By Alyssa Roat | Echo
This spring break, Taylor Sounds and Chorale hosted the Bahamas' biggest concert of the year.
From TV interviews to orphanage performances to the final Grand Concert attended by hundreds and filmed by the Bahamas' largest broadcaster, Taylor's singers made a splash in the Bahamas.
However, the trip almost did not happen. Senior Sung Soo Kim was excited to organize a chorale trip to China - until it fell through. But Kim was determined that JoAnn Rediger, professor of music and director of Chorale and Sounds, would be able to travel abroad with the Chorale one last time.
Sophomore Chorale and Sounds member Ashton McKenzie agreed with the importance of a choir trip.
"Dr. Rediger is retiring and this trip was something that God had set on her heart," McKenzie said.
Instead of China, Kim and Rediger turned their sights to the Bahamas. Kim began planning in November and made a preemptive trip to the islands over J-Term. It reminded him of his childhood in Cambodia, and he was surprised at a third world culture so close to Florida. He saw an opportunity to give the students a life-changing experience.
With only one week to work with, Friday, March 15 to Saturday, March 23, Kim put together an ambitious schedule of singing, service projects and networking.
Friday, Mar. 22 was the biggest date of all. Friday night, Taylor Chorale and Sounds hosted "The Grand Concert." Held in Trinity Methodist Church in Nassau, Bahamas, the concert drew a crowd of hundreds. The concert was in collaboration with three of the biggest choirs in the Bahamas: the University of the Bahamas Concert Choir, the Bahamas National Youth Choir and the Bahamas National Children's Choir.
The concert was broadcast live all over the Bahamas and attended by several notables, including Taylor University President Emeritus Eugene Habecker and the department head of the Bahama's largest ministry, the Ministry of Tourism. The U.S. Embassy sent greetings as well.
"It just meant so much," Kim said. "Not only was it the beginning of the relationship between Taylor University and the University of the Bahamas and the children's choir and youth choir, it was the strengthening of the relationship between the U.S. and the Bahamas."
The concert kicked off with both the U.S. and Bahamian national anthems led by Taylor students. The Bahamian anthem was led by three Bahamian Taylor students, and the audience joined in singing the anthems they knew. After that, each of the groups from the Bahamas performed two songs, then the two universities performed together, after which Taylor Sounds and Chorale, along with senior violinist Hasun Yoo, performed about five more pieces. Finally, the evening closed with all of the choirs singing "He Never Failed Me Yet" together in a performance Kim described as majestic.
Though the Friday concert was the highlight of the trip, the rest of the week was also a time of immersion into the Bahamas. Several members of chorale, including Kim, cited Saturday, March 16 as one of the most meaningful days of the trip. To begin the day, the chorale partnered with Bahamas National Trust to serve in the national park. After that, they went to Elizabeth Estate Children's Home.
Again, this was part of a trip that went "wrong." The choir was originally supposed to visit a different, larger orphanage. However, when that fell through only two days before, Kim turned to Elizabeth Estate, a small home with only 27 children. However, Kim saw it as an unexpected blessing.
"They said, 'Hey, we don't get these kinds of visits often,'" Kim related. "After we sang the first song, the children jumped around and shouted with joy."
Sophomore Chorale member Drew Anderson recalled the time at Elizabeth Estate fondly.
"I think the best part for me was watching the children's faces light up when they heard us sing and hearing their reactions when we hit either very high or very low notes," Anderson said.
The choir didn't stop there. They continued to sing, including at two churches and two high schools.
Kim recounted an experience at R. M. Bailey High School that moved him. As they were singing, a student got on her knees and began crying. Kim wondered what was going on.
"Then suddenly she comes back, and we were singing and she just stood in the middle and started laughing and crying and smiling," Kim said. "Later on, we heard from other school members that she was a Haitian student who was a very good student, very bright, very talkative, very energetic, but something happened to her a month ago, and she did not talk to anyone for a month. But that song that we sang broke that. She was able to go into tears and let go of everything."
The song they sang was "Do Not Be Afraid."
When they weren't singing or serving, chorale members explored the Bahamas, whether snorkeling at one of McKenzie's favorite sites, Clifton Heritage Park, to learn more about Bahamian history, soaking up rays at Blue Lagoon Island or shopping downtown.
"Before going to the Bahamas, there were so many uncertainties, but God prepared everything to the best ways," Kim said. "This was really a God-led trip."
McKenzie found it especially meaningful as a final trip with Rediger. He said seeing her in action on the tour was not only an inspiration for his career, but also a personal inspiration for the members of the Sounds and Chorale. He expressed how impressed he is with Rediger's ability to model Christian philosophy in her teaching methods as well as her lifestyle.
For freshman Chorale and Sounds member Amanda Hinken, Kim's vision of a life-changing trip became a reality.
"From schools to an orphanage to our final concert, we got to share God's love through song in so many different spaces," Hinken said. "It was an absolutely amazing trip and I'll never forget it!"