Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow
Musician and Music Minister
Q: When did you first discover your musical talent?
A: Music was always in my home. My mother taught piano and was minister of music at our church into my high school days. Therefore, I was inquisitive and interested in music and piano for as long as I can remember. After I began studying piano around 8 years old I began receiving positive feedback in competitions. My mom, one of my greatest mentors musically and spiritually, “threw me in the fire” at church having me play for assemblies and worship services at a very early age so I learned to sight read well early on. In the eighth grade, she sent me kicking and screaming to a piano audition at Furman University to be accepted into their college prep program. I was accepted and studied piano there throughout high school and attended Furman for college. My mom’s insistence set the course of my life. I received a degree in piano pedagogy with minor studies in church music which then brought me to LSU for a master’s degree in piano performance, accompanying, and doctoral studies in pedagogy.
Q: Describe your experience as music director at Chapel on the Campus and Chapel in the Oaks (alongside your wife Kathy) and a few memorable moments that come to mind.
A: Years of memories are flowing as I ponder this question. Tears are flowing as well as I recall how instrumental Pastor Donald Tabb, the Pastor Emeritus of the Chapel on the Campus, was to myself and Kathy. We were so saddened by his recent passing but so blessed to have ministered with him for almost 20 years. Honestly, I wish Kathy and I had kept a count of how many funerals we played and sang when Donald was officiating. That God would grant us that opportunity … there is no way to put into words all that dear man meant to us, what he invested in us biblically and spiritually, and just living life as a married couple. In 1983, Kathy and I were asked to organize a music ministry, but God had so much more planned. In Donald’s presence, we were like the two men on the road to Emmaus with Jesus. “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Oh, the days of ministering and working with that remarkable man! Praise God we were blessed with that opportunity so many years ago.
Recently, 80-plus choir members gathered to sing at Donald’s memorial service. Even amid our grief, it is a sweet memory due to all the choir members that surfaced over 31 years of ministry to pay their respects. To look out and see so many familiar faces, literally thousands, I was overcome at the lives he touched.
As for memorable worship services, we orchestrated moving Christmas musicals, cantatas, and pageants that dramatized the full life of Christ. Kathy had a vision of incorporating all aspects of the arts into the church and the purpose was to reclaim the arts for God’s glory. We sought to incorporate this plan all the way down to the “Hallelujah Little Ones” and the preschool choir. For me personally, YMAD, the Youth Music & Drama Group for middle and high school, was a tremendous blessing. This group attracted the unchurched youth because it presented Broadway musicals with a biblical theme. We are still seeing the fruit today from that ministry. What a joy!
Q: What advice would you give to other music directors, and what wisdom did you gain?
A: Seek God in every decision. When it comes to selecting music, it is important to ask how this will help people grow spiritually in worshipping God from a Biblical perspective. People are placed in our path daily, so I would encourage one to be a pastor, not just a music director or worship leader. Kathy and I have been blessed ten-fold by those who we just sat and visited or ministered to in a time of need.
Q: What are you learning in your role at Community Bible Church?
A: The richest blessing Kathy and I have experienced since joining this church body is that we are part of the body. We are worshippers and not just leading worship. One of the church’s core values is to provide a worship setting for a multigenerational congregation, so we are working on this desire daily. Since I have been there as part of their music ministry, I would have to say this past Christmas was amazing. We presented an inspirational musical/drama and dance including 60-plus voices, representing eight churches. Pastor Steve Foster has been a great mentor and friend and yes, I am now serving 30 hours a week at the church.
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: Kathy and I will soon be celebrating 39 years of marriage. She has been my wife, partner, best friend, mother, grandmother, teacher of the Word, amazing singer, worshipper, best voice teacher, and interior designer. She is so full of grace and beauty … what more can I say? In our first year of marriage, we took off for Salzburg, Austria to study at the Mozarteum Conservatory. Kathy had received a Rotary Scholarship for post-graduate study there and we thought we would seek musical careers in Europe. Yet we were led in another direction. We joined a little Baptist mission, the only church we could find that offered services in English, and through John Linderman, a young mentor in our lives, we joined a weekly Bible study with a group of internationals. God opened the scriptures and His heart to us in deeper ways than either of us had experienced before.
God has also blessed Kathy and me by giving us two daughters who are both talented, gifted artists. Can you imagine being with four artists in one household? I am outnumbered since I am the only male, but I would not trade it for anything.
Maggie is a visual artist/painter. She teaches art, and at the same time, is a wife and mother to her two daughters. She perseveres with her crazy schedule and is doing well in Greenville, South Carolina with her own paintings and classes. Spencer, her husband, is very supportive. Mary Elizabeth lives in New York, is pursuing a career in musical theatre, and has been cast in two shows and a nationwide tour since moving there in 2015. I am so proud of both daughters and their desire to grow in the Lord is still a very big part of their lives.
I appreciate the readers’ prayers for them as they continue to hone their talents and pursue their careers as Christian artists! They have very different and unique personalities and to watch them operate in their gifts is a joy to see unfold daily. Praise God!
Q: Do you have a favorite book of the Bible or scripture?
The Psalms are just gorgeous and steeped with what it means to worship in spirit and in truth. In 1985, I had the opportunity to attend a conference, and it was there that I was introduced to the Psalms written by musician/choral writer Don Wyrtzen, whom I greatly admired. God certainly had His hand on Kathy and me and a specific plan and direction for our life! The life verse that I hold closely is Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) and it’s what I seek daily as a husband, father, grandfather, worship pastor, musician, and friend.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Q: What else you would like our readers to know about your personal life and journey as a creative person?
I haven’t talked about my piano teaching, but I do love that one-on-one with my students. The ones that impress me are those who do not have the most natural musical instinct or talent but have the drive to learn. Finding students who have the time and/or make the practice time needed to succeed at the piano or any instrument is rare in these challenging days.
Seek ye first His kingdom and His righteous and all shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6: 33)
Sharon Furrate Bailey grew up in Alexandria, LA., and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. The earned a B.A. in English Literature in 1990. She attends Our Lady of the Lake Mercy Catholic Church. Sharon has been in the field of marketing, sales, and public service since 1996. She is a gifted artist and has been a columnist since 2005. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org