Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Greg Funderburk: Best-Selling Author, Lyricist, and Minister for Pastoral Care

 

Greg Funderburk  


The members of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, are fortunate to have a skilled author and lyricist as the Minister of Pastoral Care. Greg Funderburk has the knack of saying the appropriate things, in the appropriate ways, at the appropriate times. Hundreds of us have been comforted by his words during our most painful moments in life. As a result, some of us seek out Greg when we cannot find the "right word," and...he eventually finds it and expresses it with a clarity that we could only dream of conveying.

In addition to his lyrics, Greg Funderburk is now a best-selling author. His book The Mourning Wave recounts traumatic days in 1900 when the deadliest storm in America made landfall in Galveston, Texas. Another book by Greg, with an interesting perspective for our current lives is Let It Be Said We've Bourne It Well, a book about following God in the time of COVID-19 (we might be needing this for a while). It is available from Amazon. A new book entitled The Hurdles will be available in 2022. As you can see, Greg writes about navigating challenging times and assists us in finding ways to experience the presence of God in our difficulties.


Earlene Rentz Online Publications is fortunate to have Greg as a lyricist, and his creative, profound words continue to be worthy of our utmost consideration.

We often seek "home" in our journey of faith; a return to a moral center, a literal home, a return to normalcy, a return to comfort, peace, and that which we know to be who we really want to be. Greg's words send us into an acknowledgement of the darkness, then lead us into hope for the future. Click on the "Preview" to follow the score as you listen to the recording. SATB, Keyboard, and Cello

This text documents the literal journey of a "seeker" in search of a family of faith. As music draws the journeyman closer to a place of worship, they enter into fellowship with a congregation who welcomes them with open arms. The theme: "You are welcome here. You are not alone." SATB, with Baritone Solo and Cello

This meditative octavo in a reflective mood emphasizes the communication between an individual and the Almighty, as the listener is still and quiet. Written for SATB, Keyboard, and Cello.

Greg reflects on the challenge of being a graduate going out into the world during these days of uncertainty. Written for SATB Voices and Cello.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded to listen as we encounter the Almighty in our daily journey of faith. SATB

Greg Funderburk's lyrics, as set to music by Earlene Rentz, come from a creative place of kindness, insight, comfort, and hope. As we sing and read his words in these uncertain days, we can be confident that with a few "tweaks" along the journey, our faith is enough to withstand the uncertainty as it leads us with hope toward the future.






Sunday, October 17, 2021

Best of Friends

 

Andy Meginniss

In my previous blog, I introduced you to Andy Meginniss, an inductee into the Alabama Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2011, and a member of the bluegrass group Three on a String (based in Birmingham, Alabama).

As I indicated, Andy's group (and several other groups Andy has joined during his long career in music) sings Best of Friends as their closing number. With the assistance of my high school choral director, Dr. Bill Caldwell, I was introduced to Andy and the song. My first thought was..."What a wonderful way to leave a concert, with the audience knowing "presence" was appreciated." Such a great thing! It seems to be a perfect song for these days of singing with our friends.

As I listened to the words, I thought about all of us in choral music...students, choral directors, choir members in churches, choral professionals, retired choral professionals, those who play instruments in ensembles, those who sing in small ensembles, those who perform professionally on the stage, and those who write for "all of the above." 

Best of Friends speaks for all of us who love making music with our friends (as Willie would say). Willie Nelson has been the voice of wisdom for decades, and I think we finally "got" that song in 2020, as everyone was "chomping at the bit" to get on the road again. We had to wait, and it was the most incredible exercise in patience I've experienced in a while...wait on the vaccine...wait to sing again...wait for normalcy.

If nothing else came out of 2020, it was an immense appreciation for our friends...our unaccessible friends (for many months). It was an emotional time for some. Singing is the aural representation of pure joy, and without it, life becomes quite empty and we lose our way (just like the St. Francis reference). 

