by Shea Gilson
Before 2002, a single teacher led musical worship on an acoustic guitar for chapel services. Jeff March was chaplain at the time, and decided that the worship experience needed more. He gathered his teaching-assistant students into a group that would become the first worship band. The following year, music teacher Rick Robbins collaborated with March, and came up with the idea of creating a class period specifically for musical worship, and so Worship Fundamentals began. The focus of the class is twofold: the why of worship, based on Biblical examples, and the how to worship.
Prospective students must fill out an interest form, answering questions about what instruments they play and what their purpose is for joining this class. After an audition, they’re enrolled in Worship Fundamentals through the school system. This year, there are eleven students in the class. Many of the students play multiple instruments. There are two keyboard players, one on classical piano, and one on symphony. We have one drummer and three young men playing bass, electric, and acoustic guitars. There are four singers, including me, that rotate based on the selected song.
There’s more than just the band; behind the scenes we have one person projecting lyrics on a cyclorama curtain behind the band, so the audience can sing along. Two people work the lighting—spotlights, colored lights, and the entire house lighting. Mr. Robbins, class teacher, works the instruments’ main sound system and the singers’ microphones. Everyone in the class switches positions to gain the full experience and purpose of the class, so a singer may work lights or videotape for a chapel instead of the same job every time.
Every chapel this year is recorded and uploaded to YouTube on the Immanuel Schools channel. We perform every Tuesday and Thursday morning between first and second periods. Worship Fundamentals is first period, so the band is able to prepare songs to play and rehearse them before we lead worship in front of an audience.
The chapel band is fun for everyone, on- and off-stage! “My favorite part of being in Worship Fundamentals is being an example for our peers as we lead worshippers during a time of building our relationship and our faith closer to God,” says Keoki, our bass guitarist. The class impacts the people on stage as much as the people in front of the stage. “It’s like another family. It’s changed the way I see worship. I focus more on what my purpose for singing is, instead of performing,” says Kylie, a singer.
God unites the students in the chapel band in remarkable ways. “We may not realize it, but what we do as a team will never leave us in our future with music and worship,” said electric guitarist Kealoha.
Being in chapel band isn’t as easy as it looks, though. Not only does a heart for Jesus need to be eminent in this class, but hard work must also be applied. Often we’re told to memorize an entirely new song in one night, and are expected to be ready with it the next morning.
There are great challenges to being on stage as well. “People compare us to each other and to people from previous years. People expect perfection instead of genuine worship,” admits Kylie. Something I struggle with remembering that it’s not a performance, that we must push through the nervousness and the worry of what people think about our voices or how we’re playing our instruments. This class is actually a team that must form and work together to create something pleasing to God. The main focus needs to be on the message of the song, and on showing God how worthy He is of our praise.
Worship Fundamentals does more than lead worship in the Immanuel Chapel. The group has participated in chapel exchanges with other private high schools, as well as playing at various fairs and events. On October 3, the chapel band will be playing at the Caruthers Fair, and will be at the Big Fresno Fair on the Pavilion Stage on October 13. During these worship concerts, we’ll be joined by chapel band alumni from the past 10 years to make it an all-around fun and memorable experience!