Worship Conference Draws Youth from across the Valley

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Students gather during a break-out to learn visual media programs and techniques. Photo by Brett Miller
Students gather during a break-out session to learn a few visual media programs and techniques. Photo by Brett Miller

EL CENTRO — Aspiring young musicians came together Saturday, September 10, in El Centro for a full-day conference on worship leading, which included workshops covering a range of related fields including sound mixing, vocal harmonization, and visual media. The event was the brainchild of April Ortiz and Jeremy Espino, youth leaders at First Christian Church of Imperial and Christ Community Church of El Centro, respectively. Both saw a need to invest in young students whose passion to play music often exceeded their knowledge and personal development.

“I’m surrounded by so many young people that are so talented, but I think they just don’t know the biblical reason why they do worship,” Ortiz said. “If we can educate them about what the Bible says about worship, I feel they can do so much more with the talents they’ve been given.”

Attendees from multiple churches in the county took part in the main sessions and the workshops. The conference sought to serve seventh through twelth-grade students who wanted to use their musical or technical skills to lead their local churches and youth groups in singing. Over forty youth were present, surpassing the expectations of the conference organizers.

“It’s going so much better than what I would have anticipated,” said Ortiz, who has long worked with the youth in the valley alongside her husband, Ozzie. “It’s been two years in the making, and so to see this to completion is pretty amazing.”

The conference began with an introduction by Espino, who challenged the participants to pursue music leading from a motivation to point others to God, not themselves. The various workshops applied the concept, including a session for backup singers which emphasized singing to serve the music rather than draw unnecessary attention to one’s voice. Another workshop taught students with a more tech-savvy bent how to create visual media that projected the song lyrics in a way that was both easy to follow and aesthetically pleasing. The workshops were led by volunteers, each experienced and active in their own churches.

The students were eager to learn. Several already served their churches in some capacity, while others were interested in starting. One student, Sebastian Hendrickson of Calvary Kaleo Church in Brawley, was hoping to improve his skill in electric guitar, but was also willing to contribute in any way needed.

“One of the goals I want is that the Lord will bring me to whatever he wants: like tech, singing, whatever,” said Hendrickson. “If he wants me there, I’ll be there.”