Since we have this amazing gift at this moment (we won't take singing for granted again!), let's use it to celebrate our friends!!

Best of Friends is available in Unison2-Part3-Part MixedSSATBTTB, and TBB.

When you visit Earlene Rentz Online Publications, you will find an audio example of Andy singing Best of Friends at the bottom of each page. There is also an electronic choral example provided as well. In addition, Andy has created an MP3 accompaniment with guitar, bass, drums, and piano (free).

The focus of the song refers to the love of friendship, knowing that we remain in the hearts of those with whom we enjoy music, whether in their presence or not.

"We know even best of friends must sometimes be apart, and we'll always keep your memory in our heart."

Enjoy making music with your friends!









Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Welcome, Andy Meginniss!

 

Andy Meginniss

Andy Meginniss was inducted into the Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2011. His expertise in bluegrass music is highly regarded throughout the nation, and he continues to perform today. 

From 1972 to 1985, Andy Meginniss played string bass, guitar, and sang lead and harmony vocals as part of the bluegrass group Three on a String. During his tenure, the band traveled extensively and recorded four albums; playing festivals, clubs, and concerts. 


In 1985, Andy joined with Claire Lynch, Larry Lynch, and Herb Trotman in the Front Porch String Band. This collaboration lasted eight years, and culminated in the critically acclaimed album Lines and Traces in 1991.


At the same time, he partnered with a couple of old friends, Stan Putnam and Dan Lakeman, in the acoustic trio Rosewood. This group recorded one self titled album, and they continue to play together today. 


Also, during this period, he teamed with his brother and two others in the musical Cotton Patch Gospel,  performing for 25 years in various venues.

Cotton Patch Gospel

In 1993, he became the guitar player and lead vocalist for The Herb Trotman Band, a bluegrass ensemble that performed steadily until 2012. 

He rejoined Three on a String in 2012, and this group celebrated its 50th anniversary in August, 2021.

Andy is married with two grown children, and lives with his wife in Homewood, Alabama.

Earlene Rentz Online Publications welcomes Andy Meginniss, and is proud to offer many choral voicings of Three on a String's concert closer Best of Friends in Unison2-PartSSA, 3-Part MixedTB, TTB, and TBB. The past 20 months have shown us all that friends and family are the most priceless treasures in our lives. Choral directors can use this soulful rendition as a standard song in saying, "Farewell" to students, audiences, and loved ones. In fact, it is a unifying song for bus rides, at the end of tough competitions, concert closers, and any time we need to be reminded of the value of friends.


You never know where Andy and Three on a String will show up to play a concert. It might be in a small or large venue...and it might even be in a concert hall with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra


Earlene Rentz Online Publications is proud to be associated with Andy, knowing that you will love their concert closing title Best of Friends, written by Andy Meginniss.


Andy Meginniss, Bluegrass Hall of Fame, 2011




Saturday, September 11, 2021

 


This. This was the day it all changed. Life changed in ways not one of us could imagine at the time. We actually felt less secure. We felt more suspicious. We felt anger, but didn't know where to channel any of it. We....grieved, and didn't really know anyone (in some cases) associated with the events. Some of us would realize only later that close friends were affected. The worst part was that we didn't know what to do about it. So much was beyond our control, and we couldn't make sense out of the things we were seeing. Later, we couldn't make much sense out of the things we could see, hear, and touch. It was awful.

One thing was certain: We quickly let it be known to the world that we were proud to call this country our home. Others are welcome, and this country would never be empty of souls resolute in standing for goodness. We were unified. Most of us were inspired to work our way through the misunderstanding as we journeyed toward understanding, slowly piecing it all together.

I am not saying the USA is beyond fault. You know as well as I that flaws are present, but for once, we were unified. It didn't take much to hear "Yes! I'll help!" or "Yes! I'll be there!" We wanted to assist our brothers and sisters in any way possible. We became different people overnight.

