Emerging from Our Caves

Guest post by composer Robert Sterling

I’ve often said that if I were to compare myself to an animal it would be a bear. A Grizzly, to be more specific. Grizzlies eat half the year and sleep the remaining half. And they spend a lot of time in a cave. They are okay being alone. That describes the life of the composer/arranger in a lot of ways, actually.

I work in a cave – a very nice cave, mind you. I have high-speed internet, quality studio gear, central heat & air, and a bathroom and kitchen very nearby. But it’s still essentially a cave. And when I’m not working, all too often I am either eating or sleeping. Oh, and I growl a lot, but that’s more about my personality. All in all, I’m okay in my cave.

But for the past eighteen months or so, the whole world has been in a cave, isolated from our fellow bears (I mean human beings) except for Netflix, Prime Video, and Zoom. That is not normal for the vast majority of people. Now, we are slowly emerging to see if the world outside has changed much, and if so, how.

Those of us who make music are seeing other musicians in person for the first time in a very long time. Garage bands, community orchestras, and church choirs are rehearsing once again. Recitals are happening. Congregations are returning to the pews. It all still feels a little tentative. (Who knows if another wave of that cursed virus will wash over us?) But we are getting out. We’re playing instruments and singing – together again. And that feels great.

I think the experience of this past year has proven Joni Mitchell to have been inspired when she wrote, “We don’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone.” I suspect that as we gather to make music with one another again, we will appreciate the experience more than we did before Covid. So, may I wish all my fellow music-makers a happy and bright emergence from your respective caves. After all, we’re not all meant to be bears. Sure, I was made for it – but even I want to be among people making music again. And I’m a Grizzly.

Robert Sterling is a songwriter, six-time Dove Award-winning arranger & record producer, author, and teacher.  Artists including Point of Grace, the Gatlin Brothers, Gold City and Sandi Patty have put his songs at the top of Christian radio charts.  His choral music is sung every week in churches around the world.  He has taught Music Publishing at Belmont University and Dallas Baptist University. And he is the author of The Craft of Christian Songwriting and Principles of Choral Arranging. He was inducted into the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2019.