Meet the 8 Instruments that Make up St. Paul’s Worship Band


    Have you been to the contemporary worship service at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church? eCoronado.com shines the spotlight on the ‘human instruments’ that lead and produce the music that is heard inside and beyond the walls at 700 D Avenue.

    We interviewed St. Paul’s Senior Paster, Neal Keller, to learn more about contemporary service and how it started:

    When I first arrived at St. Paul’s in 1996, we had two traditional services on Sunday morning. The first service was lightly attended so I asked our choir director at that time, Frank Williams, to start a contemporary praise service at the earlier hour. He got the ball rolling and, in a few months, we hired a contemporary praise leader, John Hayman. John led the praise music together with other vocalists and musicians from the congregation until Charlie Higgins was hired in 1999 to lead the praise music.

    The format between the two services is different. The traditional service features classic hymns, formal liturgy and a choir accompanied by piano and organ. The contemporary praise service features current Christian gospel songs accompanied by a guitar-driven band. The minister delivers the same sermon at both services.

    The current praise band evolved from one person playing a guitar and leading the music to a band comprised of singers and instrumental music leading the congregation in singing.

    The band is made up of St. Paul’s church members of which the majority are volunteers. Let’s meet the ‘instruments’ that make the music happen every Sunday morning.

    Phil Higgins, Vocals / Guitar / Worship Leader

    Share your connection to Coronado? What first brought you here?

    I grew up in Coronado. My family moved there when I was 3 years old.

    How did you first get involved with music? Were you inspired by certain artists?

    I grew up in a very musical house with my dad always playing music and teaching me how to play various instruments from a young age. However, it wasn’t until high school that I truly decided to dive into music. I picked up the guitar and never looked back. From there I continued the path to playing music professionally full-time both live and in recording studio sessions.

    The Beatles were the biggest influence on me as I was first getting into music, and I still consider them one of my favorite bands. Coldplay and John Mayer are also artists I like. I am most inspired by Chris Tomlin’s worship music and we play many of his songs during our services.

    What led you to join the praise band at St. Paul’s? What is your favorite song the band performs?

    My Dad, Charlie Higgins, became the music director at St. Paul’s and he asked me to join the group in the beginning stages. I actually started with the group playing drums. As of January 2013, I was brought on as the worship leader for the contemporary service at 9am where I lead with singing and acoustic guitar. The band has changed over the years and is always growing and changing with the times.

    Currently, my favorite song we perform is “Whom Shall I Fear” by Chris Tomlin.

    Is there anything else you would like to share about the music performed by the praise band or describe the service for those that want to check it out?

    When I was brought on as worship leader it was my goal to keep our worship music current and fresh. I strive to provide a balanced dynamic variety of soft worshipful moments and uplifting driving energetic moments to move others to feel a connection and engage in worship. We have a relaxed environment and are always excited to see more new faces in the 9am service.

    Charlie Higgins, Music Director / Vocalist / Pianist / Keyboard

    Share your connection to Coronado? What first brought you here?

    I moved to Coronado with my family in 1984. I grew up in Lemon Grove and after some moves for college and career, returned to the San Diego area.

    How did you first get involved with music? Were you inspired by certain artists?

    I was raised in a musical family. Mom was church organist and choir director, and we were always involved. I began getting interested in music as a teenager, and have continued ever since through high school, college, teaching, and performing.

    What led you to join the praise band at St. Paul’s?

    I came on Staff at St Paul’s in 1999 as Praise Band director. Now as I look back over 14 years it is amazing the changes in the group that have evolved as well as the many praise band members who have served over that time.

    Is there anything else you would like to share about the music performed by the praise band or describe the service for those that want to check it out?

    Our purpose as members of the Praise Band at St Paul’s is to be worship leaders, and encourage our congregation to worship as we do also. We strive to prepare the music in the most professional way we can to bring honor and glory to God. We are not ‘performing’ but serving as music leaders to bring worship to it highest level each Sunday. Our sound is contemporary, but our message is eternal.

    Ken Uyesugi, Guitar / Bass Guitar

    Share your connection to Coronado? What first brought you here?

