Today in the Mission Yearbook

Cue the string section


One church’s string academy helps both church and youth grow in unexpected ways

April 5, 2020

Musicians with the Glasgow Presbyterian String Academy rarely pass up an opportunity to play together — especially at Halloween. (Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, Kentucky)

Glasgow (Kentucky) Presbyterian String Academy was born, says the church’s transitional minister, the Rev. Charlie Evans, because the church paid attention to what God was saying.

It’s a good thing Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky was listening as well.

Evans’ arrival at First Presbyterian Church in Glasgow in the fall of 2018 coincided roughly with the local school district’s decision to cancel instruction for violin and cello players. Four of the 32 people who were then in worship at FPC on an average Sunday were affected, as were two of Evans’ own children.

“We thought, here is an opportunity,” Evans recalled. “Thirty or 40 kids had nowhere else to play, and so I approached the presbytery with a plan: If they could help us financially, we could lasso those kids and give them the opportunity to keep playing. As a side result, some have become active in our church.”

The Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky provided a six-year grant to help fund tuition for the academy, beginning with $15,000 the first year and gradually reducing the funding each succeeding year. Anyone who wants to join the academy is thus enrolled tuition free, Evans said, removing what can be a big barrier for many parents.

Last November, academy musicians played during lunch served during a presbytery meeting. Middle school musicians filled in for a few of the high school players who the very same day were auditioning for the all-state orchestra.

“They rehearsed and did very well,” Evans said. “I expect down the road that as often as churches would like us to come play, we will.”

First Presbyterian Church’s string academy “is enacting Jesus’ command to ‘love God and love neighbor,’” said the Rev. John Odom, Mid-Kentucky’s Presbyter for Community Life, “and the congregation, the community and the presbytery are being blessed as this life-giving congregation is helping to transform their little part of the world.”

Glasgow is a community of about 14,000 residents living in southern Kentucky. It’s the county seat of Barren County and was a stop along the Underground Railroad. Glasgow was originally the home of Western Kentucky University, which moved farther west to Bowling Green in 1885, 10 years after the university was established. Glasgow is still home to a regional campus of WKU.

In order to succeed, the musicians must rely on themselves as well as each other, their instructor said.

“When it is time for a performance,” wrote Morgan Thomas, “the students quickly realize that it is entirely up to them how successful their performance will be. They alone are responsible if the performance doesn’t go as planned, but they can also take great pride in a successful performance as well as experience great joy by seeing the way their music can touch others.”

Since the academy’s beginning, “I have seen tremendous growth in the students in every way,” Thomas said. “Of course, they are advancing technically on their respective instruments. But more importantly they are fostering their gifts that they have been blessed with, while building character.”

The academy now has 22 members, including cellist Jackson Bower, who was recently selected to be the string academy’s ambassador.

“Every team needs a captain,” Evans said. “We needed someone to be the leader, to make public appearances and do media relations” and other responsibilities as well.

“Our goal is to learn life lessons, that you get out of something what you put into it, that small things can make a difference,” he said. “Jackson has picked up on all those things. He sets the example, and others follow him.”

“Playing any instrument (but especially those belonging to the violin family) is challenging, and requires dedication and focus,” said Thomas, the academy instructor. “Along with that comes self-responsibility, which some students may not have had to assume previously. … For me, my goal is not for my students to become professional musicians, but rather to be more sensitive, compassionate and intellectual human beings. If I have achieved this and the students are happy, then I have met that goal. I am overjoyed by the growth of the students at First Presbyterian String Academy, and I look forward to watching the program continue to grow.”

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus:  Glasgow (Kentucky) Presbyterian String Academy

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Andrew Kang Bartlett, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Dwayne Batcho, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)

Let us pray:

Spirit of the Living God, wrap us in your love and make us one. Amen.