Sing unto the Lord: a tradition of music
There is a beloved tradition at Nebraska Christian Schools that is older than the school itself: music. Well over half of the students who have walked NC’s halls have sung in the choir, and choir performances are special features at major campus events like the Harvest Festival, Spring Concert, Christmas Festival and Graduation. But the tradition began before the school opened in the fall of 1959.
They didn’t know it at the time, but a small group of 5 individuals started this tradition at the request of NC’s first Superintendent, Walter Ediger. In the summer of 1959 before the school had convened a single class, Kay Sawyer, the first music director, assembled a girls trio and pianist from among the future student body of NC.
It wasn’t a glamorous start. Mr. Sawyer remembered, “It was primitive – the school’s facilities,” and transportation for the group was a challenge. “Paul Oswald loaned us a car, because ours broke down on the move [from Kansas to Nebraska],” Mr. Sawyer explained. The group of 5 toured in the borrowed car to minister through music, recruit students, and raise support for the fledgling school. They performed at Bible camps, churches, and Youth for Christ meetings where they presented the new option of a Christian education at NC.
Once NC’s doors opened, the music continued. Olive Lutes Gurney (‘61) recalled the spring of 1960 when the choir traveled to northwestern Nebraska on its first choir tour. “The tour started out in a bus, which broke down within the first 100 miles. Hurried phone calls brought the needed results, and several cars appeared some time later so that we could continue the journey. … During that tour, we sang at several churches and even appeared briefly on television.”
Choir tours have continued each spring ever since. In addition to tours, the choirs have performed in school events as well as competitions among local schools. Trophies and plaques won for champion performances by the choir and small groups at competitions fill NC’s trophy cases. “Representing the school and the Lord … brought great satisfaction, whether in the context of a local church or that of secular venues like annual competitions and evaluations,” Stephen LeBar (’62) explained.
It’s no surprise that music has been a feature at Nebraska Christian, since music is a primary method of offering praise to the Lord. Stephen LeBar also described, “The satisfaction of merging spiritual and musical expression, [and] learning to blend our voices and minister as a team, not just the choir, but in octets and quartets as well,” as some of his favorite memories.
Current students explained that while they don’t especially like getting up to load the bus in the early morning hours on choir tour days, they do love the food. Churches that host the choir provide a meal for the members – no small feat for this year’s 80-member choir. Carrie Beck (’13) shared that she, “likes hearing the testimonies from the brave ones in the choir,” who speak during the testimony time at each choir performance.
Participating in the NC choir has helped countless students grow in their appreciation for and love of music. Alumni have gone on to participate in college choirs, lead worship in their local churches, and share their love of music with all around them. From humble beginnings in primitive facilities to champion performances in major competitions, God has used NC’s choir throughout Nebraska. When asked what he remembered about his time as choir director, Mr. Sawyer responded without missing a beat, “Directing choir was a highlight of my life.” He went on to say, “I loved the choir.” I suspect many alumni would agree.
(To read more about the choir, click here)
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