The accountant and music minister: Huskey grew up with church music in his blood

Sunday, November 6, 2011
Jerry Huskey of Bethany Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Jerry Huskey grew up with church music is in his blood. The Bethany Baptist Church music minister grew up in a small country Southern Baptist Church near De Soto, Mo., where music was a family affair.

"The church was attended by many of my relatives including my Grandma Kingsland, who was the piano player and also taught the children chorus songs on Wednesday evenings," Huskey said. "She would sit at the piano with her back to us kids and lead us in the songs. Even with her back to us, she knew when we were acting up."

In addition to his grandmother, who held a music degree from a seminary in Texas, Huskey's parents were also active in the church.

"My mom was also the church pianist for a while and my dad led the singing while I was growing up. I always enjoyed music and singing, and [I] sang in the children's choir and then in the adult choir, as well as the choir in high school and junior college."

Second career

A Christian around 5- or 6-years-old, Huskey's love for God and music would serve him well in the years to come.

"As I got older, my dad stopped leading the music because it was hurting his throat, and so I took over. My college choir teacher showed me how to keep time with my hands, and dad gave me a few ideas about leading music. That was the extent of my formal training in leading music."

Huskey served as the music director at his home church in De Soto, Oakland Baptist Church, for two years, and he later served as the music director at Red Star Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau for eight years. He has served at Bethany for nearly 20 years.

An accountant in Jackson, a second career in the music ministry wasn't something Huskey had planned on.

"I didn't really pursue a career in music ministry. There was just a need at my home church at the time, and I was willing to serve. That is the way it started at Red Star as well. We didn't have a music director, and I said I would do it until we found someone else.

"I can't recall a moment that I can say God told me to pursue a ministry in music. As I grew up in church, it was just a natural extension of my life. I can remember reading the song book as a child during the preaching service. I read the back of the book that gave the metrical indexes and tune indexes and figured out what they all meant. I looked at the names of the writers of the songs and looked at their birth dates and death dates and I could tell in what era the songs were written. This was all done while the preacher was preaching, but it was educational."

Traditional leader

As the leader of the traditional worship service at Bethany, Huskey leads the congregation in several hymns each week.

"Hymns are a big part of the traditional service. They have lots of spiritual truth, encouragement and edification in them, but sometimes we just sing the song and never realize what they are saying. When you hear a song, it sticks with you. Just sit down and think about the number of Bible verses you have memorized and compare that with the number of songs that you have memorized. Think about the spiritual truth in all of those songs."

Many churches today have contemporary services, including Bethany, where Huskey's son Jason leads the worship band. While Jerry might prefer more traditional music, he also sees the role of contemporary music in church.

"I took some young people to a Billy Graham Crusade in St. Louis several years ago and the stadium was packed. There were several groups who sang before Billy Graham preached. The music was very contemporary and every teenager in the stadium was singing along with the bands. I didn't really care for the songs, but the teenagers all did. When Billy Graham stepped on to the stage after the music, he said, ‘Wasn't that beautiful music!' I decided right then that if it was good enough for Billy Graham then it was good enough for me."

Though music takes up most of his time at church, Huskey is also involved in the AWANA program, the church's finances -- because of his accounting background -- and the fall festival held each year on Oct. 31.

For Huskey, music is not only an important part of the service, it's something that can help people grow in their walk with God.

"My favorite part of leading music is to see a young person develop their talents as they grow. They learn to sing solos or play an instrument and they grow in their faith, service and stewardship to the Lord."

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