The Benefits of Studying Classical Music: Rev. Kyla Ward, Senior Associate Pastor

The Benefits of Studying Classical Music: Rev. Kyla Ward, Senior Associate Pastor featured image

Christa Nicole Photography

I love writing about the “stuff you don’t think about” when it comes to life as a musician, but in this ongoing series, I wanted to investigate something a little different: those who aren’t classical musicians, but studied it enough to reap the benefits in other aspects of their lives.

One reason I chose this topic is very basic: “studying classical music is good for you”, and while that’s a given, I wanted to personalize why. The other reason was to sort out my own personal experience with studying music to a certain level, which sometimes conflicted with my knowledge I didn’t want to be a performer. I didn’t realize the advantages until much later.

In this ongoing series, posted every week or so, I’ll be speaking with doctors, lawyers, marketing professionals, accountants, actors, arts administrators, and people in all kinds of fields who studied classical music and are thankful they did. I’ll keep this going until I run out of participants. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do.

Today, let’s meet Reverend Kyla Ward. To me, it makes perfect sense that she’s a minister, because I viewed her as a bit of an angel back in our university choir days. Before Kyla came along, a highly eccentric and off-pitch soprano somehow made it past auditions, and morale was low. Our choir prof diplomatically un-accepted her from the choir, and the calm and lovely Kyla was ushered in, much to the relief of the other choir members (especially me).

Please summarize your current career, and your duties.
I teach, preach, shepherd, love, serve, encourage, and release the people in my congregation to make Jesus known. I also can be found reading stories to preschoolers in the Kids Ministry rooms, wrangling up volunteers to provide coffee and cookies at services, or leading brainstorming for strategic sessions with our church leaders. Every day is different.

What instrument(s) did you study, and at what stage in your life?
I grew up playing piano. In my house that was an understood reality. However, I have always considered myself a trained vocalist – Soprano. I began voice lessons at 16, and graduated university with a degree in Vocal Performance.

Were music lessons intended as a hobby or did you have a performing career in mind?
I think piano lessons were intended as part of my education. Just like you study math – you study piano. When I started voice lessons it was different. I definitely had the expectation that it would lead to a career on stage.

In a way, it did, as the pulpit and stage are similar! Was quitting your music lessons a welcome relief or a heart-wrenching moment of reckoning?
I remember that completing my work at university came as a welcome relief. I don’t think it was so much because of what I was studying; rather, I was ready to move on to what I saw as the next stage in my life – being anything other than a student. I absolutely missed my lessons, though. I can only imagine it would be similar to an athlete who feels in top shape for a race or game – after it’s over, you may still enjoy sport, but you realize you’ll never be in that top shape again. I still love singing – but I will never be as well prepared to sing as I was in those student years.

I can relate to that – I tried vocalizing the other day and my range is non-existent. How did your classical music studies (and music theory, if you studied that too) impact your ability to do your job today?
I often tell people that I can’t imagine anything preparing me better to be a pastor than my music studies. Every Sunday when I rise to address a congregation, I’m grateful for my comfort in commanding an audience and relaying a story. Also, music is so rarely performed in isolation. The kind of collaboration that exists for musicians is the training ground for so many transferable skills to a workplace filled with differing ideas, abilities, hopes, and gifts. I also think that preparation,critical reflection, revision – all so critical to the work of a preacher – are disciplines that I naturally gravitate towards as a musician. At the end of the day, though, it is the desire to connect with another that I so strongly identify as the transferable quality I value most in my work. Music is, if nothing, a way one conveys his or her heart and soul to another. I have found this same kind of connection permeates all spiritual care.

Is classical or music in general (playing, listening, attending concerts, getting your kids to practise) a part of your life today? If not, do you think you’ll return to it?
I still love nothing more than a night at the opera. Ok, well, that or a night of watching my kids in their band concerts, choir concerts, piano recitals, or school musicals. I can’t for a moment think of music not playing a significant role in my life. I’ve never had to nag my kids to practice – they love the satisfaction of practicing something to performance. If anything, I occasionally bribe my son to stop playing – he is a budding percussionist – and wow, are drums ever loud!

Kyla Ward, mother of unicorn children, preaches at Victoria Alliance in BC.

Want to share your experience how studying classical music shaped your life and career?
[email protected]

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