“I will sing of the love of the LORD forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” Psalm 89:1

Music has always been a very important part of my life. From my earliest days I loved to sing and my family sang together every time we traveled by car, no matter how long or short the trip. We learned many great hymns – all the verses – by heart as we harmonized and sang together.

I have few regrets in life, but I do have regrets involving music. As an elementary student I began piano lessons. But like many kids I didn’t have the motivation and discipline to continue. That is now a major regret for me. Oh how I wish that I could play the piano. The Lord did bring Grammy into my life and because she disciplined her self to practice and learn to play, she has become a marvelous pianist. I could sit for hours and listen to her play. It is so relaxing and enjoyable. I hope that you never have a similar regret. If you have the opportunity to take piano lessons, please do it and practice faithfully. It is very hard work, but it is a skill that you will use for a lifetime.

My first “public” singing experience happened in fifth grade when I was “asked” to sing in a boy’s trio in church at Christmas. We sang “We Three Kings” and I sang as a solo the verse that starts with “Frankincense to offer have I …”. What a way to begin my “public singing career”!

I began to take trombone lessons at school in fifth grade and by seventh grade I was invited to play in the high school band. Some of my greatest memories in high school were the parades, football performances, and concerts, which we performed. Two of my best friends also played trombone and we had fun playing music together. I also enjoyed playing with brass ensembles at Christmas and in the Moravian Trombone Choir at Easter. But, another regret is that I never learned to play by ear and I eventually stopped playing as I got older.

I also began to sing in the high school choir when I was in seventh grade. Our school was small and they needed tenors badly. This was a tremendous opportunity and for six years I was able to develop my voice and singing skills which I’ve used all of my life. I qualified for District Chorus several times. During these years I also had the opportunity to lead our first church choir. Since many of our singers couldn’t really read music, I used to print out the four parts in different colors.

College provided new opportunities to share my love of music. In our freshman dorm, a number of us would gather evenings, in a stairwell, and sing arrangements of all types of music written for men. Our group actually became good enough that we were invited to sing as the Singing Crusaders at several college functions during my freshman and sophomore years. At church four of us formed a young men’s quartet and we sang for fun as well as in some of the Sunday evening services.

However, one of my greatest experiences came when during my freshman year I was asked to sing the baritone part in the Gospel F our. This was a group that sang every Sunday morning on a live, 15 minute, radio broadcast on WKOK in Sunbury. At 9 a.m. we’d go live with five old southern gospel numbers and a brief meditation by Grandpa Wolf. I sang with this group for four years while in college and then for several summers while I attended Bucknell. Sometimes we were good; sometimes we were bad (actually very bad). We never missed – we sang with colds and sore throats and during snowstorms. When we were done we’d race across town to attend Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. We sang again in church each Sunday evening and sometimes were invited to sing in other churches.

While I was with them, on December 30, 1962, we sang our 1,500th broadcast. For the first few years I sang we sang without any accompaniment, but the last few years we were helped by a piano. All programs were done live except for the week when we went to Mizpah and then we used a taped program. These were fun times and one of the valuable lessons I learned was that of faithfulness. As I said, they never missed a program. I think they sang for about 20 more years, using dozens of people to fill in. I thank the Lord for allowing me to be part of this special ministry that I still miss.

During these years Grammy and I began to sing duets. Our first duet, “In The Secret Service of Prayer” was sung at a mission in Binghamton, New York, when we were visiting the Dercks. One of the first duets we sang in Sunbury was “Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul”. The Lord allowed us to sing hundreds of times over the years until my voice began to go bad in my later years.

Music was a vital part of our family ministry and it included solos, duets, and family numbers. In our summer programs for children, in addition to our regular choruses, we always taught a hymn. Another regret that I have is that we no longer sing hymns in churches. Many hymns have powerful messages that have encouraged so many in many difficult situations. I hope that you have the opportunity to learn and sing some of these. We also taught our Bible verses by putting them to music. It is amazing how that makes them easier to learn and how they come back to you later in life. I must have composed over 100 of these. Ask your dads – I am sure that they can still sing many of them for you.

Music is a special gift from God. It can be used to teach you, encourage you, and help you glorify God. Unfortunately, music can also pull you down and fill your mind with thoughts that don’t please or glorify God. When I was a teen, my father used to complain about some of the styles of the music that I liked – but the words were good and glorified God. It was just the style that had changed. I pray that you will have the wisdom and discretion to fill your life with good music and to reject the world’s music that often has harmful themes. As the chorus says, “Be careful little ears what you hear!” So please be careful with what you allow to fill your mind and use your music gifts to praise the Lord!

“I will sing to the LORD all my life, I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Psalm 104:33