What I Learned from a Children’s Medley

Every writer I’ve ever spoken to feels fraudulent in some way or other.

– Stephen Sondheim

A couple of years back, Sheet Music Plus partnered with Steinway & Sons to sponsor a contest for digital composers. They offered cash prizes and – more importantly – a Steinway Artist performance of the winning works. Dazzled by the chance to have my work performed in concert by a Steinway Artist, I was determined to win.

I bounced several ideas around for the contest when hubby suggested one I really liked: a medley of children’s Sunday School songs. I threw myself into the project for an intense couple of weeks crafting The Ultimate Sunday School Mashup – a fun, somewhat demanding, showy medley – all the while dreaming of a Steinway Artist performing it.

But dreams are easy. It’s the follow-through that’s difficult.

Several days before the submission deadline, a little voice in my head started. You know the one:

“You’re a failure, a farce. Anything you do or create is worthless. There are far more talented, experienced, skilled, and smarter people out there who deserve this way more than you. You’ll never be enough. Oh, and both you and your momma are ugly, too.”

Despite the assault, I kept working my tail off, agonizing over each little detail until, finally, the day of the submission deadline arrived.

And then…I caved. The voice won. I just couldn’t hit that send button.

The Ultimate Sunday School Mashup Piano Sheet Music
“The Ultimate Sunday School Mashup” piano medley – find the sheet music here.

I spent the next couple of months telling myself that the work wasn’t ready. That I needed to secure a copyright for it before I released it and there just wasn’t time. That there would be better opportunities.

But the truth was I was a coward.

Toward the end of that year, the competition winners were announced and all of them were fine pieces, but they were no better or worse than what I had created. That was when I realized the voice in my head was right.

I was a failure.

Not because the work I’d created wasn’t up to scratch but because I had failed to believe in its worth. And, by extension, my worth as well.

No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:15-16 (NRSV)

Earlier this year, I pulled up my bootstraps and published The Ultimate Sunday School Mashup and it’s been met with favorable responses from pianists across the country. It’s a piece I’m proud of but will always look at with some regret. Because now I realize that the price of being courageous – submitting the piece and possibly losing the competition – costs far less than that little voice which now nags me that I’ll never know what might have been.

Lesson learned.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine;
this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine;
this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine;
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.


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