I had only been married a few months. We received a call from my husband's daughter who told us that America was under attack. I know my face must have been totally blank. It had never occurred to me in a million years that we would be under attack. I don't know exactly why that would be the case. I had studied Pearl Harbor, and knew of vulnerabilities. 

One thing I remember about that day is that eventually people started saying "stuff." Stuff that helped no one, and caused more division. Many had an opinion on what God was doing. Well....I did not agree, as God had told me nothing (we speak regularly), and furthermore...when it comes to speaking for the Almighty, I just think we need to be careful. It's like my late friend the Rev. Dr. John Claypool said, "God's other name is 'Surprise!'" Just because we think we know God's heart and mind does not provide assurance that "the Mystery" has totally revealed Himself/Herself. Be watchful. Be vigilant. You might be surprised.

One thing I do know: In the midst of horrible situations, there are good decisions to be made. First, in the consideration of "what to do," I learned to "look around" my world. My husband was a pastor of a large Houston church, and after we had watched in stunned silence for a while, he said, "I need to get to church to take care of things" (he was writing a sermon at home). What? You're leaving me? Yes....he left me. That's what leaders do. They lead. He was a leader in all things related to his church. So....he made sure to be among his staff, where he addressed church programming that was in-session for international residents, and he made calls to his local colleagues from different faith traditions (rabbis....priests....he didn't know anyone at local mosques), to offer support in case of "who knows what might happen?" types of things. I learned to take a look around and see if there might be anything I could do in my world that would let people know of my care. In addition, we realized that not everyone loved us. To realize the extent to which some would go to exercise injury and death to unknown souls was jarring, to say the least. Day-to-day became governed by a whole new set of rules and regulations that are "the norm" to this day.

Another bit of wisdom: Sometimes it is good just to be quiet and listen, before establishing a strategy of consequential action. It is important to "get it right." Rather than move too quickly and force the "clean up" policy into action, we really need to "get it right," from the beginning. Pain is pain. Maya is right. People will never forget how we make them feel. Consequences are far-reaching at times.

As I watched the memorials today, I was once again reminded that the grief of loss is never something you "get over." No....not even a little bit. Time will help us begin to move on, but that loss is forever, indelibly etched in our memory, hearts, lives, thoughts, and conversations. Somehow, we learn to manage our broken lives. We never forget. All of the events of our lives are simply...our lives. As long as we're living, these events are part of the fabric of our lives, woven together to create us as the individuals we have become...now and forever. I have found that when we remember, we heal. It helps to know that others have not forgotten. Today is the day of comforting words and music for all those who experienced loss on that horrible day.

Today, I am honored to know that my arrangement of Amazing Grace is being sung by the National Chorale and the Soldiers' Chorus, accompanied by the United States Army Field Band during the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial in New Jersey (Statue of Liberty). I know we need an abundant measure of "grace" during grief. It gets us through the day. It makes the day more manageable. Though an indirect way to offer comfort, I hope these families will accept my gift to them on this day of memory and reflection.

And so...we move forward. Our world has changed, though at times we might relish a dose of the unification we felt back in 2001. May we always treasure the lives and heroism of those souls who perished 20 years ago. May we be resolved to make a positive difference in the world they tragically departed, as we journey through this life.

May their souls rest in peace, as we become the world's peacemakers.


Monday, July 26, 2021

TCDA - A Family Reunion

I'm back from a very emotional "high" for me and many other music educators in Texas and around the nation. The Texas Choral Directors Association convention was the first professional convention I've attended since February of 2020. We were in "lock-down" three weeks after my return from TMEA in 2020, and we have been longing to gather again for months.

Wanetta Hill graciously agreed to help me with our booth during TCDA, and I believe she knows everybody in Texas!! It was wonderful to see everyone enjoying themselves during this very special time of reunion. Everyone was thrilled with the prospect of going back to their school and church choirs, yet no one really knows what to expect when they return. The "virus" seems to determine everyone's ability to plan, and the "one day at a time" mentality seems to be the only choice. One thing is for certain, no matter what situation unfolds, we have the "best of the best" out there in the choral classrooms, doing their best for their students. 

