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Struggle taught pianist to depend on God

'The realization that Jesus cares changed everything for me,' Colorado church member Gordon Bauer says.

PARKER, Colo. — For much of his adult life, Gordon Bauer experienced shooting pain from his hands to his shoulders whenever he tried to play piano. It was a devastating reality for the gifted pianist, who hoped to study at Juilliard before he developed the dual-wrist and arm disability when he was a teenager.

Gordon Bauer talks to the crowd during his recent benefit concert in Parker, Colo.

Gordon Bauer talks to the crowd during his recent benefit concert in Parker, Colo.

He kept his faith in the Lord. After high school, Bauer attended Bear Valley Bible Institute in Denver with the idea of becoming a preacher. But later, he earned a business degree at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City and chose a career as a financial planner.

In 1998, Bauer experienced a renaissance through Splankna therapy, a Christian-based protocol for mind-body psychology. Now 60, he described himself as “a pianist and a preacher” during a recent “Music and Message” classical piano concert, during which he performed works by Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel, and Rachmaninoff. Partnering with Christian Relief Fund, Bauer raised more than $5,000 for water well drilling in western Africa. 

Bauer, his wife, Beata, and their four children worship with the Littleton Church of Christ, south of Denver.  


Tell us about the “Music and Message” concert.

It was a performance of eight classical songs for the piano that also tell the stories of individuals that have overcome tragedy. This being the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, it seemed appropriate to perform two of the pieces he wrote while going deaf.

My interpretation of his “Moonlight Sonata” and “The Tempest” is that, in them, Beethoven reveals his personal suffering and aloneness. (He kept his condition hidden to his contemporaries.) 

“I’m pretty sure every person encounters a challenge to their faith sometime during their lifetime.”

Each piece also makes a powerful statement of life, faith and hope. 

In my youth, I received training in both classical piano and preaching, and through my concert I share introductions that explain each piece (the “message”), and then I perform the music.

How does your own story relate to this theme?

I’m pretty sure every person encounters a challenge to their faith sometime during their lifetime. Where is God in those moments that really matter most to us? If he’s all powerful, knows everything and has perfect love, why doesn’t he intervene when our reasoning says that any good person would if they could? 

I had to give up piano and my dreams at age 16 because of a mysterious condition. During the 22 years that followed when I could not play the piano, I think I represented both the person who, as a result of life’s challenges, comes to view God as absent, and also someone who views God as an advocate and sustainer through a difficult situation.

What message would you share with someone facing similar challenges who questions God?

After my first concert five years ago — my first performance since I was 16 — I just wanted it to remain a personal experience for those close friends and family attending. Now I’m pretty sure that I am supposed to share — through the life stories of others and my own, and through music — that there is a way back from doubt and disappointment with God.

Does anyone remember that Jesus’ interaction with his disciples resulted in their seeing a ghost? Mark’s gospel explains that when they were in greatest peril after hours of battling the waves and wind alone, Jesus intended to walk on by. 

My reaction is, “What?” I’m pretty sure the disciples didn’t understand that maybe Jesus was trying to signal his confidence that they had almost overcome this obstacle.

And with both Mary and Martha, we see there was a crack, an opening for doubt revealed when they tell Jesus that their brother would not have died if he would have been there. 

In both instances — and in Beethoven’s, and in mine — choices about God were made. Is God an apparition, a distortion of who we think he should be? Or is he one on whom we can depend — always good, always love? 

I take encouragement that God reveals through Scripture the struggles of great women and men. He understands our struggles and doubting completely. And the music expresses the feelings of conflict or resolution that we experience.

 

You infer at your concert that the course of your life was at different times one of despair and also a victory of sorts. How did you regain hope and trust again?

I think it is a paradox that when my physical state was at its worst, in so many ways I thrived.

For six years after winning a state piano contest, I needed help with virtually everything because of a condition called focal dystonia. I learned to depend on others — and on God. 

“I believe Jesus cries for all of us in that exact moment we are hurting the most. The realization that Jesus cares changed everything for me.”

And then I discovered a treatment that brought about slow recovery with my arms and hands. 

But as I regained some independence again, thoughts and anxiety formulated. Maybe God took it away from me once, and so he might again. With that opening, my heart darkened toward God.

My full faith was restored many years later when I prepared and preached a sermon as a fill-in at my church titled “Jesus Wept.” Mary and Martha’s doubts in the face of clear “evidence” that Jesus didn’t care, as proved by his absence in their time of need, was dispelled when Jesus cried. 

The narrative starts with, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,” and ends in proof that Jesus cared when he was deeply moved, and he wept. 

My story — and yours, everyone’s — begins with “Now Jesus loved Gordon, or Lynda, or …” and ends always in his being deeply moved because of our personal suffering.

I believe Jesus cries for all of us in that exact moment we are hurting the most. The realization that Jesus cares changed everything for me.

What is ahead for you?

I want to share spiritual messages and classical music that complement each other. So my website has a section that introduces great classical music, like a primer or a music appreciation class. There’s also a “Music and Message” section.

And I am now offering to perform for charities free of charge. Maybe there are other nonprofit groups that could utilize the piano concert format for fundraising. 

It is a joy unsurpassed to play piano in front of an audience and do good for a great cause.

See videos from Bauer’s concert and learn more about his music ministry at his website, musicandmessage.net.

Filed under: Church of Christ Dialogue focal dystonia Gordon Bauer pianist Top Stories

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