Multi-generational worship tends to lend itself to also fostering environments where younger worship musicians and singers are coached and mentored. This is happening all over the country in Latino churches. And while some of the reasons are economic in nature, the heart and drive behind this trend is definitely Biblical. One generation raising up another generation.
In many situations young people aren’t able to take advantage of the music classes and education offered in the public school systems but find opportunities right at home within their own congregations.
Juan Martinez, vice provost at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. says that in Southern California, hundreds of Hispanic congregations offer musical training, whether formal or informal. In many situations, several churches team up to support a worship music academy or invite children to watch as adult volunteers rehearse. Some teach children basic music education, like how to read notes and how to sight read, while others coach more advanced skill and technique.
“One of the realities that one finds in small Latino churches is that you have to home-grow your leadership,” Martinez said. “They’re churches of working-class people. They can’t draw on people who are professionally trained or people who’ve had music lessons since they were 3 years old. That’s a class issue. You’re providing the working-class equivalent of the type of thing that people would want for their kids, which was not available to them before.”
In North Carolina, there is a training network called “La Academia Staff 24/7” that has 11 schools. The same network has almost 60 schools in Latin America serving around 1,400 students.
“The Anglos, they take advantage of the school system, and they use that well,” said Misael Garriga, who founded the network two decades ago in Puerto Rico and has since relocated to North Carolina. “A lot of Hispanics, they don’t go to music classes, but they teach them in the church.”
Experts say church-based music schools go beyond mere economics to reflect Pentecostalism’s commitment to nurturing lay leaders, even when a congregation has access to professional or highly trained musicians.
“The slow way and very fruitful way is to raise up your own musicians,” said the Rev. Owen Ross, who founded La Fundición de Cristo or Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Church in Dallas. “It takes time. It takes investment. It’s very risky. Those churches that have the funding available, they just go out and hire their musicians.”