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Randy Vader: Choirs Doing More Than Just Singing

As CEO of PraiseGathering Music Group, Randy Vader has vast experience in the sacred music publishing business as a writer and composer, and with selling church music to congregations around the world. Out of that plethora of experience, Vader has developed a unique view about his role in church choir music and the calling of church musicians.

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Vader says, “Keep your theology in line with your love for music; we’re not just selling notes and staff paper, we’re taking the Gospel into people’s hearts and lives. There’s tremendous responsibility in that, and tremendous rewards.” This epitomizes the heartfelt philosophy that Vader has carried into his calling. He sat down with us to share his musical background, schooling, faith journey, his company, and his philosophies about choirs in worship.

Laying the Foundation for a Future in Music

Vader grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and was involved in instrumental music from an early age. In the fourth grade he played the trumpet; in seventh grade he switched to the trombone and remained with that instrument throughout high school and college. He enjoyed both marching band and concert band at Michigan State University. His conductor at MSU was fond of saying, “We’re only as good as our weakest link, and I’m gonna find you.” Vader’s comedic interior response was always, “No you won’t. I’ll just play half volume.”

After college, Vader carried his appreciation for music into a teaching career. He taught instrumental music at the secondary level, sharing his passion for diverse styles of music in his classroom. He now looks back on this time as an opportunity to further his musical skills and to learn from his students. Loving the youth he worked with challenged him in a special way and allowed him to grow.

Vader’s Faith Journey

In his own words, Vader was a latecomer to his faith journey. It wasn’t until his senior year in college that he dedicated his life to Christ. In doing so he knew he had ground to make up. He immersed himself in that journey, taking seriously the need to learn scripture and be a part of a faith community.

Vader is a part of the Reformed tradition and has great respect for the liturgical portions of the worship service. When creeds, liturgy, prayers, scripture, and music combine to focus on an important faith message, it moves him.

Bill Gaither and PraiseGathering

In 1981, Vader began working with Bill Gaither at his distribution company, Alexandria House. A few years later Vader went to Gaither and asked about being more involved in the creative side of the company. Gaither saw great potential in Vader and asked him to remain with the company. Vader’s willingness to do that caused Gaither to sell PraiseGathering Music to Vader within a few years. This began a deeper relationship with one of America’s greatest faith-based musicians and businessmen.

Vader has remained close to Gaither throughout the years, and this helped put PraiseGathering Music in a unique place within the Christian music publishing world. As an outgrowth of Gaither’s ministry, the publisher has always seen itself as a spiritual beacon for those wanting to do well-crafted music with great spiritual depth. The quality of that goal is always manifested in the extraordinary ministry tools it produces.

One of the hallmarks of PraiseGathering’s ministry has been their tight-knit, spiritually based staff. Over the years, Jay Rouse and Randy Vader have written hundreds of anthems and over 50 musicals together. Vader describes how the duo quite surprisingly expanded in 2011 when employee Rose Aspinall joined the writing team, adding a new and welcome dimension to their creative efforts. Vader shares details about how Aspinall’s role in the company changed, along with many other stories in his Inside Voice video.  

The creative and spiritual relationship that this team has shared is a hallmark of the company’s success. Everything from sharing devotions at reading sessions, sending out encouraging emails, and personally answering customer phone calls has been an important part of their ministry. Over the years, it has been apparent that balancing both the musical and spiritual aspects of their journey was essential to this team.

Choirs in Worship

The role of the choir is so important to Vader that he participates in his own church choir whenever he is able. He enjoys the camaraderie of the group and being a part of helping others worship. But his status as a composer doesn’t keep him from being picked on occasionally when he misses a note!

Choirs are often relegated to background roles in many modern churches. Vader believes that they should have a leadership role spiritually and musically. He also believes that there can be balance between the choir’s support of a soloist and their own leadership role.

One of the essential parts of worship leadership is the singing of hymns and songs during worship. Vader believes that hymns are regaining their rightful place as an expression of the people’s song and faith. “The pendulum is swinging back” he says, referring to the use of hymns within today’s worship services.

Vader’s spiritual grounding and appreciation for music as a tool for ministry is a big part of his successful career. His sense of humor and his dedication to his calling are as well. Our interview with Randy includes his suggestions to aspiring composers, reveals his love of classical music, relates interesting stories about his colleagues and much more. To learn more about PraiseGathering’s offerings, we encourage you to follow this link.

Chris Titko
Chris Titko is the Church Editor for J.W. Pepper. Prior to working at Pepper, Chris spent 35 years serving various churches across the US. He has a degree in sacred music from Westminster Choir College and a degree in choral conducting from Indiana University Bloomington, with further graduate studies at the University of Oklahoma. He also serves as the organist at First Presbyterian Church in Ambler, Pennsylvania.

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