Misunderstandings and Musings of a Catholic Musician (By Jessamyn Anders)
I grew up wanting to be the next Ethel Merman. To put it simply, my childhood dreams revolved around Broadway shows and a multitude of Tony Awards. And so I worked my tail off, participating in church choir, show choir, musicals, and even getting my degree in classical vocal performance. All of these check-off-the-list tasks propelled me to New York City, where I was certain my dreams would become a reality and everything would make sense. The opposite happened. My dreams fell to pieces, confusion about purpose consumed me, and the only reality in my life was the recognition that I had completely misunderstood the role of beauty.
While at college, I was heavily involved in campus ministry, and that is when my faith exploded, and I really began to let God into my heart, allowing him to work in my life. Though there was major growth during those four years, I unknowingly had a guard up that was eventually knocked down and stripped away during my last few months in New York City. You see, for most of my life, I had told God what I wanted and asked for his help. And that isn’t how he works best. We must ask him what he wants and then wake up each day, surrendering our lives and our hearts to the craftsmanship of his beautiful hands. When I began to do that, beauty entered in as it always should have, and I was finally on the path to understanding its role in my life and its power in this very broken world.
During my last few months in the city, I was invited to a discussion group on St. John Paul II’s Letter to Artists. That letter changed everything for me. I ended up leaving New York City, moved home to Indiana for the summer, and landed in Nashville, TN (that’s a whole other story!) where I currently live and work for an amazing movement called Love Good, which, in brief, believes in the power of beauty to captivate people and transform culture. Being a part of this movement as an artist has been transformative because it has given me the vocabulary to explain what has been etched onto my soul since God created me. This need for beauty, a need to encounter it, bring it to life, and share it with others—that desire has only grown since reading the Letter to Artists and becoming a part of Love Good.
This past December, the last month in the year I left New York and surrendered everything, I joined the Indiana Wind Symphony as a soloist for their holiday concert. I had sung with this ensemble nearly ten times, but I was heading into this concert with a fresh perspective on the purpose for my artistry—to allow others the space to encounter Beauty with my gifts. And it was the best I’ve ever sung. The high notes weren’t for show—they were to point others heavenward. The stories I told weren’t external—they were human and expressed parts of our heart that only music can. The spotlight left my skin feeling warm, my palms were sweaty from adrenaline, and I was sequin-clad from head to toe, never feeling more perfectly dressed for a moment that sparkled with the freedom that comes from understanding the purpose of a gift, which is to give it. I couldn’t pick out faces in the dark audience, but I knew that we were all wrapped up together in the warmth of shared joy and the wonder of that brief but timeless moment.
Our art is an extension of the very Creation we live in each day. And for the first time in my life, in those moments on stage, I encountered Beauty in my artistry in its fullest form—free, human, and able to be experienced by others. That evening was just a small part of a lifelong journey of encountering beauty, but I am beginning to understand the purpose for this gift God has bestowed upon me: if I understand where the beauty comes from and point others back to that place, then I am fulfilling my vocation of beauty.
Jessamyn Anderson is a lover of all things true, good, and beautiful (which includes anything topped with Parmesan cheese). She lives in Nashville, TN, where she attempts to balance a multitude of jobs: freelance classical musician, communications director for Love Good, content editor for Fidelis, and a jeweler and personal stylist with Premier Designs. Her heart belongs to Jesus, women’s ministry, the stage, BBC Masterpiece shows, and the Great American Songbook. In the midst of resting in the uncertainty of God’s plans, you can find her at Jazzercise, journaling, or spending time with friends to support her extraverted tendencies.
Find her music here: jessamynanderson.com
Read her blog here: leadingladyblog.com
Learn about Love Good here: lovegoodculture.com
Capture by Stephen Dillon
Are you a lover of beauty that hopes to share truth and goodness? Check out Kate Capato’s work and help share more!