Friday, January 6, 2012

Arlyn Fuerst, the Greatest Teacher I Ever Had

I love music. It enriches my life in countless, limitless ways. I hear a chorus in harmony and my heart soars. I can feel, while listening to music, the positive physical effects of it.


I would not have the appreciation and experience of it that I do but for my great fortune to have studied music under the direction of the genius Arlyn Fuerst. He labored for decades as the organist and music director at Trinity Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin.

And as a very young boy, perhaps just four, I was first in a children's choir of his direction.
I am today a language instructor who also served my country as a linguist at the National Security Agency after 911 for over four years, during which time I also served in Iraq. And I know that Arlyn's instruction was key to nurturing the skills which led to my current vocation.

As little kids, he had us memorizing Latin and German verses of songs. And I have the strong suspicion that the experience left a multilingual grid on my brain that had made it possible for me to later do things like master Latin, teach myself Spanish, and learn Arabic.


Arlyn died on December 26th, 2011. He will be buried tomorrow, January 7th. He fought Leukemia for over ten years. And I will be eternally grateful to him for coming out of his retirement to play organ for my mother's funeral in 2006.
  Arlyn, you gave me music. 


I cannot begin to explain what that has meant for my life. But in the process you gave me so much more. You were always a cheerful, joyful presence.

By example you taught me a gentleness that I try to practice faithfully today in my own classrooms.


I will see you again. That is our Christian conviction. I don't know what that life, that afterlife, will be like. But I believe that the beauty and the joy we fleetingly experience here is indeed a foretaste of the feast to come.


And for that reason, I look forward to singing tenor in a full choir, with you playing organ, on a full choral arrangement of Hillert's "
This is the Feast."

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