From Rags to Riches… To Rags Again [Part 1/2]

I know it’s December and I promise to get to the ooey gooey Christmas bloggy goodness, but this has been on my mind recently and I decided to do a little research on it. I either read or heard a while back that “the third generation loses what the first generation worked so hard to build”. Couldn’t tell you where I read or heard it, but it stuck out in my mind so much that I had to research it and check it for myself to see if there was any validity to it.

So I started with a simple search that went like this:

“1st generation works, 2nd generation maintains, 3rd generation is spoiled”

That lead me to and an article written by Douglas Tong titled “From the Teacher’s Corner 24: Three Generations”. There Mr. Tong explains the very thing I’ve been looking for in great detail.

For the full article, please go to:

The actual proverb is a Chinese proverb that says:

Fu bu guo san dai
Translated: “Wealth does not pass three generations”

(I don’t speak Chinese so I sure hope that’s what it translates to…)

That has been transliterated into numerous cultures each placing their own spin on it. For example:

“Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”
“Rags to riches to rags in three generations”
“Clogs to clogs”
“Kimono to Kimono”
“Rice paddy to rice paddy”

You get the picture. The general theory of these sayings go like this:

The FIRST generation:

Works hard to achieve wealth.

The SECOND generation:

Reaps the benefits of the first generation, but loses the work ethic.

The THIRD generation:

Squaders, spends, consumes the wealth with no concept of working for it.

Pretty clear cut, right? Not to mention a pretty vicious cycle (if you find yourself on the wrong side of this cycle). This “three generations theory” is well known around the world and throughout time. From my research, it looks like it’s been the underlying cause of the destruction of families, businesses, kingdoms, and empires.

But what might we find if we hold this theory up to Biblical illumination?


Splicing the SACRED with the SECULAR [Part 3/6]: Opposing Ends of the Spectrum

Let’s get some definitions out of the way before we continue (special thanks to for providing these definitions… these FREE definitions):

SPLICE (v) – join or connect (a rope or ropes) by interweaving the strands

SACRED (adj) – connected with God or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration (respect)

SECULAR (adj) – denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis: contrasted with sacred

So now we can get into the nitty gritty. We can read from the definitions above that SACRED and SECULAR are on two opposing ends of the spectrum. One is connected with God and the other is separated from God. That in itself should be enough to make a decisive decision as to why the two shouldn’t be mixed, but for church musicians that play secular music OR secular musicians that play church music, there is that grey area of “It’s not that simple”.

As a church musician for virtually all my life AND a holder of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jazz Studies with a focus in Jazz Piano, I see on a regular basis how Jazz/R&B chords and song structures are quite present in Gospel music. In fact, I use a lot of what I have learned/still learning in what I do in church. So does that mean that I’m splicing the sacred with the secular? If I include Jazzy or Neo-Soul chords into a hymn, does that dilute the actual message of the hymn?

The issue is not necessarily the music itself since music without words is simply music. It’s really the words that can either bless or corrupt a song turning it into something sacred or something secular.

But then when we consider secular songs that have turned into Gospel songs, I believe it gets down to the Psychoacoustics question of “Which one did you hear first?” For example, Kirk Franklin’s “Looking For You” is a remake of Patrice Rushen’s “Haven’t You Heard”. While I’m not picking on Kirk Franklin, that’s just a great example of “Which one did you hear first?”

For the old heads that heard Patrice Rushen first, Gospel may not be on your mind because that’s probably not what you associate the song with.

However, for the young heads who ONLY know the Kirk Franklin remake, it’s more Gospel (or, at least, “churchy”) than anything else.

So, in this case, the secular has been spliced with the sacred, but is THAT a right thing to do?

The Fleeting Fancies of Fledglings [Part 2/3]: The Analysis

In the last blog, the article titled “Teenage Music Listening Habits: The Terrifying Truth” was posted. If you didn’t read the article, you can check it out here:

As promised, here is my analysis on that article, but keep in mind that depending on what side of the coin you’re on, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. Before we dig in, let me explain that I totally understand that this article is not representative of EVERY teenager living on planet Earth. However, since this article is published, there must be some sort of majority that feels this way, so let’s dig in:


This article is a good thing simply because if you’re trying to make a quick buck with the 18 and under crowd, then this article will tell you exactly how to do it and I would say to treat this article like GOLD! Ultimately, the formula whittles down to this:

1. Make ONE song that follows popular musical trends.

2. Post it on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Spotify.

3. Cash in.

4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 if you want more cash.

This formula is simple in its construct and doesn’t require that a person be a musical artist per se, but rather it requires a person to be an awesome engineer possibly with keyboarding experience OR, to a lesser degree, access to musicians. In the article, the first line under “So what do I do with this information” reads:

“Concentrate on one song at a time. Record, release, promote. Rinse and repeat.”

If this is your M.O. then, by all means, go for it. Make your money and go on about your day. You shalt not receiveth a cup of Haterade from me for I have bills too. LOL!


