Catawba Worship to perform at national youth event at Walt Disney World

Published 12:03 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

SALISBURY — Three to four thousand youth from around the globe will know a little more about Catawba College after they attend the National Youth Event being held this week and co-hosted by the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Catawba Worship, an ensemble of 17 student singers and instrumentalists from Catawba College, will perform as the main house band at all worship sessions and after-hours events during the event. Catawba Worship, under the leadership of Dr. Phillip Burgess and Dr. Julie Chamberlain in Catawba’s department of music and student director R.J. Thornton, a senior from Durham, will also present multiple workshops to youth ages 13-18, church leaders and volunteers who attend the event. Cindy Barr, Catawba’s vice president of enrollment, will accompany the group and will also present a workshop session at the event.

Catawba Worship represents the diverse student population of Catawba College. The ensemble’s music is inclusive of current and traditional worship, both of which are relevant in today’s worship. The arrangements of the music performed, both secular and sacred, reflect the Catawba students’ creativity and leadership.

Chamberlain, an associate professor and director of sacred music and worship arts, said Catawba was honored to receive the invitation that has required herculean preparation efforts by all involved. “This is incredible visibility for Catawba, as well as a great opportunity to strengthen our institutional relationship with the United Church of Christ,” she said.

Catawba students arrived on Catawba’s campus for a three-day, pre-conference retreat on Saturday. They spent time in strategic rehearsals in Hoke Hall on campus before departing for the Coronado Springs Resort at Disney on Monday evening.

“We consider this an incredible opportunity for our students to integrate musicianship and spirituality into their personal and professional lives, while impacting their generation,” Burgess, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities, said.

Chamberlain said the First United Church of Christ in Salisbury was particularly supportive of Catawba Worship as the ensemble prepared for its trip to the conference. The church provided all meals for the group while they were on the Catawba campus in rehearsals. Some members of the Catawba Worship ensemble participated in the worship service at the church on July 24.

Images, videos and commentary by Catawba Worship students about this trip will be posted on the homepage of Catawba’s website during and after the event.

In addition to Thornton, other Catawba students making the trip include Damon Atkins of Dobson, Jonathan Parker of Elkin, Zach Hayes of Rockford, Ill., Collin Denton of Linwood, Alex Thornton of Concord, Jordan Ennis of Concord, Dustin Chapman of Whiteville, Reshaud Brown of Greenwood, S.C., Hannah Addair of Salisbury, Casey Whitt of Dobson, Julia McRae of Aberdeen (graduated 2016), Victoria Layton of Concord, Mia Schuster of West Fargo, N.D., Brie Gardner of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Destiny Stone of Holly Springs, Miss. and Quashona Smith of Atlantic City, N.J. (graduated 2015).

The National Youth Event is a quadrennial event centered on faith, leadership, service and social justice first inaugurated in 1980. It is celebrated as the largest denominational gathering for the United Church of Christ with an expected attendance of more than 4,000 participants. For full details about the event, visit: