Well-attended chapel gatherings in Lesesne Auditorium are an encouraging feature of Erskine campus life this fall. The auditorium has been upgraded with a new sound system. A grand piano has been reconditioned and is regularly played onstage. As in past years, students serve as chapel musicians. This semester, several staff members can also be seen front and center during chapel worship, with one serving behind the scenes.
Vocalist Kala Overholt is one of five staff members now active on the chapel music team at Erskine. She helped to identify other staff members with musical inclination and experience, and now makes the lyric slides for weekly chapel in addition to singing with the team.
“Music has the power to move people deeply,” says Overholt, who works as assistant to the vice president for academic administration. “This is an amazing opportunity to share the name and message of Christ on campus through music.”
Overholt’s worship leadership experience includes past service on a youth worship team with Admissions Counselor Julio Delgado and Coordinator for Student Success Will Johnson, two of the other staff members now making music during Tuesday chapel sessions.
Johnson, who sings and plays rhythm guitar, also takes the lead in choosing songs and organizing the group’s rehearsals. “The new sound system has been a huge blessing!” he says, adding a comment about Social Media Manager Ian Harris, a staff member who works behind the scenes. “I’m particularly thankful that Ian is so skilled in using the new system.”
“Student Success” is part of Johnson’s job title, and he is quick to point out ways in which being a chapel musician relates to his service on the Erskine staff. “I see a connection specifically to student success since it is important for students to think of success holistically, including their faith,” he says. “It has also been helpful to be in front of our students [during chapel], so that they know who I am and can put a face to my name and title and know that I’m available.”
Delgado, new to Erskine this year, plays rhythm or lead guitar, “whatever fits well with the song,” he says. “I’m playing with some really talented people. We’ve been playing together a good bit, so we [know] how each of us plays and how to complement each other.”
As a family man with a new baby at home, Delgado’s biggest challenge is time. “It is difficult to find the time to rehearse to improve my skills and do my best,” he says. “When I am in the position of playing an instrument for the Lord, then it is my responsibility to play to the utmost of my ability.”
Admissions Counselor Evan Hughes, a vocalist who plays acoustic guitar and acoustic percussion, is a 2021 Erskine graduate. “I have had a lot of music experience here at Erskine,” he says. “I was heavily involved in Choraleers, Chamber Singers, Fellowship of Christian Athletes Worship Team, Reformed University Fellowship Worship Team, and Baptist Collegiate Ministry Worship Team.”
Hughes enjoys the continuity of serving on the worship team as a staff member after several years as a student musician in which he served with pianist Sam Tam, a senior who is a member of the chapel worship team. He also appreciates the opportunity to connect with freshman musicians like John Paul Bell, who plays bass, and Josh Thomas, who plays drums.
Erskine chapel sessions are enriched by the talents and dedication of both staff and student musicians. Music can help to prepare students, faculty, and staff members to receive the message presented in chapel. “I admire Dr. Hellams’s passion and intentionality about the importance of Erskine students, faculty, and staff gathering for worship and hearing God’s word preached each week,” Johnson says.
Grateful for the opportunity to “worship as a school, especially during the workday,” Johnson acknowledges the support of his supervisor, Vice President for Student Success Dr. Wendi Santee, as well as that of his team members in Student Development, as he takes needed time for rehearsals. “It’s inspiring to get to lead with such great musicians,” he says.
Overholt agrees. “I really enjoy working with the team,” she says. “They are great guys who love the Lord and want to see growth on our campus. It is my hope that we can help to move even just one student closer to Christ through the example that we set as we lead worship in chapel.”
Pictured above, from left, are John Paul Bell, Sam Tam, Kala Overholt, Josh Thomas, and Will Johnson.