I was born in the countryside of Colombia, South America, the fifth child among six. In the mountain where we lived, there was only one other house aside from my family’s. Because of this, I found my community of friends among the animals, plants, trees, and horses. I must say it was very nice to have a flower as a very good friend!
Colombia had just gone through a very violent period of about 70 years, and my father, a National Police Officer, had to bring military order to the towns that were chaotic. He said to us children: “Kids, it’s going to be very challenging. Because I’m a military man, something bad might happen to me. It will be very hard for you if I die, so you must learn how to do important things in life. The things I do, I will teach you.”
My parents emphasized education, so my father taught us skills like how to play chess, use the typewriter, and play musical instruments. We had a Colombian Tiple, a stringed instrument ¾ the size of a classical guitar, which was quite nice to strum. From there, I learned to play the guitar. I found the guitar very beautiful. However, at four or five years old, the steel strings would cut my tender fingers. It was not easy, but I learned how to play the instrument.
“I have the deepest thankfulness to God for my parents, my mother Conchita was ‘Mrs. Love’ and my father Álvaro was ‘Mr. Discipline,’ both Instruments of God for a purpose in my life!”
My Father’s Influence in My Life
Discipline and commitment were important values I learned from my father. My father taught me how to be committed to the guitar; to be disciplined with my practice of it. This was non-negotiable. I had to practice everyday. Every single day. Gradually, I learned how to love music through my constant playing. Music became my friend. When I was sad, I went to the guitar to express my sadness; to express myself. When I was happy, I used the guitar to express my happiness.
I remember the time my father asked me, “Did you practice today?”
I said, “Yes.”
He followed up with: “Did you practice for one hour?”
At the young age of four, I couldn’t tell if I had practiced for one hour. My father understood and gave me an instruction: “Sit down.” He then tied me to a chair with his belt and told me to play the guitar. “Master it,” he said. “When I say ‘Finish!’, that’s the only time you stop.”
For a couple of weeks daily, I had the same routine of being tied to the chair for an hour to practice. Then, my father started increasing my practice time. I was practicing for 2 hours, then 3 hours, then 4 hours. When I was 12 years old, I was practicing the guitar daily for 5 hours. At 13 years old, I was practicing for 6 hours; then at 14, 7 hours. When I was 15 years old, I was already practicing 8 hours daily.
At the beginning, the discipline of practicing the guitar was not easy for me. But in those formative years, I learned obedience—something very important to learn. Along with my obedience and discipline, my father expected excellence from me. Excellence only came with an attitude of diligence.
I learned that one thing leads to another: diligence gives discipline; discipline brings a person to habit and then to consistency. For me, habit created a need inside my heart to go to my instrument. I learned how to enjoy and fall in love with practicing my guitar. Because of consistency, EXCELLENCE came.
My Passion for Music
It was wonderful. I became passionate for the guitar; passionate for practicing. 2 hours and 3 hours were no longer enough. If 2 or 3 hours were demanded of me, I ended up playing 5 hours or 6 hours. I loved it. When you have passion for something, you really exert yourself.
I remember that at 19 years old, I represented Colombia in an international competition of classical guitar. I said to my girlfriend then, “No more disco for us, no more barbecue, no more movies. I’m busy. I’m sorry. You are welcome to sit by my side, but don’t talk to me because I’m busy.” That was commitment! Of course, she got so bored, she left one day and didn’t come back.
Perfection in My Music
I was dreaming with a passion— a passion for music. I wanted perfection in my music. Of all the good things my father taught me, the field of the arts was strongly linked to my dreams of perfection. I wanted to be perfect. My dream to be perfect became the purpose of my existence.
By this time, it was not difficult for me to practice for 8 hours or 10 hours a day. In fact, due to musical competitions, I spent 1 ½ years or 18 months practicing 18 hours a day. I didn’t plan for that. I planned only for a daily eight hours, but 18 hours soon felt too little. Again, I had the ambition to be perfect. I wanted more and more and more perfection.
My life came to the point where I needed a stronger reason for my life. I started to see that my perfection through the arts wasn’t possible. I was very frustrated. It brought me to a deep sadness of heart. I thought I could be perfect, but I couldn’t.
Then my sister came to encourage me. In the past, she had shared to me about the Lord. As a way of fellowshipping with me now, she shared her faith through a Christian ministry among university students in Colombia called the Unidad Cristiana Universitaria (UCU), or the University Christian Fellowship. As I struggled with this dark season in my life, I decided to strengthen my mind and heart in the Lord. I found peace.