    As a retired Navy Commander and Optometrist, we (my family) moved to San Diego four years ago and fell in love with San Diego, Coronado, and St. Paul’s. I decided to retire recently and raise his family here in Coronado.

    How did you first get involved with music? Were you inspired by certain artists?

    I was a former Heavy Metal guitarist in multiple Bay Area rock bands, playing Worship Teams for past 10 years through both local churches and military ministries prior to moving to Coronado.

    What led you to join the praise band at St. Paul’s? What is your favorite song the band performs?

    In his first praise band, played with “Jeremy’s” college roommate, Damien. Found out after a year that they were referring to Jeremy Camp, whose music career was just taking off.

    My favorite worship artists include: Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Jeremy Camp and Hillsong.

    What led you to join the praise band at St. Paul’s? What is your favorite song the band performs?

    I was invited by Music Director, Charlie, to fill in bass for Bob, one month after coming to worship with St Paul’s. After two weeks, I was asked to join band as the electric guitarist. I currently lead guitarist and substitute Bass player.

    Favorite Songs: Blessed be your Name, Beautiful One and How Great is our God.

    Is there anything else you would like to share about the music performed by the praise band or describe the service for those that want to check it out?

    The St. Paul’s Praise and Worship team has been moving towards a more contemporary worship service with the addition of team leader Phil Higgins as praise leader and as a team of musicians, becoming more of a band for the growth and expansion of first service. We welcome any input from our congregation and look forward to continue to “Rock for God”!

    Bob Davidson, Bass Guitar

    Share your connection to Coronado? What first brought you here?

    I married into the town when I met Jennifer 35 years ago. Nice community, great people and the best weather in the known world.

    How did you first get involved with music? Were you inspired by certain artists?

    I have always loved music, got introduced to the Mills Brothers and big band jazz by my parents who really loved music and dancing. I took up the trombone in grade school. The music teacher said I looked like a trombone player (only years later did I realize how funny that was ; ). I think the reality is that all the trumpets and drums where already gone. I have always loved jazz and big band so for me that was a good fit. I met Charlie McGhee (our drummer) in a touring youth group called “The Bright Side” when I was about 15 and we have been good friends since then. I am really blessed to be playing with him again after all these years.

    What led you to join the praise band at St. Paul’s?

    I used to be the usher in the first service and one of our long time members, Hal Weeks, said that our praise band needed “a bottom end, got to have more bass”. For anyone who knew Hal, it was clear that I had to listen to him. Hal was not the sort of person to ignore, every Sunday he would ask me, “when are you going to get up there and add some bass?” I met with Charlie Higgins and said I was interested learning the bass and he taught me to play. What a blessing this has been for me to be part of this wonderful group of Christians.

    Is there anything else you would like to share about the music performed by the praise band or describe the service for those that want to check it out?

    From my perspective, the contemporary service and music reaches those who may not have got a traditional church experience as a child or just want to have a more relaxed and casual service. Our service leave a lot of room for God to speak to the congregation and for all to worship Him through song and music.

    Jennifer Davidson, Vocal Harmony / Percussion

    Share your connection to Coronado? What first brought you here?

    I was born and grew up in Coronado.

    How did you first get involved with music? Were you inspired by certain artists?

    My dad used to sing with us when my sisters and I were little girls. We would sing songs from musicals. My dad loved to sing and taught us to harmonize- then we were always in school choirs, and I was in the St. Paul’s Children’s Choir for awhile when I was young.

    What led you to join the praise band at St. Paul’s? What is your favorite song the band performs?

    In 1996, I was back in the St. Paul’s choir as an adult. When Neal Keller came to St Paul’s, he said he wanted contemporary music at the first service. So, our choir director asked for volunteers to sing/lead the congregation in a few contemporary songs. I volunteered with a few others. That was how the praise service started. After awhile, we (the church) hired a praise leader who stayed for a few years. It was just acoustic guitar and a ‘drum machine’, and the four of us. When that leader left, Charlie Higgins came on board and that is when things really started happening. Soon we had guitars, bass, and drums as well as Charlie on the piano.

