This Sunday in our “You Asked For It” series, the question being answered is about music styles and the power of music. For me, music has had a profound impact on my life. My mom played the piano and sang at the churches my dad pastored while I was growing up. My first recollection of church music was when we lived in Wilmington, NC. Julia Milligan played the piano, her husband Mike played the bass guitar, and Bobby Harker played the drums. I was fascinated with the drums. I would have been 4-5 years old at the time. Bobby gave me a pair of sticks and my dad took at 2×4 and put carpet on it and I begin to learn rhythm. Actually, that wasn’t the only thing I played. I played forks and spoons at the dinner table, tapped my fingers on the window and door in the car and anything else I could find.
My parents understood the importance of music and they sent me to piano lessons at Mr. Willoughby’s. He was an older gentleman with the softest hands. His daughter Sandra was a great pianist and she played at a church across town from us. I admit that I did not particularly enjoy going to piano or practicing, but in hindsight, it became the strong base for any musical ability that I would develop in my life.
While in Wilmington I started to school and in 5th grade we could begin band class. My instrument of choice was the trumpet. That trumpet afforded me many opportunities over my lifetime. I would march in parades, play in church and at conferences, and travel with the school band to many competitions. That trumpet and my participation in music put me in places that began lifelong friendships. I have friends around the country today, that I would not have had without that music in my life.
Music has a way of bringing people together. You can go to a concert for any artist and find people from all walks of life, different races, broad economic backgrounds and diverse opinions. But on that night or in that venue, most of those things do not matter. Music influences how we behave, our moods, our relationships…our lives. Music is a powerful thing. Bono said, “Music can change the world because it can change people”. Music does change people.
Right after I turned 15, my dad moved to Washington, NC to pastor a church. It was there that music would greatly impact some relationships in my life. I finished high school there so I have a lot of friends from the band. But a few months before we moved to Washington, my parents bought an album by the Kingsmen “Live From the University of Alabama” where they walked on stage and opened with Roll Tide in 4 part harmony. I was hooked! I wanted to sing quartet music. It was there in Washington at the church my dad pastored where I would find some other teenage boys that wanted to do that same thing.
Five of us started this group call “Faith”. Jeff Jones, Tracey Conner, Mike Midyette, my brother Ramon and myself. I am not sure we ever had 4 part harmony. Most of the time 2, and sometimes 3, but we had fun. Over time, two others would join us in our endeavor: Chris Waters and Derrick Boyd. We would sing wherever we got the chance. And we loved it. Friendships were built around music that have lasted a lifetime. They were without a doubt some of the most fun years of my life. Music has remained a distinct part of all of our lives. Some of that group went on to sing or play professionally. Most of us are still contributing to music in some form, mostly in local churches. Chris and Derrick have made music their careers. Chris works with some of the biggest country stars in the world and Derrick has travelled the world singing with quartets for 25 years. Today I can hear one of the songs we used to sing or go by a place where we performed and my mind is filled with wonderful memories and my heart encouraged by great friendships.
So as I prepare to preach this sermon, I want to thank every single person that made music such a big part of my life. My parents, for pushing me to do things that I did not necessarily like and sacrificing financially, but they knew the lasting impact it would have. Thanks to the churches that let me play or sing even when I was not all that good. To Mr. Willoughby for being patient with a little kid who I know was not still. To every band director I ever had who helped me fall in love with music. To every singer I heard on the radio that performed a song that I needed to hear at that moment. Thanks to my friends I still have from band. Thanks to Jeff, Tracey, Mike, Ramon, Chris & Derrick for making those memories. Music has changed my life and I am thankful for it.