WARNER ROBINS -- For 18 years, Second Baptist Church has offered music lessons to young and old in the community.
The reason: to teach and develop students to play music to the glory of God.
First known as The Conservatory and now as the School of the Arts, or SOTA, the church has an ongoing commitment of time, space, resources and people to teaching musical arts.
“In terms of our spiritual mission, not only is music an expression of the heart, it also moves the heart,” said Gary Morton, who oversees SOTA as pastor of worship and administration at Second Baptist. “It connects us with others, and we want to take every opportunity to connect with those around us.”
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Morton said he hopes SOTA trains musicians to develop and use their talents for the Lord, but in terms of music being a cultural benefit to the community, he said SOTA simply offers assistance in developing the best musicians possible whatever their calling or ambition.
Monique Gatton is a music ministry assistant at the church who coordinates SOTA.
She plays oboe and clarinet and has taught at the school since its beginning. She’s a former Air Force musician, as is her husband, Gary, and is a member of the church’s worship orchestra and of the popular community group, the Wellston Winds.
“In 1997, our instrumental music minister had a vision to reach out to the community and offer excellent music instruction from some of the finest Christian musicians in the area in a safe, nurturing environment,” she said. “Several people in the church’s orchestra were already teaching privately so it made sense to bring us together.”
Gatton said at the time, the church’s orchestra had only a few members. It now has 37. She made clear not all orchestra members teach, and not all teachers are orchestra members or attend Second Baptist. But they all are highly qualified and well-screened.
“We have a pool of about 20 instructors with some teaching more, some less,” she said. “We’re always looking for more. We have student waiting lists and always want to help them get into lessons.”
Gatton said there are typically 120 to 150 students in SOTA’s 16-lesson fall and spring semesters. There’s also a shorter summer session that helps would-be students explore music, dedicated students get extra lessons and interested students try other, new instruments.
Gatton said lessons vary in cost depending on length but a semester’s worth of 30-minute lessons is $320 or $20 per lesson.
She said the most popular instruments, often with the longest waiting lists, are guitar and piano, but SOTA also offers lessons in flute, voice, oboe, clarinet, bass guitar, trumpet, drums/percussion, trombone, saxophone and violin. Lessons are usually offered from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and open to ages 6 and up. Though there are students in their 70s, and students who plan to go on to professional careers, both secular and sacred, the bulk of SOTA students are youngsters -- students who attend public, private and home schools.
She said there are hopes SOTA will extend beyond the musical to visual, performing and other arts.
In addition to lessons, Gatton said SOTA offers associated student recitals, a concert series, studio gatherings where students play for and learn from their peers, and is a National Federation of Music Clubs festival venue where musicians perform for ratings.
Gatton said the next event in SOTA’s concert series is April 23 and will feature the Wellston Winds. It is free at the church and begins at 7 p.m.
Though Second Baptist and SOTA are Christ-centered and Gospel-oriented, Gatton said the school is not simply a tool for evangelism. She said people of many denominations and faiths take part.
“Our goal is not to evangelize students but support them in the gifts God has given them,” she said. “As a parent, I know we want our children to have the benefits of a well-rounded life, and music lends great benefit to a well-rounded life. We want students to excel to best of their abilities. One of my favorite sayings is that people can make beautiful music and music can make beautiful people. We’re helping create beautiful people and God is glorified in that.”
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.