Every Sunday morning voices can be heard raised in worship from the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel.
The worship is led by the chapel’s band, which this year accepted several new members.
The band’s new members are junior Elizabeth Collier, Bryant Manning, and sophomores Patrick Ryan and Kenny Sullivan.
The band started rehearsing before the school year even began.
“We call it Praise Band Boot Camp,” Rev. Tim Wright, FSC’s chaplain, said. “The week before the opening worship service for the new students that come in, I get the Praise Band back, they move-in on Sunday and we rehearse, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday… .”
Sullivan, a sophomore and double major in mathematics and accounting, said that he started playing music in the eighth grade when he taught himself the piano through YouTube.
“Last year I [played] a few weekends, just to see if I would fit in with the band. Sometimes the pianist last year wouldn’t be able to play, like if she had a prior obligation, so I would just play for them, practice,” Sullivan said. “I really liked it, so this year I joined the chapel band full time.”
Manning, the new assistant chaplain, began work on June 1 and became part of the band.
Manning is also an FSC alumnus, and a former vocal performance major.
“I graduated from FSC in 2009, and then I graduated from Duke in 2013,” Manning said.
During his time as a student Manning had also played with the Praise Band, and participated in several of FSC’s operas.
Manning mostly focuses on worship music now.
“In many ways I think the music that we do for worship is an expression of a lot of things,” Manning said. “It’s an expression of our love for God, it’s an expression of God’s love for us.”
The band decides on the music based upon Wright’s upcoming sermon.
The band practices two times a week, once on Thursday night and once on Sunday morning before chapel, meaning that everyone in the band receives the music on Monday.
On Thursday nights, when the band rehearses, the schedule is tight because Beyond happens directly after rehearsal. Some of the members of the band play for both groups.
“It’s an even bigger commitment, because I have Beyond rehearsal too,” Sullivan said.
Before a service, the band also has to set up the stage on Saturday nights.
“Because it’s a historic building, we can’t leave anything up for any length [of time], so we have to tear everything down and set it back up,” Wright said.
If something goes wrong with the equipment, then the band has to find ways to work around it by using the acoustic guitar and a cappella techniques.
“The hard thing is the screens, because if the words go down, then no one in the congregation knows what to sing or knows what to do,” Manning said.
The band has found ways to work around this to make sure that the congregation will be able to follow along.
It is more than all work and no play though.
During Praise Band Camp the group went out to dinner and bowling.
Sullivan recounted times in the past when the band had gone out to eat together and had doughnuts after rehearsal on Sunday mornings.
Wright said that, ultimately though, the music is not about them.
“It’s not a performance, it’s not about us,” Wright said. “To be honest, if we could be invisible that would be fantastic, to get out of the way and just usher people into the presence of God.”