Shuck and Jive

Friday, January 15, 2010

Proud of My Lovely

My lovely is now the director of music for our congregation. She was featured in the
Elizabethton Star today. Here is the article by Greg Miller:

Beverly Shuck: 'Music Provides Inspiration for Worship'

"One definition of music includes the Greco-Roman concept of being inspired by 'the Gods,'" said Beverly Shuck, who began serving as the music director of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton in August.

"Music does indeed provide inspiration for worship. As a teacher, we try to reach students with different learning styles," she explained. "Church-goers also have a variety of learning styles that we need to try to accommodate in order for all to have a meaningful worship experience."

Shuck noted that music reaches something deep within the heart and can be more powerful than words alone. "Participating in music is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to build community, solidarity, and a feeling of oneness with the Holy Spirit during a worship service," she added.

Shuck, the wife of the church's pastor, the Rev. John Shuck, characterizes the music that is used in the church's worship services. "First Presbyterian has a congregation that represents all ages, professions and walks of life," she said. "They are a tolerant, loving, intelligent bunch with a terrific sense of humility and humor and a true love for God, neighbor, and our lovely planet. Our music reflects this variety as well as our historical heritage. We and our music are a true montage."

Shuck feels the goal of church music "should not be so much to impress, but inspire! Quality and talent are important, but I believe that, in a church setting, intent is more so! Anyone who wishes to be a part of a musical group capable of inspiring a congregation through the use of a wide variety of quality music from all genres is certainly welcome here!"

The church's music program includes the choir, the bell choir and the flute ensemble. "Our chancel choir is a 15-25 member group of dedicated souls who practice every Wednesday night from 7-8:30 p.m.," said Shuck. "They sing a wide variety of music from gospel to classical and are a fun, enjoyable and talented bunch!

"Our flute ensemble and bell choirs practice on Wednesdays as well and enrich our services with their music about once a month," she continued. "We also have a 'string band' that plays traditional folk and bluegrass music and other musicians who add a rich variety of music to our worship experience."

As a newcomer to the staff of the church, Shuck said she is "still observing what has been done before, trying to retain what is still relevant about those traditions, and at the same time trying to discover what new programs/ensembles/music might be meaningful for our congregation. They have been very gracious about letting me try new things!"

When a person is new to a job, Shuck observed, "one of the first steps is to try to establish relationships with the people with which you are working. I have learned something about them, and they have learned something about the way that I work."

Shuck has kind remarks about the previous music director. "I follow a very talented and beloved director in Elizabethton's Debbie Gouge," Shuck said. "She is a colleague of mine, and I have great respect for her work with this church. We are both high school choral teachers as well, I, at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, so our training in vocal technique and literature has been very similar. I think of my direction as the continuance of a good thing."

Progress, Shuck said, "is natural wherever people are working diligently to achieve a goal. All of our groups gradually get better and learn something different musically with each piece we do. This is part of the challenge and enjoyment of being a music director -- watching and listening to groups improve. I like to think that with every musical challenge we meet, God is smiling. Of course, there are days when, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, you are not as prepared as others. That is when, as my witty husband says, you just have to 'Walk the Dog Proudly!'"

Music provides an emotional high for Shuck. "I feel so fortunate to be in a profession where I can experience music either alone or with other people every day," she said. "For me, music elevates consciousness to a higher level-beyond the petty and inconsequential details of daily living. It is truly an artistic endeavor, and to help musical groups reach a technical level where they are experiencing this same 'high.'

"This same collective 'meaningfulness'...that is what it's all about for me," Shuck said. "As we say here in the south, these are the 'chill bump' moments we all live for as directors and musicians. These moments have extra meaning when we experience them in church with our fellow congregants."

Although her bachelor's and master's degrees are both in music education, Shuck noted that as the pastor's wife, "I have never had the opportunity to direct our church choirs. We've always had very qualified people in place in all of the churches we've been at. I feel God nudged me when this position came open and said, 'Beverly, I think your specific gifts might be a good fit for this!' I've learned that when God 'nudges,' your life is much richer if you listen!"

A vocal major in college, Shuck plays the piano, guitar and flute. "I also tortured my family with the various sounds of instruments from the required instrument classes you have to take as a budding music educator...the clarinet, trumpet and trombone, and the drums," she remarked. "I recently bought a mandolin from a student of mine and am looking forward to learning how to play it."

Shuck received her bachelor's degree in music education from the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, N.Y., located near the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is incidentally the home of the nation's first music education training institution.

"Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y. (home of Cornell), is where I got my master's degree in music education," she said.

According to Shuck, David Arney, the church's organist/accompanist, has been "a god-send to me during this transitional period. I have so enjoyed working with him! Without his talent and love of musical adventure, our music program wouldn't be nearly as fun or successful."

Elizabethton, Shuck observed, is a beautiful community.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve First Presbyterian and to experience Elizabethton through the lives of the people in our congregation," she said. "I hope that I can offer as much as I am learning through this experience. For me, it has been a real source of joy."

Want to sing in an awesome choir? Come to a rehearsal Wednesday at 7 p.m.!


  1. Well, it's about time you used your awesome powers to get her a job. ;o)

  2. I want to say in some public forum at least that I cannot remember ever enjoying a musical performance more then I did the "Ceremony of Carols" last week. Don't mean to be flowery and over the top, but I found myself just beaming. I knew many of those people, I was among people I like and respect, the setting, the faces, the work I knew went into it.. it really felt like a group giving something dear to itself. I hope Bev and the group thought it worth the work and struggle.

  3. Congratulations, John.

    She looks like a wonderful person and I'm certain equally as talented.

  4. The busybodies can now report to my presbytery that I'm sleeping with the choir director.

    @Mike Thanks for those kind words! That is what it is about!

  5. Congrats to lovely spouse and the congregation!

  6. Thanks Bob! It is fun to work with her!