Back in the mid-90s, I joined an a capella group in college called ReVerse. We arranged a capella versions of popular songs and sang them pretty much anywhere we could, including school fairs, radio stations, 18th birthday celebrations, and school organization parties. The original group started 1994, and I joined them in late 1995 or early 1996. Mike C., Toti, Jools, Vince, Migs, Ger, and Gene were among my best friends, and played a crucial role in bringing me out of my shell and appreciating all that I could ever become.
While I loved Wilson Phillips, Indigo Girls, Boyz II Men, and all other 90s acts that placed an emphasis on harmonies, it was my “training” as part of ReVerse – which eventually became Release when we decided to pick up instruments and actually become an R&B band, vs. staying an a capella group – that helped make “finding a second voice” natural and instinctive for me.
Earlier this week, my good friend – and best man at my wedding – Mike C., posted mp3s of a concert we did back in college. Called S.R.O., or S.A.M. and ReVerse Onstage (S.A.M. referring to Smooth Acoustic Music, another Ateneo college band consisting of TonyPet, Camille, Raffy, and Art (who was originally with ReVerse)), we played almost two hours of acoustic music and a capella to a sold-out crowd at the Ateneo High School auditorium.
Listening to it, I thought to myself, “My gosh, we were lame!” I especially cringed listening to my spiel, as I rambled on and on before introducing “Nights Like This.” I will never listen to that intro again. It was painful! I didn’t have the best voice; I wasn’t the most charismatic performer; I was basically a tenor two voice filler (although I did write some songs for the band, and I ended up arranging I’ll Be Over You, which ended up becoming one of our few professional recordings, as backup vocalists for DingDong Avanzado). Thing is, I was perfectly content being that white bread filler. I was fine being one of the other guys in the band.
I left the group sometime in the early 2000s (sometime between 2001 and 2003, I imagine). I wanted to focus on my job and my marriage (although Migs and Ger would actually end up marrying before I did), and I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the themes of the music we were singing. (I was a new Christian and singing songs about sex and infidelity just didn’t connect with me anymore.) I loved the boys in the band, but I felt like I really had to go focus on my life and find myself. The boys kept at it, and called it quits sometime in the mid-2000s, although they still remain close-knit. I love ReVerse/Release, and I kinda feel bad that I don’t show the guys how much I appreciate them and everything they’d done for me. I wouldn’t be the man I am today were it not in great part for the terrific times we had together, singing onstage, just making harmonies.
Fast forward to this week. Mike C. now has his own group, Mike’s Apartment, which “melds the best elements of Soul, Funk, Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Hip-hop and yes, Rock, with a self-assured flavor that only the soul of a Filipino can give.” The group is nominated for several awards at the 2009 NU Rock Awards and I’ve never been happier for him. The others are in great situations as well, including Migs (owns a bar), Toti (great career with Adidas), and Vince (owns his own business). Gene, I understand, has renamed himself and is pursuing a career in music in the US; only he, Mike and I, however, seem to have ended up with careers in music. (That calling, by the way, has been stalled a few more weeks while we look for a replacement for me at Victory Fort.)
I can you this, though: on August 17, 2001, I gave my life to Jesus, and my life has never been the same. I wanted to make music, and I specifically wanted to make music for and about God. I knew God planted this desire in me to make music, even though I had no training, even though I had what I felt was little talent. What I had going for me was a passion for God, and a passion to make music that would glorify Him. So I volunteered for the choir, I worked my way up, did the backup vocal training. I sought Him and grew closer to Him. All this happened while I continued to work in communications, doing graphic design, Web maintenance, the occasional voice-over… God put me in those places so that His Name would be glorified in my work in those places.
Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness; Jesus tells us that His Father will ensure we needn’t have to worry about our day-to-day. Furthermore, Psalm 37:4 says when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will grant us the desires of our hearts. When our hearts are naturally tuned to God’s, and our first impulse and desire is to seek Him out, to please Him, to know Him more, God will bless us in a way that will blow our minds. That’s how it literally felt when I was offered the opportunity to play a lead role in Victory Greenhills Music Ministry: it was mind-blowing.
That’s what God does. He takes you out of your comfort zone when you least expect it, and calls you to do something totally different, so that you may rely on Him, and together with Him, you will do amazing things. Sometimes, it isn’t the King. Moses called to lead God’s people out of Egypt. It’s Gideon asked to head God’s army. It’s David gathering strength and stones to defeat Goliath. It’s Deborah & Jael killing Sisera, it’s Noah building the ark, it’s Jonah heading to Nineveh, it’s Rahab the prostitute saving God’s men. They were all flawed men and women, one way or the other. We’re all flawed. We’re all nobodies. God can make us a somebody.
So let me encourage you with this: desire God and follow your heart. If your heart’s desire is to follow God and to please God and to honor God, everything else will follow. Just as God used the seven men of ReVerse/Release to help mold me, God will send people your way who will help transform you into the person that God will use for His glory. So don’t worry! March to the beat of your own drum, making sure that your rhythm is in sync with God’s, and the time will come when God will somehow make a way so that you can, in turn,”make your own kind of music” (thanks, Mama Cass). Trust me: the melody you play will be an aroma that is pleasing to God.[audio:makeyourownmusic.mp3]