Here are some highlights from my time spent with fellow choral music educators, writers, and directors:


Wanetta Hill, Earlene Rentz, Victor Johnson, René Brain

It was wonderful to have friends stop by the booth to chat for a few minutes. In the photo above, from left, are Wanetta Hill (one of my wonderful, delightful lyricists), me, Victor Johnson (composer extraordinaire and choral editor with Choristers Guild....and one of the nicest guys in the entire world), and René Brain (fabulous pianist/accompanist and all-'round delight). I love these special folks, because we are all for the other person's success. For some reason, competitiveness seems to be present among many, and you can trust this, too: There are just as many of us who are totally supportive of each other, delighting in each other's success. We all have our strengths, and no one composer/teacher/conductor creates music exactly like another person. We all have our purposes and our uniqueness in this business.

Earlene Rentz and Cherry Tadlock-Garasi

Cherry Tadlock-Garasi holds a very special place in my heart as the person who saw possibilities in a piece I wrote in 2000. She was my choral editor with Warner Brothers Publications for many years, and she is now in Belton, Texas, where her husband Michael Garasi is in charge of the instrumental program at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. I am so excited for Cherry and Michael (and all of Texas), and I know their future at UMHB is bright with promise. Cherry was responsible for the publication of my most successful piece to date (over 200,000 copies sold) entitled Sleigh Bells. Cherry conducted that piece in clinic after clinic, and she believed in it! All these many years later, it continues to sell-away! I will never wane in my gratitude for Cherry. She is amazing!


Wanetta Hill, me, Bryce Gage

Family reunion! Bryce Gage stopped by the booth to visit and look at our music! He shared "the latest" of his fabulous choral program at Marble Falls High School, and he purchased some music. He took advantage of one of Earlene Rentz Online Publications' unique features. He found a piece of music he liked, but it was not in TBB. No problem! It is almost completed as of today. He also needed it a step lower than I wrote it for TTB...again...No problem! Done! Our online publishing process makes it easy for choral directors to find a piece that will work for their choir. It is truly something I love doing, so Bryce will have his arrangement within a day or so....AND....he will have Rehearsal Preparation Sheets for everything he purchased. His SSA choir will sing "Die Lotosblume," by Robert Shumann, and his TBB choir will sing a custom-made arrangement of "Personent Hodie." It all works!


Wanetta, me, René Brain, and Debbie Talley

Just to be perfectly clear with ourselves about our happiness at TCDA, we observed "Happy Hour" with two other wonderful women. René Brain and Debbie Talley invited us to spend some time with them before dinner one afternoon, and I am reminded that some people are fun, fun, fun, and they are a magnet for other fun people. It was so great to catch up, and have a glimpse into their lives over the past 16 months. We found out we are strong women, and we do whatever we need to do to live our lives with integrity in the classroom and beyond. We laughed until we hurt physically, and others joined us occasionally to laugh along. May we always remember to laugh!




Me, Wanetta Hill, Mary Jane Self Phillips, and Tammy Benton

Life is a celebration, and no celebration at TCDA is complete without food! We enjoyed our dinner at the historic Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. It is the neatest area that has been artistically created by someone who thought friendships, food, and being together were winning combinations...RIGHT! We had the best time, and the food was outrageously delicious. Such a great choice, Wanetta! Along with Wanetta and me, a former student/amazing choral director (Tammy Benton) and Mary Jane Self Phillips (choral director) joined us for the incredible evening.


Happy Birthday, Wanetta!!

