Music an instrument of faith for students, alumnus

Priscilla Powell playing the violin. (Courtesy Photo)
Priscilla Powell playing the violin. (Courtesy Photo)

By Kate McGuire
Staff Writer

David Bolin is a Baylor alumnus and electronic design editor for Celebrating Grace Inc. Waco graduate student Priscilla Powell is currently going for her master’s in biology. Niceville, Fla., sophomore Stephen Farrell is studying trombone performance.

What these three have in common is more than a Baylor connection; they all have a passion for music and faith.

“Music is liquid architecture,” Bolin said. “When we play something or sing something, it creates a space around us. And in that space is a place where we can meet God. Just like creating the Garden of Eden, it’s a place of beauty.”

Bolin has been serving as the minster of music for First Baptist Waco for 14 years. He also works in online publications for Celebrating Grace Inc., a Nashville-based music publisher. Bolin has also served as a music director in Hawaii and at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

As the minister of music, Bolin works closely with Powell and Farrell, both of whom play in the First Baptist Waco orchestra.

“For myself, coming to Baylor put me in touch with great musicians who influenced music-making as an act of faith. Going to Hawaii and being a music minister there affected the music I make. And so it’s true for the student musician,” Bolin said. “The places, the experiences God takes them ends up in their music.”

Powell and Farrell have felt the call to connect their music with their faith.

Powell has been playing the piano and viola since elementary school and now teaches private lessons to students. Powell received her bachelor’s degree in 2012 and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in biology at Baylor.

“I feel like with the talents that God has given us, that we need to utilize them in whatever we do so that we can do it for his glory,” Powell said. “I feel like I’m benefiting from it but it’s also a form of worship.” Farrell plays trombone at First Baptist Woodway, Highland Baptist Church and First Baptist Waco.

“My music makes me feel like I’m able to contribute in some way and it’s one of the best ways I know how to communicate,” Farrell said.

A sense of community has evolved out of being a part of First Baptist’s orchestra that has brought them closer to God and more in tune with their music.

“It’s almost like we get a Bible lesson just being in the orchestra; it adds a different perspective,” Powell said. “You look at something, like a song, in a different way.”

From this community, these three have experienced worship in new ways.

“Orchestra students understand this in a way that people that use words don’t,” Bolin said. “Just the music itself creates a place of communion and it allows them to experience what can’t be said — the unfathomable — and to express that as well.”

Farrell said it has opened doors to new opportunities. “I think its given me different opportunities to be around different people and to meet all these different people at different churches that I would have never gotten to meet before,” Farrell said.

These students and Bolin come together every Sunday morning to rehearse and play for the congregation.

Bolin said he believes music and faith are not just two separate things.

“Oftentimes people separate the two as in there’s church music and there’s regular music, and I’m not sure God sees it that way,” Bolin said. “It’s like the other aspects of God’s creation. A beautiful sunset is a beautiful sunset. We don’t have to come up with spiritual words for it. It’s something to enjoy.”

Music is found all throughout the Bible ,and for music and faith not to combine seems almost absurd to Bolin.

“Most of what musicians know about theology, God and scripture comes from the songs they sing and the music they make,” Bolin said. “In that way, it influences our faith.”

Overall, the impact music has had on these three musicians involves all aspects of their faith, and it never ceases.

“Music creates an environment for us to experience God in,” Bolin said.