How did you learn to lead singing? Were you taught by someone?
My daddy, M. Roy Stevens, was widely known in the Churches of Christ for his voice, song leading, and his ability to teach others how to read music (do re mi fa sol la ti do). We had a poster board with those shapes on them near our kitchen table. He would make Nancy and I sing the scale and intervals, with his idea that the scale is to music like the alphabet is to language. I can still hear him saying, “Now remember, Do is shaped like a housetop, Re a bowl, Mi a baseball diamond, Fa a flag (or a pennant) Sol an egg, La a rectangle, Ti an ice cream cone…and then you’re all the way back to Do!”…..and then he’d make us sing it….over and over. We were being trained to sing when we were little, even though we didn’t appreciate until much later.
Brother Roy was in demand all over our brotherhood to teach singing schools, and his little son was right there with him, soaking it up by osmosis! One of his famous quotes that was indelibly imprinted on my young brain was, “There’s nothing better than good acapella singing, and nothing worse than bad acapella singing!”.
The seventh grade was probably one of the most important years in my musical development. At 13 years old, my voice started changing and getting much deeper after I passed the squeaky stage. Dad had an 8:00 Sunday morning “remote” radio broadcast from one of the classrooms at the 9th & Elm Church of Christ in Orange, Texas, and he needed help in the bass section of his live chorus. Guess who? I felt pretty important! Nancy, too…she was singing alto! The older folks were amazed how these two ‘kids’ could read music They just didn’t know how much of himself he had poured into us.
Another thing about the 7th grade was that I joined the junior high band, because I wanted to play the trombone like my hero brother, R J. He could literally make a trombone sing. Our band director (a legend in his own right) was a curly-headed Italian musician named Cermenaro. Everyone called him Mister C.! I never heard what his first name was…..but he was a great teacher! The first thing that each section had to do was to learn to play ‘scales’ on their instrument…. And, you guessed it….a light bulb went off in my young brain! ‘This is just what my dad had been teaching me…Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do… “The alphabet of music…a language all its own!”
I can only imagine how thrilled Dad must have been when his young son came home from school that day so excited, because everything he’d been teaching me finally made sense. From that day till this, I’ve loved to sing, to lead singing, to write music. I like to think that, in all that, I’ve made a difference in lots if lives, just as dad did, RJ did…and now Tim, RJ’s son, is teaching singing schools and preaching in gospel meetings ‘full-time,’ just like his dad did until his death in 2012.
Probably one of my proudest moments as a dad was when our kids “Concord Road”, recorded those two CDs for our 66th birthdays! I hope I live long enough to see someone in our offspring put together a recording of Concord Road, their mother, their spouses, and all their children singing together…. Wow!, I’d even volunteer to lead singing one more time just to hear that group sing! …..and, I have a feeling that the man who taught me to lead singing just might be ‘smiling’ down from Heaven.