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Youth Choir, Orchestra wrap 2009 tour

From the July 16, 2009, Baptist Record

Banners for Chaplains photo

BANNERS FOR CHAPLAINS — A group of students with the Mississippi Baptist All-State Youth Choir and Orchestra and their family group leader, Peggy Sneed, construct a “Lord is My Shepherd” banner for use by military chaplains. (Photo by Turner Luttrell)

By Tony Martin
Associate Editor

The Mississippi Baptist All-State Youth Choir and Orchestra (MBASYC&O) completed its annual summer tour at First Church, Jackson, on June 16. The group began with its rehearsal camp at William Carey University on June 8 – 11, and toured June 10 – 16, with performances at Salem Heights Church, Laurel; First Church, Long Beach; Desoto Hills Church, Southaven; Clarksdale Church, Clarksdale; First Church, Houston; and First Church, West Point. The group also served in a Delta Ministry Day on June 13.

The group began in 1991 with a God-given vision in the hearts of Graham Smith, director, and Susan Luttrell, youth music/drama consultant for the Church Music Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB), to musically and spiritually strengthen Mississippi Southern Baptist high school students.

The choir has grown from 45 members in 1993 to over 110 singers. Ninth through 12th grade students audition and interview each fall for positions with the choir and orchestra. The group has presented concerts in churches throughout Delaware, Maryland, Mississippi, and the southeastern United States. They have been privileged to be featured in concert at the Southern Baptist Church Music Conferences in Nashville and New Orleans.

“When we started the choir years ago, we wanted to help students have relationships with others who have similar interests,” Luttrell said. “We were so limited in our vision, because the Lord has taken this and done amazing things in the lives of the young people involved.”

“We hear over and over from these young people that what they have done in the choir and orchestra is the best thing they’ve ever done,” Luttrell continued. “Sometimes these young people are the only young people in their church who can sing a part, who sing in the choir, and then they find themselves with 114 other students who are like them. They are encouraged by knowing what the Lord has given them is unique and important.”

One unique facet of this year’s concert tour was the ministry the group had to military chaplains serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group designed and created twenty worship banners.

The vision for this ministry began with the request from Susan Newell, ministry assistant at Wildwood Church, Clinton. Her son, Specialist James Newell, assistant to Chaplain Ed Harris, of the U.S. Army 4th Infantry, Attack Reconnaissance Battalion serving in Iraq, shared the chaplain’s request to have banners to enhance the worship experience in the field chapels.

Final Concert photo

FINAL CONCERT — Jamie Meaders, chair of the Music Department at Mississippi College, directs the Mississippi Baptist All-State Youth Choir and Orchestra at the end of their 2009 concert tour at First Church, Jackson, on June 16. Two of the worship banners made by choir members can be seen in the background. (Photo by Turner Luttrell)

The choir, divided into 20 family groups, made one banner per group. The choir paused in the middle of a very busy concert tour to complete the banner construction at Clarksdale Church. The banners were cut out and hemmed by members of First Church, Madison, and Utica Church, Utica. Five chaplains were presented with a set of four banners each: a Christmas banner, an Easter banner, a patriotic or Thanksgiving banner, and a banner featuring a non-seasonal scriptural inspirational theme. The banners were on display at the final concert at First Church, Jackson.

The group is noted for other ministry projects over the years, including Katrina storm damage cleanup on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; nursing home ministry in Columbus; collecting and making donations to assist continued Katrina storm ministry in Pearlington; and donations of phone cards and care packages for American military personnel in Iraq.

The students and the churches they represent provided four scholarships enabling Gulf Cost volunteer and bivocational ministers of music to participate in the 2008 Southern Baptist Church Music Conference in New Orleans.

Richard Joiner, the former chair of the Music Department at Mississippi College, directed the choir for its first 10 years of ministry. Jamie Meaders, current chair of the Music Department at Mississippi College, has served as choral director since 2003. The orchestra is conducted by David Young, instrumental consultant for the MBCB Church Music Department.

Meaders typically chooses 40 minutes of music — nine to ten anthems — and attempts to present literature that will challenge the choir, introduce them to different styles, and fit cohesively as a program.

“I thought it was important 17 years ago, but now I have a passion that I didn’t have then,” Luttrell said. “I believe things have changed so much in our youth culture that the opportunity students have to sing in a choir, to sing this kind of music, to play in an orchestra are very limited. I believe that years from now these students will be able to look back and say, ‘You know, when I was a kid, look what I was able to do. And I want other kids to have the same experience I did.’ I believe we are planting seeds that will propagate this ministry for years to come.”

For more information about the MBASYC&O, contact Luttrell at (601) 292-3267 or outside Jackson at (800) 748-1651. Email