Beyond Excellence

Landy Gardner was the choir director at my church, Christ Church Nashville, for almost forty years.   He was a musical genious even though he didn’t personally excel at reading music, arranging, or singing and neither played a musical instrument.  But Landy knew what beautiful, heavenly music sounded like and he knew how to pull people together to get that amazing sound.  He was gifted in that way like no one I’ve ever known.

His excellence and leadership led us to places around America and even the world.  We sang at music conferences, the CMA and Dove awards, Ukraine, and every Sunday morning at Christ church.  We held concerts where the choir would pack out the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville or our church sometimes two or three nights in a row.

Excellence draws people and the excellent music produced by Landy and the choir drew thousands.  Not only audiences but singers also. Those of us who could take the discipline and commitment it took to be in Landy’s choir loved the experience that producing such wonderful music brought.  I remember thinking many times while in the choir loft that there was no place on earth I’d rather be than right there at that time.

After 25 years God called me to another church.  Ironically, it turned out to be at the exact same time that Landy’s assignment at Christ Church ended.

Cancer took Landy’s life way too early.   At his memorial service the choir loft was filled with hundreds of previous choir members.  Even though it had been years since we had sung together, We sang the songs he arranged exactly the way he had taught us.  The Holy Spirit visited us that day and anointed our voices just the way Landy would have wanted. Oh to live a life so great that even the Holy Spirit Himself comes to honor you at your funeral in such an incredible way!

Landy was a natural, vibrant leader who loved God and would settle for nothing less than excellence in everything he touched.  Not only one of the best choir directors in the world, he was one of Nashville’s finest interior designers, creating the most beautiful rooms for those who could afford his expertise.

What was the secret to the incredible music Landy pulled from a choir of ordinary people?  What made it incredibly beautiful and awe inspiring?  Why did the music move people the way it did, always bringing both singers and audiences to the throne of God in worship to Him?

The secret was that Human excellence wasn’t good enough for Landy.  While He taught us to work hard to learn the beautifully arranged music and practice every song until it became second nature to us, perfecting each and every note, pitch, and tone and anything else Landy could add to make it great; that was never enough.  For when he felt it was good as we could possibly get it, he would say “Now give it to God and ask for His Holy Spirit blessing on it.”  That is what would turn the water into wine and bring heaven down to earth.  We were singing effortlessly because we knew the material so well, and were able to just worship and seek God’s anointing.  It never failed!

It’s a valuable lesson I want  to take with me into every other area of my life.   Always be as excellent as possible, but don’t stop there. When I’ve done the best I can, ask for God to bless it to take it to the next level beyond what is humanly possible.

It’s a lesson we can all benefit from whether in music, art, business, and anything else in life.


”In all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your paths.”  Proverbs 3:6


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