Praising God through music

Saturday, November 18, 2006
Children at Centenary United Methodist Church can take part in a variety of bands. Some of Centenary's music makers included, front, from left, Bridget Trepasso, Courtney Schoenberg and Jonathan Schoenberg; in the back row were Madison Brune and Morgan Murphy. (Diane L. Wilson)

Imagine if God walked into the room with you and sat down.

What would you say to him?

Centenary United Methodist Church music director Denny Reeves asked the question to a group of children.

The children, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade, quickly came up with an answer.

One child said he would thank him for his family.

Another said, "You are so awesome. How do you do what you do?"

One thing led to another and the next thing you know, the children had a song for the band Reeves and the children were forming.

Reeves directs four youth bands -- a total of 36 children -- at the church: Children's Praise, an All Girls Worship Band, an All Guys Worship Band and a Junior High Worship Band.

Some of the older children already have some music background, and some play in other bands. For most of the younger children, the first time they picked up an instrument was when they first gathered in the church's family life center.

Reeves taught the eight members of the Children's Praise Band simple chords and some drum rhythms. He mapped out some verses and a chorus.

"Once they heard their own song with their own words, their jaws dropped," he said.

The bands practice every week. They play at Centenary's contemporary service, The Summit, as well as for the traditional service.

Kate Edwards, a junior high school student, wrote her own original song, "I Need You Now." Last week, she sang it during the traditional service, accompanied by piano.

"It brought the house down," Reeves said.

Each band is made up of children playing a guitar, bass guitar, keyboard and drums. What Reeves and the youngsters are doing isn't so much about making music as it is learning about life.

"It's about listening," Reeves said. "It's a group thing. It's working well with each other, listening and cooperating. It's learning to be disciples of Jesus."

The experience has opened opportunities some youths may not have thought possible.

Reeves recalled how the all-girl band got started. He asked a teenage girl what she saw when she watched the all-boy band rehearsing. "A bunch of guys," she said.

Her face lit up when he suggested that girls could learn music too, Reeves said.

"Could I play bass?" was her response.

The children are learning to balance the harmony in their school and church life.

"I get to hang out with my friends and make music," said Becky Schneider, 13.

Schneider claims she isn't very musical but enjoys learning to use the sound board for the band. If she weren't doing that, Schneider said she'd probably "be sitting at home watching TV."

Kaci Howard, 13, likes the inclusiveness of being in the band. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun, she said.

"All my best friends are in the band," said 14-year-old Hunter Kinder. "I like to hang with my friends and play music."

If not for their involvement, Bridget Trepasso, 10, and Morgan Murphy, 9, may not have had the chance to learn to play various instruments until they were older.

"I get a new instrument every year," Morgan said.

Both girls play guitar, but last year Morgan learned keyboard.

Reeves started working with the children's groups about three years ago, shortly after he became Centenary's music director. He noticed how the young people responded to the music used in the contemporary worship service, and saw both contemporary and traditional music as a way to reach them.

"It's the best of both worlds," he said. "Doing music that's 100 years old and music that has just been written last week. It's exciting."

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