No special evening is complete without celebrating someone's birthday! Wanetta was the special person of the moment. It is so great to have Wanetta with us at TCDA, because it is always close to the time of her birthday. We celebrate...and celebrate...and celebrate! Birthday moments with friends are special, and to share good times with those around us who mean so much to us gives us opportunities to continue the celebration of life for all of us.

At the close of TCDA this year, my thought was "This has been really good." Everyone was delighted to be "out and about," and we were all thrilled to be smiling at each other in total delight of being somewhere. There are so many unknowns, but we know that we are among friends when we are together encouraging, supporting, and loving each other through it all.

So...sing...celebrate...smile...and we will deal with whatever lies ahead. 












Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Getting Ready for TCDA!

It is so great to be getting ready for another convention! Finally! Wanetta Hill (a wonderful lyricist) and I will be in San Antonio for TCDA in Booth 1327. We'll be selling music in every way imaginable...credit card, check, cash, and purchase order. We have it covered, we have waited 16 months, and we are finally getting a bit of normalcy back into our lives. More and more people are getting vaccinated, and we are respecting the knowledge gained in the past, while we express hope for a bright new day in the future. I am glad we are getting back together with our choral music "family" for a reunion we alone understand (my late husband called choral musicians an "interesting sub-culture"....HA!). We get together for all things choral-musical, and we share ideas for success. As you know, there are those whom we only see at music conventions. They are our family "in the profession" when we go to San Antonio, or whatever place houses our "convening get-together."
So...whether it is lunch with Wanetta Hill, dinner with Tammy Benton and Wanetta, or whatever we decide in between, the truth is that in the past we have laughed, and laughed, and laughed. I'm wondering what the "dynamic" of the convention might be...joy, concern, worry over the beginning of school, worry over the dreadful Delta variant, budgets, logistics of singing together safely, vaccines for the "under 12" group, etc. How will the experiences of the past 16 months affect our interaction?
Choral musicians represent a group of people who love music, love each other, love students, and we love the fact that we share something in common with each other. We cheer each other on to do the very best we can to further the choral art among ourselves and in our students. My role as a composer of choral music is to be a provider of information to be studied in the classroom. I take that charge most seriously. It hits me sometimes that my music actually determines musical content for an extended period of time in rehearsals. That is huge.
I love going to conventions and meeting with other composers of music. We all have something unique to say in choral music, and we are the only ones who can say "it" the way we need to hear "it" said. We all have our specific function in the world of choral music, and we truly enjoy talking to each other and encouraging each another in the art of choral music writing.We generally know how to write as we listen to teachers who are "in the trenches."
Please come visit us at TCDA. Join us in this wonderful experience in San Antonio (Booth 1327). We will celebrate our return to a life that was under the veil of uncertainty for a long time. It will be a pleasure to join others for a sweet reunion of true goodness, living with hope into the future.

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Shepherd's Psalm

The most recent addition to my website (www.earlenerentz.com) is entitled The Shepherd's Psalm , an arrangement based on Psalm 23 that combines the Scottish/Gaelic tune Leaving Lismore with the American folk tune in the familiar hymn My Shepherd Will Supply My Need. In the initial Scottish folk song presentation, I have paraphrased the words in Psalm 23. Once the familiar hymn is added, I used the original text by Isaac Watts. Both of these tunes were similar in style, and I love both of them. The inspiration for this arrangement? During this past year and couple of months, I feel that we have been on a long, anxious, arduous journey, and it was not a sprint through the valleys...it was a slow...cumbersome...slog. Now that we are coming out of this dreadful experience, it is easier to feel a slight reprieve such that we can feel the serenity and calm I enjoy associating with this biblical chapter. We hear these words as an effort to comfort hearts of families and friends at memorial services. Thankfully, it really seems to have that effect on our spirits. We somehow find comfort to live and work and keep going, knowing that we are not alone. As this arrangement begins, treble voices are singing in unison, with limited harmony. The men's voices come in later on in the verse, and we move along the journey. After verse one of the Scottish tune, the treble voices again present the American folk tune with the Isaac Watts text (My Shepherd Will Supply My Need). In the second half of the presentation, the first tune joins with the Scottish tune, and all voices join to provide the "traveling material" to the next section. In the last presentation, we rejoin "Lismore," with the melody in the Alto and Bass, while Soprano and Tenor sing in unison and duet, with descant-like countermelody material that enhances the melody. At the end, we emphasize the purpose in this entire arrangement, as related to this period in history. The text is "My soul the Lord restores." These walks through valleys and shadows might be necessary in order to be restored in our souls. It seems to me that "restoration" of our lives has been the yearning for months. When will we get back to our lives as we knew them? We want to restore our way of life, our joy, our purpose, our security, our being. As one final musical illustration of restoration, I used the chord progression at the end to bring the idea to the ear. In the last phrase, we go from chords in D Major to a B-flat Major chord...then the key is once again restored to D Major. The journey is long, but a comforting presence is with us. May our souls be restored in the days ahead.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Gift to Sing

