By Doug Johnson
This past Sunday, I had the privilege of facilitating the surprise gift we sprang on Aaron. If you weren’t at the service, a group of musicians, sound/lighting folks, music lovers, and fans of Aaron pooled some money and got Aaron a new guitar for Christmas. There is video on the blog site that shows the presentation at the morning service. My favorite moments of the video: his “whoa” at seeing the big box, his reaction when he saw the Taylor logo on the guitar case, his barely audible indrawn breath when he opened the case and first saw the guitar, and finally his emotionally squeaky “thank you”….speechless to say the least.
I wanted to give a few comments behind the scenes, so to speak. I’ve known Aaron a long time, ever since he started coming to Granite Springs Church in the old warehouse days. He and I have become pretty good friends during that time and I really enjoy the weekly opportunities to play music with him. During that time, it has been great to see him transition from drummer to singer to songwriter to worship leader. When he got a modest guitar a couple years ago, I smiled. Aaron is very gifted musically and I thought it was great he was interested in learning to play guitar. I had no idea how quickly he’d be comfortable playing and it’s been great to see him stand out front, playing guitar, singing, and leading worship.
The genesis of this gift idea originated at a practice session in early November. You may not know this, but Aaron has been playing my Guild guitar for several months. He wanted to do some recording and asked if he could use my guitar – which I was happy to oblige. He enjoyed playing it so much that I just let him keep playing it on Sundays (a guitar that is regularly played is a happy guitar). We had a song where the plan was to play two acoustic guitars. Aaron was already playing mine so I grabbed his “lesser” acoustic and we started working on the song. One of the other musicians commented about us playing each other’s guitar and a bit of spontaneous banter began about Aaron someday having his own better guitar. It was a great and funny exchange among a few musicians – life’s priorities for Aaron (a 16 month old boy and a baby girl on the way in February).
The next day I got an email from one of the musicians; wouldn’t it be cool if we could take up a collection and buy Aaron a guitar as a Christmas gift? Well, that was all I needed to hear, and while I can’t take credit for the idea, I was happy to find a way to make it happen. So began a series of emails to a group of folks who I thought would want to be part of this gift giving event (and thankfully they continued passing the word to others). I know there is a lot of love for Aaron at Granite Springs, but even I was surprised at the enthusiasm and positive reaction from those I contacted. Early on, I had a Taylor model guitar on my radar as my target wish, hoping the donations would allow for a nice guitar. I wanted Aaron to have a guitar that would be a notch or two above what he might choose.
Over the next several weeks, as I got the weekly tallies of dollars from the church staff, I got more and more enthusiastic that the Taylor model was attainable. Thanks to a timely holiday 15% off coupon (and I know Aaron appreciates the use of a coupon), I was able to acquire what I considered to be the perfect guitar – with a week to spare. Knowing Aaron, I figured he might want to jump in and play it immediately, so I also made sure to include some key accessories. And of course, I played the guitar myself over the course of a few days to make sure it was broken in – a lovely instrument. The final task was wrapping it up in a box and finding a way to hide it at church (not an easy task since Aaron is there quite early on Sunday mornings).
And so it was – we were able to spring the surprise on Aaron this last Sunday. Aaron was “wowed” to say the least. The most amazing thing to me was how easily Aaron jumped into playing the new guitar. Yes, it was a bit clumsy getting it ready and hooked up, but for Aaron to jump in and play it for the first time – on a solo singing song no less – well, that was truly special to see and hear. It just further demonstrates the caliber of Aaron’s musical gifts.
We are all truly blessed to have Aaron lead our worship services and share his gifts with us on a weekly basis. I know he puts a lot of time and effort into choosing, writing, and arranging music to meet our diverse musical tastes. It is fantastic that all the fans and friends of Aaron could let him know our appreciation with such a wonderful gift. I know that Aaron was deeply moved by the generosity of the gift and I’m happy we will all continue to enjoy the benefits as he plays the guitar at church.