Love of church music began in Red Oak

Published 8:52 am Thursday, February 22, 2018

Baylor prof, conference speaker, Bradley began playing church piano at age 5

Covington County native Dr. Randall Bradley will be one of the keynote speakers during “Our Story, Our Song: Celebrating Our Heritage Hymns” conference, set for March 1-3 at LBW Community College.

Bradley’s love for music started as a young boy growing up in the Red Oak community where he was the community church’s pianist when he was five years old. Bradley said that he has always had a strong investment in this community, and is thrilled to show what he has observed throughout his years.

“I come from a massive family that was all from Covington County,” Bradley said. “It was a delightful place to grow up and being a musical kid, music is all that I would do. I sang at church revivals every Friday night to hone my vocal skills.”

Bradley attended Florala High School and was very involved in the band. He later earned a bachelor’s degree from Troy University, while working as the music minister of Mount Pleasant church. He was also a member of the Troy University Collegiate Singers, which is where he met his wife.

“I am so lucky that I was given all of these opportunities growing up,” Bradley said. “Growing up I never thought that I would be given the chance to make great music, but here I am.”

After graduating from Troy, Bradley was the band director at Florala High School for two years. In 1983 he moved to Texas to pursue his master’s degree in choral conducting and then his doctorate in church music. After working in Kansas City and in Oklahoma, he got the opportunity to become the director of the Baylor University Men’s Choir, which is where he continues to teach today.

“I have always tried to be a good steward to the people that have stepped into my life and caused a positive impact,” Bradley said. “It has been such a privilege to be a part of the wondrous music making.”

Bradley said that his favorite hymns are “Praise to the Lord, The Almighty” and “When We All Get to Heaven.”

“I remember sitting with my dad in church and hearing the rhythm and face pace quality of ‘When We All Get to Heaven’ and loving it.” Bradley said. “The special thing about music is that it is always with you. When you lose someone or when you are in the lowest point in your life, music will always be with you just like this hymn has always been with me.”

Bradley’s lecture is entitled “Covington County’s Church Music: Where We Are and Where We Are Going,” and will focus on the results of a survey that he conducted.

“We asked several questions to the churches in the county,” Bradley said. “We asked what the size of the church was, what kind of music they sing, if they sing with hymnals or read the lyrics from a screen, the style of music, what their favorite songs are, the diversity of the music they sing and the challenges they face.”

Any body who cares about the church can get something from this lecture, said Bradley.

“Most people only attend their own church, but will always pass other churches and think about what is behind the curtain,” Bradley said. “Well our assumption is usually inaccurate, so this conference will be able to pull back that curtain and let people explore other church music.”

This is the second time LBW Community College has hosted this conference. The first time was in 2010.

When asked why it is still important to study religious music, Bradley said, “Most people were born through the church, the music comes back to us. It is the soundtrack of our lives. Music shapes us.”

Bradley will also conduct a high school choir workshop. He has chosen three pieces of music that the students will perform for the community.

“We want to help them with the three different styles of singing, help with their vocal style and most importantly, inspire the students,” Bradley said. “Everyone is shaped by some positive experience in their lives, so I hope this conference can be that for some of these students.”

Bradley said, “This is a massive, national level church music conference, and it will be hosted in my home county, I can’t explain how big that is. There will be some of the most important influencers of church music, the best writers of church music and I hope that people will be exposed to what is out there and experience how deep the musical history is.”

The cost is $35 for the whole conference or $20 a day; Saturday is free, and students may come to any parts or all of the conference free of charge. Learn more at the conference’s website