This article can be a bad thing, but, to a greater degree, I think it’s more depressing than anything else. Why? Because a real musical artist is going to do what a real musical artist does… and that is usually not limited to ONE song. When I was 18, we had to buy the whole CD to get to the one song that we heard on the radio. The funny part about that is the one song on the radio probably wasn’t the best song on the entire project. Don’t get it wrong, there were DEFINITELY “dud projects”, but, for the most part, full CD projects were pretty good to the point where you could listen to the entire CD again and again.

But you had to LISTEN TO THE WHOLE CD to find that out.

So this article is a bad thing in the sense that:

1. …teenagers deprive themselves of finding out whether an artist is truly worth their time.
*The sum total of an artist is not the ONE popular song that they created. For example, Bobby McFerrin is a phenomenal singer/musician, but he is only KNOWN for “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”… a song that he himself considered nothing more than a trifle. Speaking of “Happy”, Pharrell is a musical genius as well so I certainly hope he doesn’t get pigeon-holed in the same fashion.

2. …teenagers limit themselves to music that sounds alike.
*Consider this: teenagers listen to ONE song at a time… with no true artist loyalty… and that ONE song probably sounds like every other ONE song downloaded into their MP3 device… which makes for a boring musical lexicon.

3. …teenagers miss out on using the entirety of your brain to regularly challenge their musical tastes.
*How can they KNOW if they like Jazz if they’ve never heard it?

As attention spans are shortened by an MTV-like blizzard of images and sounds, it’s causing music to try to keep up with the fleeting fancies of fledglings because that’s where the fast money is…

…and the music is suffering as a result.


The Fleeting Fancies of Fledglings [Part 1/3]: The Research

I received an email from one of the many music business groups that I’m a part of titled “Teenage Music Listening Habits. The Terrifying Truth.” I read the article and, the way I see it, there are terrifying parts of this article, but there are also nuggets on how to reach a generation with an ever decreasing attention span. In the next post, I will give you my analysis of this article, but definitely check it out first and see what you think.

Teenage Music Listening Habits. The Terrifying Truth

It is a little on the terrifying side though… ENJOY!

Vacay [Part 6/6]: Back to Life, Back to Reality

This blog series comes from a recent vacation that my wife and I took. Had time to clear the old noggin and here’s the “bloggy goodness” that has come as a result. Enjoy!

“Back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now, yeah” -Soul II Soul

Coming back from vacation has to be the hardest part of vacation. To return to the rat race that you thought you’d never get away from is sobering (to say the least), but a good vacation is worth it’s weight in gold. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you don’t schedule time off for yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. However, you also have to consider the health benefits of just getting away from it all (even for a little while).

Don’t believe me? Well, check out this article from on the subject:

Vacation. If you don’t do it, you NEED to do it. Don’t delay. Book it today.

(sound advice that I have to constantly give to myself)

Double Booked

First let me start off with this. I had an AWESOME WEEKEND!

Second, let me say that I was EXHAUSTED today.

Here’s what happened. This last past weekend was the result of advanced scheduling. In other words, I was scheduled to teach a 3-day workshop over the weekend… which I did. I was also scheduled to spend time with family and friends on day 2 of the actual workshop… which I also did. As a result, my schedule this last past weekend was non-stop (not to mention the full work week leading up to the weekend).

Here’s the lesson: THERE MUST BE BALANCE. Your body cannot sustain constant motion forever and eventually requires a rest period. So just remember that if your schedule is packed to the gills, go on and schedule a break.

Sounds silly to say and oh-so-basic, but if you don’t do it, no one else will do it for you.

The Faithful Few

**This blog is dedicated to the singers and musicians of Untitled Praise.**

And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it?” (Jesus speaking) “It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR can NEST UNDER ITS SHADE.” -Mark 4:30-32 (NASB)

One of the things that I’m learning more and more in my old age is that a lot of people doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of success. In fact, some of the greatest successes in life happen as a result of small things. A huge forest fire comes from only a tiny spark. Tall oak trees come from the smallest of seeds. The tallest or biggest atheletes come from the smallest mixture of human genetic material. So on and so forth.

As I get older and older, I am learning this lesson more and more specifically in church music. Whereas I do LOVE a nice, big mass choir, and have spoken about the power and impact of such an entity in previous blogs, I do not take anything away from smaller groups like praise teams/ensembles because there is definitely a place for them as well. There are countless examples in the Bible where God will take the smallest or seemingly most insignificant person or thing and turn the world upside down. Think about having faith the size of a mustard seed.

Now think about how big an actual mustard seed is.


So to all the praise teams, praise ensembles, gospel quartets, church bands, etc who make the music happen on a regular basis without a lot of numbers, don’t think that God can’t take what you think of as small and turn it into something that will impact the world for His glory in a BIG way.

In my musical experience, I’d rather take a faithful few into “battle” as opposed to an uncertain multitude.