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)



Surely, James Weldon Johnson knew about this pandemic when he walked on this earth. He had to know. He had to know that in 2020 and 2021, there would be people in their homes whose lives had been changed forever, and they would have a need to sing.

Most of the people who read this blog are musicians in some form or fashion, and I know we must be some of the most short-sighted humanity who has ever taken a breath...we never imagined that there would come a day when we would not be allowed to sing. Never in a million years could we ever think that such a day would become "the norm" for more than a year...but...that's where we are. I never worried a bit about it. "They" would fix it before "it" became a problem. Talk about being naive!

Those of us who enjoy singing and making music are hard-pressed to remember a more difficult time professionally. All of the teaching in the classroom has been modified to accommodate a more technology-driven approach, and we are so fortunate that it was available. What would we have done as members of The Greatest Generation? It would have been a-w-f-u-l!!

My late husband, Bill Turner, was a pastor who preached a sermon several times entitled "Why Making Music Matters." He and I presented a program of the same title in many churches, TCDA, Southwest, ACDA, etc., where they sang my music, and Bill related "everything to everything else." Bill went into the history of music and how it was used by people of faith over centuries. His personal opinion was that people would generally not remember the things he said in a sermon, but they would always connect with music. Therefore, music was always important to Bill...from the hiring of music personnel to the hymns chosen. Music mattered.

One closing thought he always stated in these sermons was from St. Francis of Assisi to a passerby. Evidently, St. Francis always sang as he walked down the road, and so the passerby asked, "Where are you going?" "To the next world." Eventually, he asked St. Francis, "Why do you sing?" St. Francis replied, "I sing to keep from losing my way."

With the difficulties of the past year+, we found ourselves at a loss because we needed music more than ever to help us to find our way...but we could not have it in the same ways it had blessed our lives in the past. Our music...choral music. Thank God for MASKS!! At least we could have some semblance of an ensemble experience with our masks snugly in place. We are so grateful.

The Gift to Sing is just that...a GIFT...we have given ourselves a gift in its truest form. We have experienced the loss of this gift and the grief that consumes our beings when our gift is no longer accessible and near. We all have a new definition of "heartache." We also have new definitions of "healing" and "hope." I remember writing some warm-ups not-too-long ago about "We're simply waiting on a new vaccine." To know that warm-up is already out-of-date gives me joy beyond anything you can imagine. JOY! In fact, I have both my vaccines, and I'm waiting on you to get yours, too. When 80% of the population is vaccinated, I think we might be able to talk about "mask issues." Wouldn't that be totally, positively great??!!

In the mean time, I love reading the words of James Weldon Johnson, knowing he used music as a personal gift to get through the darkest of times, the gloomiest of times, and the most "broken" of times. I love Johnson's text, "I brood not over the broken past, nor dread whatever time may bring...." Johnson understood the realities. He knew there would be tough times, but he knew that music was his ticket to light. He would sing his way into the light of continuing on in a very difficult world. He, too, sang to keep from losing his way.

