The Adventist Musician and Sabbath Performances: One Perspective

Anthony A. Pasquale


I've been asked to share my philosophy concerning performing as an Adventist professional musician. I have to be honest with you, my feelings regarding the issue of Sabbath performance have flip-flopped at least twice in the last ten years. To begin with, when I became an Adventist Christian in 1975, I was performing professionally with a Mid-western orchestra. At the end of the season, I didn't renew my contract and haven't performed regularly as an orchestral clarinetist since.

In 1976, I took part in the Blomstedt Conducting Institute at Loma Linda University in Riverside, California, and came to know Herbert Blomstedt, a great conductor and an even greater person. His thoughts have turned my ideas about what is appropriate for Sabbath upside-down. For me it has been a somewhat painful, yet positive experience.

Let me trace the evolution (if I may use the term!) of where I stand today. At first I was convinced that I should not even be a musician. I did not think that my primary goal, to represent Christ to the world, could be fulfilled in that area. I think I wanted a more direct, mainstream work.

To do this I entered colporteur work and failed miserably. I returned to my instrument and started rebuilding my musical life as a teacher and performer in the Dayton, Ohio area. At that time I took a hard-line stand on the Sabbath, and I was comfortable with the thought that I would never play on Sabbath again. The church, however, had another idea. I was asked frequently to play for churches. All performances were on Sabbath, of course. The same performance jitters I'd had for secular concerts, I now had for Sabbath concerts.

Soon I began asking myself why I was doing this on Sabbath. It took just as much energy (on a day that I thought was for some sort of revitalization) to perform. I went through exactly the same warm-up routine. Everything was the same, except the day. I saw preachers delivering their sermons, doctors and nurses doing their work - I saw services being rendered. What was the common factor of all these that made it "kosher" for them to be done on Sabbath?

What I discovered last year will make some of you cringe, some of you laugh, and others angry. I discovered it really doesn't matter what you do, but why you do it. It is true . . . at least to me where I am now.

So where does that lead me with regard to the Sabbath question? I have left the question open. I do not rehearse on Sabbath at all for secular concerts. I do sometimes rehearse for a church presentation, though I prefer not to do so. As for paid secular concerts, my answer is "what and with whom." If I will be performing with people who are openly against what I believe, then I probably would not perform with them for a Sabbath concert. If the literature is inappropriate, then I would also decline.

Let me give you an example of my thinking. If I were asked to do a pops concert on a Friday night, I would turn it down. However, if I were asked to perform a regular symphony concert with music that I consider to be of artistic value, then I would most likely say yes. I would also accept reimbursement, which of course would be tithed, but not dropped into the church coffers en masse.

I feel that I have been blessed with gifts that I am obligated to share as long as I am not pushed into a position of sacrificing principles. This includes, for me, Sabbath concerts. I make a point of avoiding Sabbath scheduling, but if I am asked, then I try to decide using the guidelines given. I must tell you that one week I may do one thing, and a week later refuse to do something similar because I am uncomfortable with that performance.

At this point in my life, I'm not sure where I'll be tomorrow. I know that Jesus loves me, and I know that these gifts are heaven-sent. I sometimes pray that He would tell me to do this or do that. (He doesn't!) No matter what we do, let's love God and make our decisions accordingly.

Spring 1985 Newsletters