Up until my senior year of high school, my family attended Villa Heights Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia. Up until my junior year of high school, Villa Heights had a fantastic music minister in Anne Eakin.
Anne was our worship leader every Sunday morning and evening. Anne was our choir director. And she didn’t just direct the adult choir. She directed several different children’s choirs. There were several different children’s choirs because we were all separated by age.
Let’s talk about those choirs. There was the “Cherub” choir, consisting of any kid who could make sounds with their mouths prior to the age of five or six (I think). These children were, of course, adorable in their tiny red robes with ginormous white bows. When you weren’t as cute anymore, you graduated to the “Canto/Carol” choir. Once upon a time, these were two separate choirs. By the time I had aged into it, there weren’t enough kids to keep both of those choirs going, so they were combined into one super choir with older kids and less adorable robes. This was the choir the kids were in until they hit high school when they became the “Chapel” choir. This was the choir that often experienced the embarrassment of voice changes at the drop of a hat.
Anne directed all of those choirs and did so with the patience of… uh… someone who was really patient. And anyone who has ever worked with even one age group of children knows how much patience one needs. Anne worked with all of us at all ages and even put up with the adults. It blows my mind. And, I have no doubt, she did so much more than tell us what hymn number to open up to for the invitation at the end of the service. That’s just the stuff I saw as a kid.
Today I received a text message from my sister letting me know that Anne passed away early this morning. Anne and her family were all an important part of our lives as I grew up. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have grown up loving music if it hadn’t been for Anne. With the Dad I had, music would have been important no matter what. But that thing where I fell in love with singing in a choir? That’s all Anne.
I haven’t seen much of Anne in recent years. A lot of us left Villa Heights around the same time in the late 90’s and, therefore, went our separate ways. But I’m so proud to have known her. When I look back on my life, Anne will always be one of those people who I know helped to shape the person I’ve become.