First Presbyterian welcomes new organist, launches Advent musical programs

Holly Viers • Dec 1, 2019 at 11:30 AM

KINGSPORT — New things are happening at First Presbyterian Church.

In September, the church welcomed its new organist, Alice Sanders, who comes to the area from Oklahoma. Now that she’s settled in, she’ll be offering a series of new Advent musical programs at the church as a gift to the community.

Cue the music

To celebrate the Christmas season, Sanders will offer three free musical programs this month, the first of several new initiatives she hopes to implement at the church.

“I’ve done these in other churches that I’ve served,” Sanders said. “Since the season before Christmas is so hectic, I think it’s good to provide some spaces for people to just sit and listen to music that’s not on the radio in their car when they’re running around going to the mall. So that’s how I envision these programs.”

The 30-minute programs will be held at noon on Dec. 4, 11 and 18 in the sanctuary of the church, located at 100 W. Church Circle. In each program, Sanders will perform a different selection of Advent and Christmas tunes, along with poetry or scripture readings.

“Since it’s a lunch break, lunchtime thing, it’s a chance to feed the soul, like you would feed the body,” said Mark Davis, director of music ministry at the church. “It’s a time for rest and nourishment for the soul, through the beauty of the season.”

Meet Alice Sanders

Though she was born in Fort Worth, Texas, Sanders has lived across the country and the world, cultivating an extensive musical resume along the way.

She received a bachelor’s of music degree in piano, with a minor in organ, in 1983 from Baylor University, where she met her husband, Glenn. They lived in Providence, Rhode Island, and London before settling in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where Sanders began working as organist and music director at United Presbyterian Church. Around that time, she completed her master of music degree in piano at the University of Oklahoma.

After serving at United Presbyterian Church for 26 years, Sanders moved to this area when her husband accepted an appointment at King University as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In addition to her church work, Sanders plans to teach piano to students of all ages in Bristol and Kingsport, something she’s done since college.

What’s next?

Sanders hopes to include more current styles of music in the church’s services, along with its traditional selections. She also plans to implement a music program for preschool children.

“I really am loving the area,” Sanders said. “We moved from Oklahoma, so the terrain is very different, but it’s a nice change. People have been very welcoming and friendly at every juncture. My father’s family is originally from South Carolina, so I kind of feel like it’s a little bit of coming home.”