Learning to listen to his voice
Welcome to the Creative Life, Happier Life Blog, thank you for agreeing to this interview! Tell us about yourself...
Hello there, internet! I hope you’re doing well today? By your powers of deduction, I guess you may have concluded that my name is Matt! I live in SE England, and very much enjoy making the most of all the greenery in my locality :-) I’m a music teacher by trade (guitar and voice), and I would say music very much forms the core of which all my other activity stems from, and has done from an early age - be that singing in choirs, playing in the worship bands at church, or function bands, too! I’m also quite partial to a spot of Go-Karting (participating) and Formula 1 (alas, sadly not participating!) when the opportunity presents itself.
Here at CLHL we believe that creativity comes in all forms, from accounting to crochet! How does your creativity manifest itself?
On a purely practical level, it’s quite easy to put my particular “gifting” into some obvious boxes - teaching; playing in this; singing in that etc. However, I want to be completely honest and say that it is something I’ve been wrestling with - albeit on a subconscious level - since graduating *cough* years ago! In amongst the busyness, I sometimes find I have fleeting thoughts of “does it, though?”. “Does my creative talent actually manifest itself?”. Life can be very paradoxical, and I’ve certainly found it’s possible to have the outward appearance of creativity, while things internally feel very formal and structured. I think learning how to ride that wave is a life-long journey. I’ve found there will always be stages where more formality and structure is needed vs more time and space for personal creative input and output. It’s always an equilibrium, it’s just that the percentages shift depending on where you are in life. I can certainly say that I see God’s creative solutions to problems working themselves out in my life on a daily basis!
How do you think using your creativity enhances your well-being?
Ooo… this works on many levels! I can certainly attest to the adrenaline rush that I felt when I’d successfully written and recorded music for enjoyment in my teenage years, and I still get that same rush now if I feel I have played or sung well in any environment, sacred or secular! I’m totally going to go on a music teacher style plug here, but as people are (hopefully!) becoming more aware of lately, music is such a good tool for well being, generally. It’s a community thing! Many of my closest friendships and fondest memories exist as a result of musicians collaborating, and being part of something bigger than themselves.
To be able to come home at the end of a day’s teaching knowing you’ve had a productive (sometimes, too productive!) day, and helped further someone else’s musical journey as well, is life-giving!
How do you think using your craft helps you to connect with God?
A hot topic of debate in worship musician circles across denominations!… There’s definitely a degree to which I find myself just going through the motions to produce something. I believe we live in a fallen world, which means work is broken too, and the enemy wants to get us stuck in a rut over this! As time has gone on, I’ve started to learn that rather than pushing you or I away from God, conversely, this “dullness” needs to be the catalyst to spending more time in God’s presence.
When I’ve done this, it’s enabled me to let go of perfectionism, and / or the expectations of others, and just focus on worshipping God in whatever setting that is, and with whatever sub-category of gifting, too - practical or spiritual. The great thing is, is that the one informs the other!
This is incredibly freeing when it does happen and brings me closer to God, because He shows His faithfulness when I’ve been unfaithful. I’m grateful to God to be able to say that I’m reaching this “place” with increasing frequency! Recently, I’ve found this security in God when plucking (see what I did there!) up the courage to be recorded for Sunday worship sent out to YouTube. In a spiritual sense, I’ve learned to lean into God more deeply when bringing what I deemed to be “unusual” prophetic words over someone.
Do you think God works through your skill? How?
I do! God has been very gracious to me, and one of the ways He has shown me that He is working through me, is by way of sending lots of words of encouragement from people over the years in the various settings that I have been in, which have been / are lovely to receive! I think this is great because it’s what God wants us to do - to build each other up in the church, and bring unity! It’s inspired me to be more of an encourager, as well. I see it in students of mine getting involved in bands on a Sunday (and practice sessions during the week!), as a result of their tuition, which gives families more of a reason to be invested in the church and wider community. In a similar way to the well being question, I regularly observe how God uses music and the arts to build cohesion in society, and give people purpose and direction - both inside the church and out. I’m glad to be a small part of that process!
Do you have any tips or golden nuggets of wisdom for any of our readers who may like to try accessing your creative skill?
Ah yes. Nuggets. Well then, it’d usually cost ya, but for you lovely people reading this blog, here are some on the house :-P
Music has been described as “the great equaliser”, and like any discipline, takes a lot of time, energy and general investment to get to where you’d like. I wish I’d asked myself “Why?”,“What do I want to do with this?”, “What’s really and honestly my motivation?” a lot earlier. Whilst I’m happy-ish with the time I invested in the practising of my practical skills, one of my biggest regrets is allowing the expectations of other people to direct where I was steering those skills.
Which leads me on to my next point… Listening. This is true with respect to God and music! Do as much listening to God as you can to determine which direction He would have you take things. I find Nicky Gumbel’s 5 C-Ss a super-helpful guide for this. Regarding music, listen to as many genres as possible (side note: do put it through a Jesus-filter, and allow the Holy Spirit to keep your spiritual eyes and ears open to the bits you need to ignore or skip over, of course!). You’ll improve so much as a musician just by listening. It’ll also save you a lot of time in your musical quest!
You don’t want to take a strictly classical route to discover later you’d rather be in a neo-soul band - just sayin’!
Join some form of ensemble / band where you can build solid friendships and accountabilities with grounded people.
Allow yourself to keep an open mind as a student. Build a relationship of trust with your teacher, and trust them that they’re giving you the information you need when you need it. Like anything, you’ll find that the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know.
One from my former head of year at music college - “Don’t practise something until you can get it right once, practise it until you can’t get it wrong!
Where can we find you using your creativity?
On You Tube - https://youtu.be/RL1DTa_phVE?t=4148
Regent Records - https://www.regent-records.co.uk/product_details_221.htm
The Evening Choir - https://conviviumrecords.co.uk/product/cooman-the-evening-choir/
QUICK FIRE ROUND! The stuff we all really want to know!
Pen or computer?
Home or abroad? Home.
Who would play you in a movie?
- I love this! I was told in my childhood I had something of the Daniel Radcliffe about me, but after much deliberation, I would have been honoured to have had the late great Herbert Lom (Chief Inspector Dreyfus in Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther films, for any Gen Zs reading this! :-P) portray me - about the right level of madness!
On your bucket list? Experience as much of the USA as possible on an extended holiday!
Skill you’d like to learn?
To be fluent in another language.
Favourite bible verse?
Romans 12 v 2 has been my go-to for a while now!
Chocolate or cheese? Chocolate. Sorry, cheese! You’re great n’ all… it’s not you, it’s me - I’m just a mad chocoholic!
Thank you Matt! So there you go, with so many wonderful suggestions, how will you begin to explore creativity?
If you try out any of our contributors skills, pop it on Instagram (@creativelifehappierlifeblog) and give it the hashtag #CLHLblog