More than 700 children across 10 locations recently participated in Mississippi Baptist Area Keyboard Festivals.
“Everybody had a really worshipful time” at First Baptist Church Jackson, Mississippi, according to Wyndy South, worship ministries consultant for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. That Jan. 25–27 event drew some 200 children.
South has been playing the piano since she was 3 years old, and taught piano most of her life. Keyboard festivals started as hymn-playing contests in 1945, but South’s predecessor at the convention, Dot Pray, changed the format into festivals for encouragement and critique rather than competition.
Keyboard festivals have encouraged many in their musical pursuits. Former students have told South that their own children now take piano lessons.
She noted that universities from across the state look out for graduating, gifted music students to whom to offer scholarships, and the goal for keyboard festivals is to encourage children to continue studying piano, with the hope that one day they will play for their local church.
South’s coworkers said the moment she leaves the festival she begins to think about how she can improve upon her leadership and enhance the experience next year.
“This is what God has asked me to do — to shepherd those children and encourage them, and to teach them how to appreciate music and use it for the Lord,” South said. “I see that every time I walk in that festival. We’re like a huge watering can in a giant garden. I’m either watering and other folks are planting, or they’re watering and I’m planting.”
Atmosphere of worship
Smith added, “Do I know if anybody will come to know Jesus because of [the festival]? No, not unless someone tells me, which they have in the past. But that atmosphere is one of worship. I see kids who play a song for Jesus, but I don’t know what it means for them. I want it to mean for them what it means for me, but I can only hope and pray for that.
“But I just see Jesus all over that place,” South declared, noting some children have participated from kindergarten through high school.
“I know it has value to them. Some of those kids are missionaries somewhere, or they’re serving in a church, or they’ve gone to do music missions. They’re changing the world. I like to think of it that way.”