PEACE in my heart was the first fruit in my relationship with God. From that day on, I didn’t have to think that I was perfect or that I had to be perfect. I received perfection as a gift from God the moment I received Jesus into my heart. He perfected my faith.
Now I had a new nature, a new heart, a new mind; a new way to proceed. I realized perfection could be translated into my new life as excellence. Excellence was something that came from perfection, but now it meant a perfection in Christ. The Lord made me excellent.
I do not take any credit in this. Only God deserves all the glory.
The Relationship Between Music and Worship
Music and worship have a beautiful relationship. However, music is not worship. A person can only worship with his or her heart. We can have high levels or complexities in music and enjoy the music very much. However, the only way music can have a dimension of worship is through the heart.
To worship— fall in love with Jesus. You might sing very well, or play an instrument very nicely, but if your heart does not move for God, there is no worship.
The Bible says we must make music in our hearts. Ephesians 5:19 talks about this. We make music to God in our hearts and speak to each other with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. So we start learning— what is the way to get into the presence of God with music? Is it only through Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?
I believe that everything in our lives can become an act of worship– not only playing music. Music is a very nice and beautiful way of expressing our hearts, but we cannot forget that the highest stage of the expression of our hearts for worship is serving others. It’s not singing. It’s not dancing. It’s not composing songs. It is washing the dishes. It is serving the poor. It is serving others. Otherwise, you are doing nothing. I believe that that’s the highest stage of worship– when you give yourself, not when you “sing yourself.”
Jesus said that those who want to be the first are the last ones and the servers. That’s worship. It’s not singing. It’s not playing. But if you to dare to play or sing, you must do it excellently because worship is not for your friend, it’s not for your body; it’s for the King of kings.
My Path As a Musician
The Lord has sent me to different places, different nations, and different atmospheres. The government is one example. Many people in government don’t go to church. But when God has people in His mind to touch, He targets someone to go and bring the good news to that person. In my case, the Lord used the music He gave me as a key to open hearts; to open offices. I can go and bring the good news of God to big decision makers in government.
Initially, these people feel attraction to the classical music, the jazz, or the international selections I play (or any kind of music I play!). But at the end of the day, I realize that I bring the good news of Jesus to them. That’s my passion. This passion is even higher than playing the guitar or playing the harp or playing any music.
This is the Reason of my life– Jesus. He within me is the most beautiful and amazing perfection, the excellence, the passion, my whole dream— and I can make a difference in this world. This can only be possible through the blood of Jesus.
My Message to the Youth
In my country, there is a beautiful tune, “Yo También Tuve Veinte Años” or in English, “I Also Was Twenty Years Old.” It’s a very beautiful, romantic song. To the youth— you have in front of you your whole life, and it must be managed wisely. In Psalm 90:12, it says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
God is a gentleman and allows us to do what we want. I say to you, “You better behave! You better go for the best part! I encourage you to go for what you see operating within your life, within your heart, within your talents. What is the best part of you? Try to work on this; develop this more and more. Dedicate this talent to the glory of God. He will make it new and make it stronger. I really encourage you to do what God has called you to do. I am in music, but your life might be different. You might be in mathematics, robotics, media… the world needs ways for the Gospel to be expressed in different and fresh ways. I encourage you to be diligent; to be disciplined. Without discipline, it’s impossible to turn something into great value for your life. Go for passion. Get passionate for something. Get engaged with tasks. Do not play with your life. Learn how to commit. Definitely, be excellent. Remember: this is for the glory of God. When we try to take the credit, to take the glory of God, there is ambition; the getting of vanity in believing “I’m too good” or “I’m too good to be true.” That’s a lie. Trust God. Do not lean on your own thinking. Trust the Lord with all your heart. Go for it; go for the dream that God has given to you.
Maestro ÁLVARO SANCHEZ’s special accomplishments:
Maestro Alvaro Sanchez is a multi-awarded musician. He has been the winner of the Colombian National Music Competition :“El Mono Núñez”; winner of the Internacional Paris Music Competition: “Chanteclair,”; winner of the Colombian National Choir Conducting Competition, Kuala Lumpur Internacional Music Competition: “Asian Beat,” and more. He founded the KING OF GLORY Symphony Orchestra in Singapore and has been a special guest artist for various dignitaries and presidents coming from countries such as Colombia, Singapore, Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and among the royalty in Europe and Southeast Asia. His musical discography features titles such as Singapore, Sed De Amor, and Heavenly Harp, among others.
Janina Marie Rivera is the author of the book, A Night Bird Sings of Blindness and Fear and has co-authored the devotional, Dawns, published by OMF Literature. She is a contributing poet in the books Joyful Light and Whitmanthology: on Loss and Grief by Various Authors. She is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine.