I recently attended a portion of another high-quality conducting symposium. A good battery recharge! I was happy, however, to have planned to leave the day before a certain guest lecturer was due to come in for the afternoon. This guest is someone I’ve heard and read before, and in both cases, I’ve been put off by his overblown ego. While offering the band world some valuable pedagogical thoughts, this clinician has in my estimation made his material unappealing by a few unappealing aspects in his person. Although he wants to be an advocate, an ambassador for his methodologies, he is doing himself somewhat of a disservice by manifesting such arrogant self-centeredness that some of us can’t stand to be around him. I once sat with him in a small dinner group; he began so many sentences with “I” that my meal hardly stayed down.
Mr. Blank’s ambassadorship for his profession, in my view, is compromised by his character and personality — or at least by how he sometimes comes across. Further, a key area of his method uses different phrasing than the generally accepted terminology in the field, and he makes a big deal of his choice of the different set of terms. Several times, I’ve tried to figure out his rationale, but I have yet to figure it out. I think he’s a trifle obtuse in this counter-cultural choice of wordings. This bit of distaste doesn’t do anything for his ambassador role, either.
One of my roles is to coordinate and advocate for chamber music’s place in our school of music. Although pretty much all my colleagues and maybe half the students are beginning to buy in, to some extent, I suspect that I have not always been a great ambassador for chamber music. Part of my shortcoming—in my case and in the case of the unidentified zealot above—has been my general ardor, but there have probably been other missteps and aspects of my “program” that have become bitter in the mouths of some hearers.
Since I’m not very knowledgeable about the political process or the various roles of nominated/appointed/confirmed officials, I won’t comment much about the political ambassador’s role, except to say that whatever he is and does should certainly help in relationships between two countries, right? I would think that an individual’s ability to bridge the gap between cultures, and/or to communicate about important issues, and to serve as an appealing advocate for one nation to another, are key in making selections of men such as the ambassador-nominee pictured here.
The Christian’s ambassadorship deserves attention, too. (I have for years thought “ambassador” or “advocate” was a prime way to depict the Christian in his mission. Although used only once to my knowledge [2 Cor 5:20], the word “ambassador” seems more inclusive, extending to a greater number of people, than “missionary” or “evangelist” or “reacher of the lost.”) How often do I compromise the purpose of Jesus by my character and personality? How often do my self-absorbed ramblings erect a barrier between the Cause and those I’m seeking to influence? How much of the Christ’s core appeal is obscured by my personally unappealing foibles or my counter-cultural choices of ways and means?
Please, Mr. Ambassador, don’t get in the way of what you’re advocating.
And please, Jesus, shine around and through our dark humanness.