Please visit my website to peruse and hear The Gift to Sing. There are many voicings available: SATB3-Part MixedSSATTBBTTBTB2-Part, and Unison

Once you begin singing this uplifting text, you will "step into the sunshine" with Dr. Johnson. We cannot allow the darkness to consume us. There is light, and we sing our way into a new journey of hope, joy, freedom, and beauty as.....we....SING! Thank you, Dr. Johnson!!







Thursday, February 11, 2021

James Weldon Johnson (1876-1938)

 

James Weldon Johnson (1876-1938)

I love February. One of my favorite components of this very special month is that it is also Black History Month. There is so much to be known about the extraordinary lives and achievements of many  African American citizens in this country...accomplishments that have been "kept under wraps" for generations. During this month, we seem to "peel back" the "ignored" element that has prevented  celebrations of our American tapestry for decades. Finally, we can all say, "WOW!" 

James Weldon Johnson (writer, poet, novelist, professor at NYU [1934] and Fisk University [1931-1938]), activist, lawyer, diplomat) was one of the extraordinary African Americans who has finally gained respect and recognition in our current society, due primarily to his artistic efforts (poetry, writing). He was born in Jacksonville, Florida to a Bahamian mother and African American father. His mother was a musician and a public school educator who taught James and his brother John Rosamond Johnson. 

James Weldon Johnson enrolled at 16 years of age in Clark College (Atlanta) that eventually became Clark Atlanta University. In 1891, he taught descendants of slaves in rural Georgia, and the experience opened his eyes to the plight of the African American citizen in some sections of the United States.

In 1897, he was the first African American admitted to the Florida Bar Exam since the Reconstruction era, and one judge was none-too-happy about it, walking out of the examination. Such an insult to a man's achievement and dignity!

As a writer, he penned "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the poem that was eventually set to music by his brother who studied at New England Conservatory. The poem was written to honor educator Booker T. Washington, and the first recitation of this now famous poem occurred in Jacksonville in 1900, with 500 school children speaking it in unison to celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

In 1906, James Weldon Johnson became a school principal in Jacksonville, where he was paid less than half the salary of his white colleagues. One major contribution during his principalship was that of adding 9th and 10th grades to the school where he was assigned.

Not long after his experience as a principal ended, both he and his brother moved to New York City, where they worked as song writers. In 1910, he met and married Grace Nail, and the duo worked together as screenwriters.

In 1920, he became a civil rights activist and the first African American chosen as Executive Secretary of the NAACP, where he served for 10 years.

In 1930, Johnson was awarded the Spence Chair of Creative Literature at Fisk University, and he held the chair until his death in 1938 in an auto accident.

James Weldon Johnson Home - Fisk University


Because of James Weldon Johnson's gifts of creativity and scholarship, we have been blessed to have many of his artistic works among us, inspiring all races to be better humans. He has given us lofty ideals that are our greatest hopes for our futures. We are grateful to James Weldon Johnson for "Lift Every Voice and Sing," "God's Trombones," and another poem that will receive special focus in my next blog entry..."The Gift to Sing."




I love James Weldon Johnson's work, and I love that he found music to be essential to his "soul health."  He found it helpful to have music in his life..as do I...and particularly so these days, as we navigate a society where many health considerations have required that our musical activities be limited. "The Gift to Sing" is a firm reality these days, and many have spent countless hours trying to develop some way that choral music may continue in our lives. We continue on, as we try to find the very best ways to embrace the arts as healthy components of a well-rounded society, knowing that the art of choral singing might possibly be forever changed. 

Yet, through it all, James Weldon Johnson gives us hope. If he could sing through all the inequities of his life, certainly we can hang on as we navigate Covid-19 and Post Covid-19 waters. See? I'm already hopeful...looking beyond the flood. Enjoy today! Sing!