Singing from the Heart: Auburn Wesley Foundation Forms New Student Choir

March 12, 2018
(Kari Barlow for the AWF Conference) - Auburn University Freshmen Chip Blake and Carsen Grant are proof positive that you can’t take the youth choir outta the kid.

When Blake and Grant started college last fall, they proceeded to have a blast, happily juggling classes, friends and Auburn Wesley activities. But soon these two youth choir lifers—Blake from FUMC in Montgomery and Grant from Asbury Church in Madison— realized something was missing.

“We started talking about how we really love to sing, but as students … it can be hard to find an outlet for that passion,” says Blake, who sings tenor.

For Grant, youth choir at Asbury was her primary vehicle for reaching out to the community.

“It was just a really cool way for me to go out and serve through music,” she adds. “We would sing at nursing homes and homeless shelters and Boys and Girls Clubs, and we would also have a service project day.”

They started to envision a choir not only for students in Wesley but anyone on campus who wants to “continue singing and worshipping God like we have our whole lives,” Chip says.

One night after a fellowship dinner, they presented their idea to Wesley Director David Goolsby—literally writing the names of all interested students on a napkin they had passed around the table—and after a few months, the choir was officially approved.

Goolsby enlisted the assistance of Rev. Chris Kelsey, a member of the worship and media staff at Auburn UMC, to lead the choir, and the ensemble started practicing in January.

“These kids, they’re just bubbly and excited,” says Kelsey, a provisional deacon in the Alabama-West Florida Conference who also has a background in choral music. “It’s very obvious in the way that they sing. They really want it to be something good and special.”

The 15 to 20 participants have different backgrounds and majors, but they share an intense love of singing and are “taking initiative and ownership of their faith,” he adds.

“The gusto with which they’re singing is just delightful,” says Kelsey, who sees the choir as an effective outreach tool. “Music is always a connection for people. Whether you play the music, sing or just listen, music is almost always a place where you can meet God.”

For now, the choir is sticking to simple, three-part harmony and primarily contemporary worship songs such as the popular Hillsong anthem, “Forever Reign.” Kelsey, who provides accompaniment on the piano, wanted the group to feel successful right off the bat. The choir made its debut Sunday, Feb. 25, singing selections at two AUMC services and also at the Wesley evening worship. As the group progresses, it plans to share its singing in and around Auburn.  

And for Blake and Grant, putting choir practice back on their weekly to-do lists just feels right.

“I see (God) working every time we sing,” Blake says. “I am really excited to see what God has in store for us because I can already start to see how we have affected people’s lives.