Teacher, Peace Lutheran Organist Retires after Long Musical Career

By Karen Smith Hupp

Besides teaching scores of students in proper musical techniques, David Myrick of Mechanicsville has also been the principal church organist at Peace Lutheran Church in Waldorf since 1988. Not counting weddings or other special occasions, Myrick has provided the music for more than 1,800 Sunday morning services.
WALDORF, Md. (Dec. 25, 2008)—Were David Myrick's musical career a chorale by his favorite composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, then Myrick would likely be in his eighth movement as the Mechanicsville resident prepares for the coda in his career, both within education and the faith community.

A music teacher previously in Charles County public schools and currently with Prince George's County public schools, Myrick is retiring from public education in December and leaving for Denton, Texas. Besides teaching scores of students in proper musical techniques, Myrick since 1988 has also been the principal church organist at Peace Lutheran Church in Waldorf, providing Sunday morning preludes, postludes and all the music in between. Not counting weddings or other special occasions, Myrick has provided the music for more than 1,800 Sunday morning services.

"I started at Peace because Pastor Robert Moore asked me what I was doing on Sunday mornings. That was 20 years ago and I've been playing ever since," Myrick recalled during a farewell reception held Nov. 16 by Peace's members. "I relish these years and there are many things I'll never forget," he added. One highlight that stands out for him is the inaugural services of Peace's new building on Dec. 12, 1999 with Bishop Ted Schneider as the guest of honor.

"Finding a good organist is tough. Finding one who perseveres for over two decades is rare," said Gretta Williams, coordinator of Peace's worship and music team. "Peace Lutheran is extremely fortunate to have had such a dedicated musician as David Myrick for all these years. David is a talented musician whose skills have functioned as a unifying element in the music at our church."

"You only have to hear David play organ or violin for a few seconds and you know he has great skills. In addition he is committed to quality. He performs great preludes and postludes, even knowing that not everyone stops to listen," said Peace's pastor, Craig Endicott.

Myrick began his musical journey as a piano student in the third grade, progressing to the violin in the fourth grade. In later years he studied music at Cascade College in Portland, Ore. where he received his bachelor's degree, followed by a master's from University of Portland. He continued post-graduate studies at the University of Oregon and, after arriving in Southern Maryland, at Peabody Conservatory, Virginia Commonwealth University and Towson.

His teaching career included both general music and chorus at Glasva, Wayside and J.P. Ryon elementary schools and at Milton Somers and John Hanson middle schools before his teaching took him to Prince George's County.

"I retired from teaching in Charles County only to be rehired in Prince George's. When I left J.P. Ryon, I found I was teaching the kids of my kids. Now after 40 years of teaching it feels like I've taught 50,000 students and if I stay any longer, I'd be teaching the grandkids of the kids I once taught," said Myrick. He will celebrate his son's winter graduation from Towson State University before leaving the area in January, which will mark more than six years since he played as a major influencer in Peace's purchase of an Allen Renaissance organ.

For Peace Vice President Dean Pedersen, Myrick's impact was most evident in providing valuable information to help the congregation decide to purchase the organ in 2002. "His technical knowledge of organs and ability to define the differences between our old organ and the candidates for a replacement organ were instrumental in helping the members of Peace understand how much better quality music we could enjoy for a reasonable value by investing in a new electronic organ. Dave demonstrated the capabilities of our new organ to all members in a special organ concert," Pedersen recalled.

"When we first received the new organ, I was upstairs with the choir and there he was, hands and feet flying all over the key boards, making amazing music. I'm afraid at times we have taken for granted the inspirational classics that Dave has provided the worshippers at Peace," said Karen Gesl, a 30-year member of Peace. More than his musical talents, Gesl appreciates his ability to inspire and motivate others, especially his students, through music. "He has been a wonderful mentor to Michael Divino who is now in high school as Michael went from a squeaky violinist to be able to harmonize with Dave's nimble fingers," she said.

Myrick's forte is in organ and violin, and Sunday morning church-goers have been the beneficiaries of his talents in solos as well as duets played in concert with his students who have joined him in presenting special music during the service.

"David has provided beautiful preludes and postludes by composers such as Flor Peeters, Felix Mendelssohn and Bach. He has enhanced our worship service with his insightful knowledge of the music of the church. An accomplished violinist and violin teacher, David has favored us with violin solos and ensemble works throughout his time here," Williams said.

In fact, Divino and Myrick are a frequent duo that offers emotional inspiration through their pairing. "There was a time when he and Michael played a violin duet that there were tears in my eyes when they were done, and the only other time I've cried in recent history was at my daughter's wedding," said Peace Treasurer Krysti McGee.

Bach, who provided the inspiration for much of Lutheran liturgical music, is a frequent and favorite composer that Myrick often presents on Sundays. "You learn a lot playing his music," he said. Members, newcomers and guests are treated regularly to the classics, from Bach's "Prelude in C minor" or his "Fantasia in A minor" to Mendelssohn's "Sonata II in C minor" or "Sonata I in F minor."

"His researching of improvisations on hymn tunes adds depth to the words, like when the words are about sin and chaos he plays a discordant harmonization for that verse that allows us to feel the text. He practices to master technically difficult music that transcends and inspires. Experienced pastors know that if people come to worship and the sermon is good but the music is awful, that's a bad Sunday; however, if they come to worship and the sermon is awful but the music is wonderful, that is a good Sunday. Thanks to David, there are a lot of great Sundays at Peace," Endicott said.

In honor of Myrick's long career in teaching as well as his years of service at Peace, Peace Quilters presented him at his farewell reception with a commemorative quilt that they had designed and handcrafted.

"In appreciation for the 20 years David has brought joy to our lives through music, we present this quilt," said Quilter Ginny Wolford, who also has worked with Myrick as a worship and music coordinator. She explained the quilt is designed to reflect his musical interests with an appliquéd keyboard on one side, while the other side sports red, yellow, white and black in a rail fence pattern to reflect his interest in NASCAR racing and his Maryland memories.

"As David's time as principal organist draws to a close, our congregation will savor each note, listen more intently and worship more intensely," Williams said. Myrick will continue at Peace through December, providing music at the 8:30 and 11 a.m. services on Dec. 7, 14, 21 and 28, as well as at the 7 and 11 p.m. services on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

Peace Lutheran Church is located at 401 East Smallwood Drive in St. Charles. For information, call 301-843-1832 or e-mail plcwaldorf (at) aol.com or visit www.myplc.org.

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