create ourselves. Why not give it a try? Because either way, we have to perform.

Performance is the necessary third part of the creative process. We constantly create ourselves—in our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Create your best self.

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 eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.

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