When I first meet someone, inevitably, I am asked, “So, what do you do?”
It has taken a long time, but I am finally able to reply, “I do music.”
I began regularly playing the piano in my home church when I was thirteen years old, and since then I have worked in church music in some capacity. I began seriously composing and arranging when I was about sixteen years old. For most of my adult life, church music has been a part-time job. Since working full time in music seemed like a pipe dream (I know, so many jokes), I have always had other jobs. I started in a coffee shop. I love coffee, so that wasn’t so bad. I moved to retail clothing. I love fashion, so that wasn’t so bad. I became a retail manager. I love bossing people around, so that wasn’t so bad. I finally landed a job at a music store. Obviously, I love music, so that was much better, but it was still a retail job.
While working at the music store, I accepted my job as organist of FBG, and I began teaching piano lessons again. As I started to take on more and more students, I was eventually able to open my own private studio. I was able to resign from the music store, and that freed up so much time to compose. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was truly working full time in music (with no sales goal).
In September 2019, I was given the amazing opportunity to be the artistic director and conductor of the Greenville Gay Men’s Chorus. This is especially delightful because it combines my aforementioned loves of music and bossing people around! Joking aside, I have loved every minute of this new venture. The chorus currently consists of 27 members, and we recently had the honor of performing with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus at the Peace Center. I am very excited about the current concert we have planned in which nine different guys will be telling personal stories about growing up, coming out, and living life as a gay man. These emotional stories will be paired with songs sung by individuals and the chorus as a whole. The concert includes humorous, heartfelt and hopeful songs. Because of COVID-19, we are hoping to perform this concert as the opening event of our tenth season in the fall.
I feel so blessed that I get to spend all of my time playing the organ, composing music, teaching budding musicians, and directing an incredible group of men. When someone asks, “What do you do?” I can finally say, “I do music.” I am so happy that I get to do it all at First Baptist Greenville.
—Shelton

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