“You have to have patience, that’s the most important thing — patience with yourself especially. (There’s) a tendency to go for yourself and you forget all about the other person.” – Ellis Larkins
I was driving home today and I turned on the radio to an NPR type station that, when it’s not broadcasting boring news or baseball games, plays the most amazing jazz music you’ve ever heard. Not new age or fusion jazz, but good ole hearty, soul jazz. Sometimes the songs have words, sometimes they don’t. But I enjoy listening to practice my scat, and when I just need some downtime background music.
I tuned in today just as a song was starting, beautiful piano music accompanying a saxophone. A woman came over the music and started talking. She spoke of the pianist in the song, Ellis Larkins, and how he proved in his youth, with songs such as this, that he could hold his own in first-class artistry, but still wouldn’t overpower the soloist. More songs came on and the woman spoke of his life, the artists he accompanied year after year, and how his career took off by being an accompanist.
And then the narrator said something that caught my attention. She said, “Because he was so talented at being an accompanist to other musicians and singers, he found it difficult to step into the role of a soloist.”
Just think about that statement for a while in a spiritual aspect…
Shouldn’t that be a goal for all of us? That we were so caught up in helping others along in their walks, taking part in a fellowship, and pushing others forward in hopes of them succeeding, that we found it hard to do the same for ourselves? What if everyone would do that? Couldn’t each person find their time to shine as a soloist if they were willing to accompany first?
Ellis Larkins didn’t succeed as a soloist in mainstream music. His small, but highly devoted following would most likely say that he shone on the stage like a beacon, lighting the audience up with each press of a weighted key. They would call him a musical perfectionist with a sensitive elegance towards the piano. But he never played in front of a large audience, he was never recognized as a soloist. He achieved success by being the smaller name on the front of a record, with larger names above his like Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Williams.
The fame didn’t matter, his talent mattered.
I drove along, listening to the narrative that would come in every so often and speak about Ellis, and the thought crossed my mind at how unfortunate it must’ve been to never have had his name in lights. Then I received correction in my spirit.
His legacy is that he was an accompanist. Ellis Larkins admitted to being more fulfilled by being an accompanist than he ever did being a soloist. He was willing to let others shine in front, not because he had no confidence or courage to step up, but because he was embodied with the amazing talent of blending behind others and building up the talents of others with his music. He did this because he loved music with a passion beyond having fame or recognition.
I challenge you today to love God beyond any fame or recognition. So, you have dreams, ministerial dreams, financial dreams, relationship dreams. How do you achieve them? Be an accompanist first.
Don’t you see? It’s an honor to be called an accompanist. What an amazing legacy to say that your talent was to build others up and not yourself.
Eventually people will get you. You will get your dream. You will get the recognition you deserve, but being humble before others, even in your astounding talent, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what God is looking for in a leader. God would never thrust you in the spotlight first, you’re head would explode. Instead he teaches you through accompaniment how to build others up and become the type of person you will eventually lead.
But what if he never calls you to be a soloist? Great. Then you, like Ellis Larkins, have the amazing responsibility of being a pillar for the people of God around you, blending with grace the talents of others with your own talents… For the big picture. Because If Ellis never decided to play, the ending sound would be awkward and incomplete, no one would like the music of Ella or Joe if it weren’t for Ellis.
Be an accompanist and complete the sound of music in God’s ears.
He hears you.
Listen to Ellis Larkin’s Jazz Profile Here.