“Lord you are good and your mercy endures forever…” This is a line that, for some students, repeats in their hearts, and others, just on the screen in front of them, but for Kalkidan Barnes, it is her favorite worship lyric. Kalkidan, along with Luka Hyde, Madison Fox, David O’Neil, and Jaron Huffine are all students who put themselves and their talents in front of the school every week in chapel. However, many students don’t know these worship leaders at all or at least on a personal level. This year, we are blessed to have a new Worship Arts class. In it, there are a few students that are first time praise band members, including Luka Hyde (junior), Kalkidan Barnes (freshman), and Madison Fox (sophomore). Interviewing a few of the praise band members was such a rich experience, and it is something I want to share with the CCS community.
When I imagined myself in their shoes of performing in chapel, I immediately thought of how scary it would be. It takes so much bravery and vulnerability to do what these students do weekly. This led me to wonder how each of their first chapel experiences were. Was it scary? Exciting? Intimidating? Madison Fox, the Praise Band pianist, told me, “I was absolutely terrified. I was really scared but it was also the funnest thing ever. It was so awesome. It felt like we were all a part of something really cool.” Her response not only surprised me, but I think it’s inspiring. Madison is truly passionate about what she does. In December of last year (2020), Madison’s older brother passed from terminal brain cancer. He was ten years older than her, but they loved playing music together. His passing inspired her to do what he would have wanted her to do and keep her passion for music alive. This heavily influenced Madison to become a part of the praise band. She feels like she is carrying out a purpose and said, “I’m gonna keep going with my dream.”
The community and faith the Praise Band has and shares is amazing. Kalkidan, Jaron, and Madison explained to me how they are all doing it to glorify God, while building friendships with each other. In their Worship Arts class with Mr. Ward, they are reading a book based in Christian faith, called Corporate Worship. This study allows them to connect with each other and with the Lord. While talking to some of these students, I saw how integrated their faith was with playing music. For performing, they each have an earpiece that plays a beat to keep them on track with each other; they call this the “click.” This unifies them and their playing. What stood out to me is how they compared the “click” to Jesus. This is not a far-fetched connection at all. Like Christ, the click is constant, reliable, and it doesn’t change when you get off beat. It is clear that these members of the Praise Band have strong relationships with the Lord. They really connect to the music they play as well. Kalkidan’s favorite worship song she sings is “God So Loved.” Jaron and Madison share their favorite of “You Are Good.” Now, when I asked who chooses the songs, they all laughed and agreed it was Luka. They said that when they look out into the audience, all eyes are happily on him. Luka Hyde is new to the Praise Band and energetically participates through sign language. He has brought a light to chapel through his moves and passion for worship. Nearly every class, Luka asks to do his favorite song, “Reckless Love.” His sign language truly adds special meaning to the music in chapel.
Each of the three members I interviewed have a great musical history. Although she sings now, Kalkidan has been playing piano for 8 years and has always been focused on worship music. She told me, “It lifts me up when I am down.” When presented with an opportunity to join the Praise Band, Kalkidan had no hesitations. She explained that her first thought was, “Sure, why not. I’ll give it a try.” Now, Madison plays many instruments but shows just her piano talents in the band. Last school year, Madison went to play piano in the old spirit shop nearly everyday. She loves piano so much that she did not care who heard it. For her, playing piano is a break from the day. She said, “Playing music is refreshing. When I’m having a bad day it’s the kind of thing you can always turn to.” Jaron Huffine is a singer of this worship team, and he has been singing since he was a kid, including choir experience since the 4th grade. He learned to play guitar from his grandfather. Jaron first braved the stage in the musical Alice in Wonderland during his 7th grade year. Now, Jaron has no nerves performing in front of the school. Even when he is in the audience, he said he never hesitates to sing loudly for worship.
Jaron and all the members have a lot of courage. This is why it’s so crucial for students and faculty to appreciate the Praise Band. They all agreed that the one thing the CCS audience can do to make them more comfortable is to sing. The Praise Band sometimes looks out to see an uninterested audience of students. Instead, they wish to lead us in active worship and not just perform for us. They all agreed that their goal is to get everyone engaged, so they love when people participate, even if it’s just clapping or cheering on Luka.
These Praise Band students have served the CCS community so well. They want students to know that anyone can join them, and they love when we sing along!