Trevecca Nazarene University

Music groups learn civil rights history on spring tour

Students at Fitkin’s Memorial Church of the Nazarene.

Following the inspiring chapel in the spring of 2013 in which Dr. Charles Johnson and Rev. Chet Bush spoke about Johnson’s involvement in civil rights events in Mississippi in the ’60s, persons at Trevecca began talking about the possibility of taking students to tour sites important to that movement.  That possibility became a reality during the spring semester for the TNU Gospel Choir and TNaz Jazz Ensemble.

Prior to embarking on the tour, the Trevecca Gospel Choir and TNaz Jazz Ensemble worshiped with the Gallatin (Tenn.) First Church of the Nazarene on Sunday evening, March 2.  In the days before that service, members of that congregation had conducted a “snack drive” for the students in those two groups, and the outcome of their effort was enough food to feed these two groups for the whole trip. 

On Thursday, March 6, TNU musical groups worshipped with Trevecca students during the chapel service.

On Saturday, March 8, the tour started. Nearly eighty students and faculty members boarded buses and headed for Birmingham, Alabama, where they toured the Civil Rights Institute in that city and later sang on the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church.  While the gospel choir performed, the curator of the church came out and invited the group into the church.  This invitation resulted in an impromptu time of worship led by Marvin Jones in the sanctuary of that historic church.

On Sunday morning, March 9, the group worshipped at Fitkin’s Memorial Church of the Nazarene in Meridian, Mississippi, the church whose pastor is Dr. Charles Johnson.  In the afternoon, the group traveled to Crossroads Church of the Nazarene for the evening worship service. 

On Monday, March 10, members of the group performed at Artillery Park near Jackson Square in New Orleans, and the next day, Tuesday, the group sang outside the Loraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.  

This tour was made possible by these faculty members who served as sponsors: David Diehl, chair of the Trevecca Department of Music; Matthew Murdock, director of TNaz Jazz; Marvin Jones, director of the Trevecca Gospel Choir; Blake Houchin, sound reinforcement coordinator; Eric Wilson, guest performer with TNaz Jazz; and Michael Johnson, liaison for the Office of the President, who attended the Sunday-morning service at Fitken’s Memorial Church.