Musician or Artist?

by Steve Brown and Mike Westendorf

Are you a musician, an artist, or both? Are the best musicians artists? This post attempts to answer these questions.

In the secular world, you can watch any popular singing talent show and hear the judges tell the contestants that ‘artists’ make the song their own. And it’s the incredibly talented ‘musicians’ that back-up the singers.

The Musician
A musician is a person who plays an instrument to make pleasing sonorous sounds either solo or in joyful combination with other musicians. Musicians can be highly technical and accomplished to the point of sight reading nearly any piece of music and from any style or genre. They are detail oriented and like things ordered.

The Artist
By contrast, an artist usually has the musician’s skill set but adds to it an individual interpretation. The artist is a creative type by nature, she sees things a bit differently, she innovates and interprets a piece of music beyond the printed notes – they like to be the ones with the box of crayons. He is a trendsetter with something burning in his heart that he just has to share. The artist is more personal and less of a perfectionist and typically uses the right side of the brain more. Artists tend to be somewhat thin-skinned, sensitive and more emotional than other people. The artist sometimes needs the musician to help bring their musical creation to life.

Synergy
Both are needed in God’s kingdom. Both are servants. Both are gifted by God. Both are passionate. Both are loved by God. Both are God’s children. We need both. We encourage you, as the church leaders to foster a community that engages both in harmonious worship.

The Church
Unfortunately, in the traditional church where Steve and Mike roam, the musicians tend to dominate and the artists are somewhat looked upon with judgmental suspicion. This is sad because it’s what’s in the heart that matters. But based on the definitions and observations mentioned here, both musicians and artists can have humble, servant hearts with a passion to serve their Lord and the congregation. Let’s put it this way, King David was most likely both an artist and a musician.  

In the church, we actually need to learn how to harness the artist’s gifts better. Here is some advice:
  1. Artists are particularly well suited for special events such as concerts, picnics, outreach events, teen groups, special bible studies, festivals, etc.  Give the artists a little room here and watch their imaginations bring glory to God.
  2. Artists can be used in the worship service but might need a little guidance from the Pastor in terms of song selection and protocol.
  3. Combine the artists with the musical worship team for a bounty of beautiful music.
  4. Have the artists work with your musicians to help to improve their craft, and vice-versa.
So which are you?  Me (Steve), I am a musician and not a very good one. Mike, he’s an artist and too humble to say, so I’ll say it for him – he is a gifted one. In the end, it of course doesn’t matter; what does matter is your belief in Jesus as your personal savior from sin.

A special thanks to Mike Westendorf for joining me on this post and sharing his insights. Mike is a church ‘musician’ and a recording ‘artist’ in the Milwaukee area. For more information, or to discuss booking arrangements at your church, contact Mike at:

Website: mikewestendorf.com
Email: mike@mikewestendorf.com

Other places to learn more about Mike and his music:
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