One can never underestimate the promptings of a righteous leader. In the small Valiente Branch in the Las Americas Stake in the Dominican Republic, one such leader has helped change the lives of many of the youth of the branch, and in turn, helped with the spirituality of Sacrament meeting.
Branch President Julio Ogando states, “When I was called as branch president in March of 2016, I felt a strong desire that if the youth of this unit could learn to play at least two or three hymns, Sacrament meeting could be more spiritual, and the youth could find music as a refuge from the social pressure that is wrapping the world. I asked Heavenly Father to help me to start piano lessons for the branch so that some of the young people could learn this great talent and develop a love for good music.”
President Ogando enlisted the help of a senior missionary couple. They had a great desire to help and committed to do so after hearing President Ogando’s idea. The class started off with 15 youth and the numbers increased each week. A few youth from the neighboring La Caleta ward joined. Some adults and investigators also started attending. More teachers were needed. With the help of other senior missionaries, a group of 10 to 25 gathered weekly to learn how to play.
When a youth could play a hymn from the simplified hymn book, played it in Sacrament meeting, and agreed to help others to learn, they received a keyboard of their very own. The keyboards were donated by the Harman Foundation. This allowed the student to practice during the week in their own homes and learn even more hymns. This also helped to bring the spirit through music into their homes and their Family Home Evenings.
When asked how the classes have helped, President Ogando replied, “these classes have been a great blessing to the young people. It has awakened in them the love for music, and we have more people singing in our meetings. The meetings are more spiritual and reverent.” And he adds, “the keyboards in the church buildings are no longer gathering dust.”
An additional benefit of these classes is that it gave the youth another opportunity to be together doing something wholesome and enjoying one another’s company.
When asked why they wanted to learn to play the piano, Steven said, “I always wanted to learn to play the piano because nobody knew how to play at church. I remember that one time a missionary came and played the piano for the first time in Sacrament meeting. It was something incredible. I could really feel the difference. After that Sunday I wanted to learn to play the piano, and I wanted to serve as an instrument to bring the spirit.”
Shania said, “Because music is an important part of my life and I feel the love of the Savior through it, music makes my heart full of joy.”
After learning to play several of the simplified hymns with basic chord accompaniment, Clever has continued to learn and can now even play several of the hymns in the regular hymn book. Clever’s comment of “with practice I can achieve” is very true.
After several months of lessons, a recital was held and the youth were able to play for their parents and friends the things that they had been learning. What a joy for all who attended to see their accomplishments and feel their dedication in learning how to play. Many tears of joy were shared that day.
The senior couples who helped with this process also testify of the great feelings of joy that have come from helping these branch members. They faced challenges in teaching the youth as some of the missionaries didn’t speak Spanish, and some can barely play the piano, but they could read music. “With the help of each other to translate what we were trying to accomplish, somehow it worked.” As one senior sister stated, “I learned how to say ‘otra vez’, and ‘perfecto’,and that got us through.”
Thanks to a righteous young branch president, several youth have learned to play and are now teaching others to play, the spirit has increased in Sacrament meetings, and lives have been forever changed for good.
Quickly Learn to Play Simplified Hymns
Can I really learn to play a simplified hymn in just a few months? YES!
Learning how to play the piano involves learning which notes to play and how long to hold them. Though a piano has lots of keys, most of the melodies (the notes we usually sing) in the simplified hymn book can be played with only 14 of those keys. So, just learn where 14 notes are and how long to hold them and you can play the melody of most of the simplified hymns!
Adding some accompaniment (the left hand) is even easier! There are over 20 of the hymns that can be accompanied with just three chords: C, F, and G7. And those three chords can be learned in about 5 minutes and then easily played without much thought. Add 4 more chords and you can play almost all of the songs in the simplified hymn book!