Many missionaries around the world end up sharing their musical talents with the congregations they serve, but after they leave, so do their piano-playing or conducting skills.
With the help of the Jack and Wauna Harman Music Fund, founded in 1998 to help with musical training in the Church, senior missionaries around the world can teach members how to play the piano and conduct hymns.
This year alone (as of September), the Church has sent 465 keyboards and 782 course kits to members around the world. Since 2012, members from 92 different countries around the world have started to become musically self-reliant so that their congregations can enjoy the gift of music long after the senior missionaries leave.
Resources from the Harman Music Fund are used for music training in the Church, said Katie Bastian, music manager for the Church. “At this time, it is most widely used for providing keyboards, keyboarding courses, and conducting courses for people throughout the world with a desire to learn.”
One senior missionary couple, Sister Maurio Fischbeck and her husband, Brother David Fischbeck, has taught the music training course during each of their three different missions. In 2010, the Fischbecks were called to serve in the Chile Concepción Mission. Sister Fischbeck had heard about the fund and courses and was eager to start teaching right away.
However, when they arrived, there were a few obstacles in the way that prevented her from starting to teach the classes right away. For one, a massive earthquake had just hit off the coast of Chile. Additionally, Sister Fischbeck said she felt worried about how her Spanish would hold up under the scrutiny of teaching in a group setting. In the end, though, she said, “I felt like I’d been given so much and I’d like to share what I know,” so she persevered and was eventually able to teach a total of 23 students how to begin playing the piano.
During their second mission in Bogotá, Colombia, several years later, Sister Fischbeck again faced challenges as she set out to share her musical talents. After falling and hurting her shoulder, she was limited to using only her left hand. She scraped by, just playing the melody of hymns, but worried about what people would think.
Fortunately, the members in Colombia were just happy to have even a little bit of piano accompaniment because up to that point, they’d been learning how to sing all the hymns with just their voices. Sharing the gift of music is “very satisfying,” Sister Fischbeck said. She went on to teach a total of eight members the Basic Music Course during her time in Colombia.
Though there are senior missionaries teaching the courses throughout the world, the most teaching takes place currently in three areas: the Philippines, with 24 senior missionaries teaching; Africa, with 36 senior missionaries teaching; and Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries, with 68 senior missionaries teaching. This year Nepal was added to the list of countries where the courses are being taught. In a few countries, former students of the program have progressed to the point where they can now teach the program in their home wards and stakes.
Sister Fischbeck, who currently serves as an assistant to the matron in the Villahermosa Mexico Temple, is excited to report that when she returns home, one of her students will likely be able to continue teaching the course to others. The blessings of the Harman Music Fund will continue to roll forth as more people gain musical skills to bless their congregations.
Besides just helping people become musically self-reliant, the Harman Music Fund has provided members and missionaries an opportunity to participate in a good cause. As they attend weekly classes, the members grow closer together.
One member in particular has especially touched Sister Fischbeck’s heart. Despite mental disabilities that limit how far he can progress musically, he comes to class each week and practices what he learns at home. Sister Fischbeck said it’s been satisfying just to witness “the joy in his eyes” as he participates in the class with other members of his ward. When he sees Sister Fischbeck, he exclaims, “Maestra!”—Spanish for teacher. “It’s been a special thing,” she said.
Together, the Fischbecks have taught 40 people basic piano skills, and the number of people who will continue to benefit from their service after they leave will just continue to grow.