    I think my all time favorite song is ‘Your Grace is Enough” by Chris Tomlin. It is purely by God’s grace that I have been in the praise band all these years. It has been an honor and blessing. I never wanted to or dreamed of being in a band. It was all by God’s plan and design.

    Is there anything else you would like to share about the music performed by the praise band or describe the service for those that want to check it out?

    The Praise and Worship service is a ‘come as you are’, ‘meet you were you are’ type of service. Very casual and (with all humility) the music is awesome. Thanks be to God.

    Katie LaRoe, Vocals

    Share your connection to Coronado? What first brought you here?

    The great “snipe” hunt of 2006 brought me here. I wasn’t an avid hunter but I thought I’d give it a shot. I heard the island was richly inhabited with the elusive creatures. I wasn’t able to find one after all, however, the schools were great and so we stayed.

    How did you first get involved with music? Were you inspired by certain artists?

    I just sang as loud as I could from the time I was little. When I’m singing, you’ll know I’m happy. I sang in the hallways at high school, I sing in the shower, in the store, and I’ve been busted more than a handful of times dancing and singing in my car. Just don’t ask me to clap and sing in front of the congregation, it’s my kryptonite!

    What led you to join the praise band at St. Paul’s?

    I couldn’t contain myself when I moved to Nado and sat in the congregation. I felt a huge calling to be a part of the worship team. So, for the first three years, Charlie listened patiently as I whispered quietly into the microphone. I’ve grown a little since then. They were/are so supportive.

    What is your favorite song the band performs?

    My favorite song, hmmmm.. toughy, there are so many. It’s probably “I could sing of your love forever” or “Open the eyes of my heart” I’m SUPER into JJ Heller right now.

    Is there anything else you would like to share about the music performed by the praise band or describe the service for those that want to check it out?

    St. Paul’s has been my family where I have no blood relatives, my support when my feet fell through my foundation, and my hope on my darkest days. This church has brought me such love and joy and renewal of faith and all that it stands for. I am blessed to be a part of this church, and in God’s grace, I continue to grow daily. We really are the body of Christ.

    Angela Ahern, Vocals

    Share your connection to Coronado? What first brought you here?

    I was born in Coronado, so my connection to Coronado would be my parents. Thanks Mom and Dad. I am 14 and a freshman at Coronado High School.

    How did you first get involved with music? Were you inspired by certain artists?

    I have always been interested in performing. I enjoy being on the stage. I would watch television shows with singing, dancing, and acting, and I would try my best to imitate the characters. Music became my passion when I started playing piano and taking voice lessons. I received training in all types of dances like tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, ethnic dance and so on. Everything about performing interested me; the arts have always been close to my heart.

    What led you to join the praise band at St. Paul’s? What is your favorite song the band performs?

    Mr Higgins asked me to try Praise Band for a couple months just before I turned 13. After two month trial period, I became part of the praise band. Time has just flown by since I started. It is a lot of hard work considering the week day rehearsals,the early Sunday morning practices, and losing the only day of the week when I could sleep in. Yet it is all well worth it because I feel His presence when I close my eyes and sing praises to Him.

    My favorite song is “Jesus Messiah” because I love the harmonies and the acoustic feel. The instruments and the vocals build in such a fluid way. It is definitely my favorite song we sing.

    Charlie McGhee, Drums

    Share your connection to Coronado? What first brought you here?

    My connection is mostly through my friendship with the Davidson Family (Bob and Jennifer).

    How did you first get involved with music? Were you inspired by certain artists?

    I have been a musician all my life, I began studying in the 3rd grade. I currently play professionally and am a Middle school music teacher in the San Marcos Unified School District. Influences range from Count Basie to Elton John to Leonard Bernstein.

    What led you to join the praise band at St. Paul’s? What is your
    favorite song the band performs?

    I can only say God led me but Bob and Jennifer invited me to church one day. My favorite song was written by Charlie Higgins, called “Pray for Rain”.

    Is there anything else you would like to share about the music performed by the praise band or describe the service for those that want to check it out?

    God is there.

    To learn more about this service or St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, click here.

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