Kerry Baggett is a tenor vocalist with the SMS Men’s Chorus. He has written and arranged many sacred songs for solo, duet, quartet, and choir. His ministry allows him to visit churches where he provides special music and instruction for church choirs and vocalists.
He has recorded with the SMS Men’s Chorus, the Wilds, and has three solo recordings: “Consider Your Ways,” “More Like Thee,” and his most recent recording, “The Wonder Of It All.” Most of the songs from these recordings are in print, published by Perfect Peace Publications, SoundForth, the Wilds, and Bible Truth Music.
A 1988 graduate with a BS degree in physical education from Bob Jones University, Kerry is a public school physical education instructor in Greenville, SC.
He attends Faith Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon under Pastor Dr. John C. Vaughn. He is also a Sunday School teacher and president of the Faith Baptist Church adult choir.
Kerry with his wife Lisa and four children Michael – 10, Lauren – 8, Markus – 8, and Erin – 11 months, live in Greenville, South Carolina.
The Effective Sacred Music Vocalist
As a student of sacred music, I can confidently say it is vitally important that Christian people choose wisely the music they allow to enter their minds. There is much said in scripture about honoring the Lord with our music. Those of us who seek to honor the Lord with our singing need to understand some important principles, also.
There are many who have had the opportunity to stand before others and vocally praise the Lord in song. I have had that opportunity many times – for which I am truly thankful. I have also had the privilege of assisting others in this endeavor. There are many who are more qualified, and many who can provide much more instruction, but the Lord has given me the opportunity to assist some young vocalists through the years. In my own opportunities to sing, as well as in helping others, my goal is simply to make others, as well as myself, more effective sacred music vocalists.
Much has been written in the realm of sacred vocal performance. It is not my attempt to duplicate other material or necessarily present anything new, but rather to provide some basic guidelines the Lord has allowed me to incorporate in my own personal singing over the years.
As a physical education instructor, I have the opportunity to participate in athletics. My favorite sport is basketball, and I’ve had the opportunity to play and coach on various levels. I have found that there are some common goals that relate to the game of basketball and the effective sacred music vocalist.
The players chosen must be the best players for the team. When a basketball team is chosen, the players selected must be right for the team. The ability to work together as a unit is of vital importance. When a vocalist is selecting a piece of music, the piece should be one that is right for the vocalist. Obviously, range, tessitura, quality of the song, writer/arranger, and appropriateness should all be considered. If a piece is selected based on a desire to impress the listener, the motive for the selection is wrong. Psalm 95:1a, “O come, let us sing unto the Lord.” Our choice of music speaks loudly of our commitment to sing music that will be pleasing to the Lord rather than only pleasing to man.
2. The players must have a good understanding of the game. When athletes are competing, the ones who are successful are those who have a thorough grasp of the entire game. There are many athletes who have pure ability, but lack an overall knowledge of how the game fits together – offense, defense, teamwork, strategy, etc. A successful vocalist is one who understands the message of the selected piece. Often times a singer will select a song, practice it, and sing it flawlessly – only to realize later that the message of the song was not conveyed. If the singer is to be effective, the message of the piece must first be real to his own heart. When this is the case, it is much more likely that the diction, emotion, and expression will be combined to make the song one that reaches the hearts of the listeners. I Corinthians 14:15b, says, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
The players must be able to deliver. Once the right athletes are picked and they have a good understanding of the game, they will have opportunities to execute successfully. This will not always happen, but it is obviously the goal. One of the keys to good execution is practice. As well, the vocalist needs the right selection, knowledge of the message of the selection, and then a good delivery of that message. He must also spend the necessary time practicing for a successful delivery. In any endeavor, a successful outcome is dependent on many variables. We cannot minimize the importance of prayer, a consistent walk with the Lord, or a vibrant testimony. With those areas being what they should be, however, we cannot minimize the importance of consistent practice. Phil. 1:9, 10a, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent.
It is important as sacred music vocalists that we seek to do all we can to honor the Lord in our music. These three simple areas are simply the “tip of the proverbial iceberg.” Each of these areas can be further developed and magnified, and much more could be added to the list. However, as a guideline for singing, they are necessary, and they can provide a framework for any sacred music vocalist.
With these points in mind, it is imperative to say one more thing. If the selection isn’t perfect, and the delivery isn’t quite what one desired, an understanding of the message must always be attained. One cannot always find that perfect piece, and the outcome can always be improved, but we must always sing with a knowledge and understanding of the text, and know that our walk with our God is of utmost importance in proclaiming the message of our song.
The next time you plan to sing, whether in front of many, a few, or simply in your heart, remember these areas, and remember that your goal is to glorify our Savior. I Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.“
For more information about the ministry of Perfect Peace Publications, or to obtain sacred music recordings and printed music, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. To preview the audio selections from Kerry’s latest cd The Wonder of It All simply visit the media section of No Tears In Heaven.
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