Welcome to “The Reforming Trombonist!” Since this is the first post, I am using this week’s entry to outline what kinds of topics will be discussed in this blog, and what I hope to accomplish by writing here. Since this is a summary statement of what this blog is “about,” I am going to duplicate this post under the “About” link at the top so that it can be easily referenced by future visitors.
Thank you for stopping by!
Who is “The Reforming Trombonist?”
You can read about me below, or here, but I will provide a short biography.
My name is Micah Everett. I am in my early thirties, married, with one son and a dog. I recently began teaching at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, after previous teaching positions at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, the University of Northern Iowa, Elon University, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. As you will have gathered from the title, I am a performing trombonist and euphoniumist, and my primary teaching area at the university is applied low brass (trombone, euphonium, and tuba). My degrees are from Delta State University (B.M.E.) and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (M.M., D.M.A.). I also have a Certificate in Systematic Theology from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, attend Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oxford, and am a member of The Gideons International. This explains the “other” topic of this blog, but more on that later.
What Will Be Discussed Here?
My goals for blogging are quite modest. My present plan is to post something every Friday. On the first three Fridays of each month I will cover a topic related to music, particularly low brass playing. These topics might include pedagogy, performance, product reviews, new music and recordings, information on upcoming performances, online resources, etc. For the first few weeks the topics covered will likely be broad, as I plan to begin by discussing my fundamental philosophical commitments as a musician and brass player. That said, if a more precise topic comes to mind and I think it needs to be addressed, I will do so, and will certainly become more targeted in my selection of topics over time.
On the fourth Friday of each month I hope to write on my more “avocational” interest: theology and the Bible, and specifically Reformed theology. As with the music-related posts, the first few of these will likely cover broad, general topics before becoming more focused.
During the months that have five Fridays, on the fifth Friday I hope to bring all of these ideas together, and discuss how matters related to music and Christianity intersect. I can already say that my thoughts will not be new to those who have read the authors I have read, but at the same time they are not at all in the mainstream. I’m sure I’m not alone in that I very much enjoy thinking and writing in those realms where all of my various interests intersect.
As Providence would have it, I am beginning on the third Friday of a month with five Fridays, so it looks like it will be a few weeks before I get to the “trombone stuff” in earnest.
Why Start Blogging Now?
I am joining the blogging world somewhat reluctantly. I am not convinced that the “democratization of publishing” that the internet has bequeathed to us is an altogether good thing. In an age when anyone can cheaply and easily reach a worldwide audience regardless of the truth and quality of his ideas, the sheer volume of information that is “out there” is staggering, and it is impossible for one to sort through all of it to find what is good and what is bad, or even to read all of the good that is there. Part of me does not relish the thought of adding to the morass with a blog that perhaps very few will read. While the old system of “gatekeepers” such as editors, reviewers, and publishers had its flaws, it did keep the amount of information available to a more manageable level, and the amount of “junk” released for public consumption was perhaps lower.
I have accepted that the future is in electronic media more so than print, and so this is something of an attempt to “get with the times.” That said, one of my hopes is to use this space to begin “fleshing out” new ideas that I might one day work into a more publishable form, for submission to the “gatekeepers.” Like it or not, my predilection for material that has been reviewed, critiqued, corrected, edited, and then printed still remains, but I have begun to realize that much of what appears in print today was, in fact, first introduced on a blog.
Whether or not any of my writings here make it to print, I do hope that these posts will be useful to people. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 1), and his second objective should be to love and serve others. Self-aggrandizement is not really on the list. So, whether your interest is brass playing or theology, or both, I hope that the material written here will be helpful and edifying to you.
Why the Title “The Reforming Trombonist?”
Working backwards, the “trombonist” part should be obvious. I am a trombonist, and the bulk of my time and energy is spent working in that realm.
By “reforming” I don’t mean that “I used to be a trombonist, but now I’m sober,” though that is perhaps how it sounds at first. No, by “reforming” I am making a loose reference to a popular slogan of the Protestant Reformation, semper reformanda—“always reforming.” Our Protestant forebears thought that we should always be about the business of reforming both faith and practice—indeed, our very lives—according to the Word of God. My changes of theological position over the past ten years or so reflect this attitude. I grew up in essentially Arminian Southern Baptist churches, and wound up Calvinistic, confessional, and Presbyterian (I hope to write about all of this in the coming months). My commitment to Scripture as God’s inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word remains unchanged (if not strengthened), but changes in my own church affiliation became necessary as my understanding of that Word increased.
Moving back to the question at hand, I chose the term “reforming” for the title, rather than “reformed,” because the latter term conveys a sense of having “arrived,” and I don’t think I’m there yet.
What is the Significance of the Pictures in the Banner?
The pictures reflect the title “The Reforming Trombonist.” The portraits are all of Reformed theologians that are among those that have shaped my thinking over the past few years, presented from left to right in chronological order. They are:
- John Calvin (1509-1564), French theologian that pastored primarily in Geneva, Switzerland. Although his name has been associated with a certain system of theology (to which I also subscribe) it is perhaps more often associated with caricatures of that system. Contrary to those that would disparage him as heartless and fatalistic, reading his writings reveals a man quite concerned with evangelism and with the salvation of souls.
- Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), American Congregationalist theologian and pastor who played an important role in the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s. His “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”remains one of America’s best-known sermons.
- Herman Bavinck (1854-1921), Dutch theologian whose four-volume Reformed Dogmatics was just recently translated into English. For those that can handle the dryness of translated academic prose—English translations from Dutch read something like those from German—one finds in Bavinck very broad learning and understanding combined with rigorous orthodoxy.
- J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and a minister in the PCUSA (at that time, the “Northern church”). Faced with increasing liberalism in both church and school, he played a central role in founding both Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Of the four men pictured here, Machen’s writings are by far the most accessible to laypeople.
The images involving trombones are taken from medieval and Renaissance-era sources. It is perhaps a little-known fact (outside of the trombone community) that the trombone was the first of the still commonly-used brass instruments to develop into, more or less, its current form. There is a rich history of trombone playing going back to the mid-fifteenth century or so, and these images are just a few among the many depictions of our instrument in art and literature. They are, from left to right:
- An illustration and description of trombones in Volume II (1619) of Syntagma musicum by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), a German theorist and composer. This book has been particularly important in helping trombonists to understand the early history and development of their instrument.
- Mounted military trombonists. This image is from a series of woodcuts entitled The Triumph of Maximilian by Hans Burgkmair (1459-1537).
- Two trumpets and a trombone depicted in “The Brass Players,” part of a series of woodcuts called The Great Wedding Dances by Heinrich Aldegrever (1502-1555/61). Those that have seen the 2003 film Luther with Joseph Fiennes might remember a group that included trombones playing during the wedding reception scene. This group was more or less representative of those that might have played during such an event during that period.
That’s it for this week. God willing, there will be more to read here every Friday. Thanks again for visiting!