Musician Marvin Goldstein has been teaching at Education Week for more than 20 years and believes there’s more The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can do with music.
The pianist, composer and french horn player from Tallahassee, Fla. began teaching at Education Week after receiving a blessing from Marvin J. Ashton, in which Goldstein said he was set apart as a lifetime missionary of music.
Since then, more than 14,000 people have attended his classes at Education Week. His topics have varied slightly over the years and have included the divine nature of music, testimonies born through music, the hymns of the LDS Church, the sacred nature of the children’s songbook, the sacred nature of Christmas music and musical performance.
But Goldstein said he has another message that he includes in all of his classes.
“There seems to be a major lack of emphasis on music, church-wide,” Goldstein said. “Even at Education Week out of the more than 1,000 classes, only five or six of them are about music. There’s just a lack of direction with music, in my opinion.”
Goldstein explained that he thinks there are plenty of talented musicians in the Church, but that there isn’t enough direction from Church leaders to use them properly. He added that he thinks the Church could increase its converts if it utilized music for missionary work differently.
“We could be the catalyst for making the language of music bring people together, which then brings them to the gospel,” Goldstein said. “The missionary work we could do through music is so substantial that we could almost forgo some of the old ways we do things and be way more effective.”
And Goldstein isn’t alone when he teaches.
“In these last few years, rather than doing 10 or 11 classes myself, which is getting to be a little much, I’ve asked friends to join,” Goldstein said.
Those friends include other LDS musicians and composers like Janice Kapp Perry and, more recently, vocalist Vanessa Joy.
Joy began working with Goldstein about five years ago and said they both share similar goals.
“There’s beautiful music in this world that can reach people, and that’s my goal to make music that can help people change for the good,” Joy said.
Joy also emphasized that her music allows her to be a missionary
“Here I am using music, and yes, I feel I am spreading the gospel,” Joy said. “The majority of concerts I do are with non-members, and I’m able to sing and get away with singing about God in a setting where these people may not be attending any church and I know that they are feeling the Spirit, and I am able to use my music to help them feel something that’s touching them.”
Over the past five years, Joy and Goldstein have traveled the world to perform and share what Goldstein calls the spirit of music. Joy said performing at a cathedral in Germany helped her create a bond with other performers even though they didn’t understand each other. In Jerusalem, Goldstein said a concert for Israelis and Arabs helped break down some cultural barriers.
“They all left that day knowing that they all had an experience from one side to the other side that at least during that concert, and they were better off for it,” Goldstein said.
When Goldstein and Joy teach at Education week, they said they plan to do a lot of performing. They usually tell stories and talk about the music they perform, but they said they mostly like to let the music do the talking. Goldstein says that he hopes that people feel the power of music, and then take action to use music as a missionary tool themselves even without formalized Church instruction.
Goldstein emphasized that he doesn’t think the Church is wrong in the way it incorporates and encourages music, just that it is behind. In fact, he praised the efforts of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and said it is a great example of sharing the gospel through the power of music. But he said there just needs to be more of it.
“The world is a big place and we need more than one choir,” Goldstein said.