The Annie Moses Band … reclaiming the arts for the glory of God
By Rebecca Grace Davis
Inspiring parents, churches and families to invest in the artistic training of their children for the glory of God is the heart of the Annie Moses Band, a pop string band that blends jazz, fiddle and classical influences with folk-inspired vocals.
The band is made up of the Bill Wolaver family – six siblings who perform and their parents who write, arrange and direct music that is influenced by the band’s namesake, Annie Moses.
Moses was the great grandmother of Annie Wolaver, the band’s lead vocalist and violinist. Moses was tenacious about making God’s praise glorious through music, and such tenacity inspired four generations to take music from the cotton patch to the Juilliard School to Carnegie Hall.
Recently, Annie and her mother, Robin Wolaver, spoke to AFA Journal about reclaiming the arts for the glory of God.
AFA Journal: What does it mean to be a pop string band made up of Christians who recently produced a classical crossover album?
Annie Wolaver: We feel that our music is a reflection of our lives, and our lives are about the pursuit of Jesus. So we may sing songs that range in all sorts of purposes – for praise, for telling a story, about love, about friendship. But all of that is born out of the wellspring of our own hearts, our own lives and our own discipleship with Jesus. Christian music is the only genre of music that is not determined according to style. It’s determined according to content.
So when you say classical crossover, that means you have taken classical instruments and you are using them in a musical style that is not traditionally classical. That draws a lot of people, who would traditionally never darken the doors of the church, to be interested in the music and mission of the Annie Moses Band. We play a lot in churches, but we also play a lot in theaters. We don’t glorify God just because we’re standing on a church stage. You can play the same show on a church stage or a theater stage, and either way you are glorifying God and proclaiming the truth He has given you.
AFAJ: What is the overall purpose of the Annie Moses Band?
AW: We desire to see a whole new generation of young artisans who are not just professionals … [but who] have an artistic toolbox by which to tell the story of Jesus. We do this as a band in the sense that we make albums. That is definitely our professional endeavor. But behind the scenes, this is our calling: to be a springboard of inspiration for other Christian families and entities to create a brand new artistic throne for the Lord to occupy.
AFAJ: What is the role of the family in music education?
Robin Wolaver: When parents own the responsibility of nurturing their children musically, the study of music then becomes camaraderie; it becomes a fellowship between parent and child. When it’s rooted in the glory and purpose of God, then it becomes a rich, full expression of love. The parent must make musical development a discipleship model. In other words, I’m not just going to say, “Get in there and practice.” I’m going to go sit with you. This is you and me together learning to praise the Lord.
AFAJ: What if the child and/or family has no interest in music or no musical talent?
AW: The questions of whether or not the child is talented, or whether or not the child likes it or whether or not she will do it professionally is totally irrelevant. The only real consideration is that God has commanded us to praise Him, and He has told us to do it with our voices. He’s told us to do it with instruments and our bodies – including dance. So this is part of parents taking to heart the task of giving their child the spiritual discipline of artistic expression.
RW: A lot of times, the children who are not initially what we would call talented will develop their talent over time and become just as competent and just as good as the child who has that natural initial talent.
AFAJ: One way the band is fulfilling its calling is through the Fine Arts Summer Academy. What is it?
AW: We started the Fine Arts Summer Academy [in Nashville] to help disciple young people and provide parents with an environment in which they can ask questions about navigating the musical development of their children.
It’s a two-week program for the upper division (fifth grade through college sophomores), and a one-week program for the lower division (ages 4 to 10). We had 250 students from all over the United States and beyond that came for this past event. My parents write and arrange two shows, one for each division, tailored to the specific talents of the students who register each year.
It’s open to students of all skill levels [on a first come, first serve basis], and it [culminates] with an incredible final performance. It’s very rigorous and very demanding, and it’s much more intense than most people are used to artistically. But when students [and their parents] are able to see what they can accomplish in two weeks, [it] is a huge catalyst for their future investments artistically when they go home.
AFAJ: Why is godly artistic aspiration so important in today’s world?
RW: We don’t need a few good men in the church. We need a mass of good men and women who are a new generation rising up who will repopulate the world of the arts for the glory of God. I’m not just talking about Sunday morning stages to lead the worship service. I’m talking about Broadway. I’m talking about radio. I’m talking about the movie theaters. These are the most impacting elements of our culture. It’s not the Sunday morning sermon that’s going to manifest. It is those white ear buds in the 12-year-old’s ears while he feasts on music, movies and entertainment. Until we repopulate that realm with Christians and with people who understand a Christian worldview, we will not win the battle for this culture. We must become the leaders in the world of the arts if we are going to maintain a godly culture.
AFAJ: Why the art of music, specifically?
RW: Our culture needs to be re-educated on exactly what the role of music is. We’ve grown to believe the role of music is so you can be a star, and that’s not true. The role of music is so that you can have a voice to extol your Creator. … Also, I believe every child should study music from an early age because of what it does to the development of the brain. It empowers the child to be able to articulate what she knows to be true. So when a child is rooted in the Lord and has this toolbox of artistic expression, she is a powerful messenger in the Kingdom of God.
Pilgrims and Prodigals
Pilgrims and Prodigals, the most recent CD/DVD project from the Annie Moses Band, is available in stores, through iTunes or at www.anniemosesband.com. It will also air on public television across the nation through the month of October.