Chaplain Andrews Discusses American Music

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When the Rev. Dwight Andrews preached at Chautauqua Institution last summer, he promised he would play his saxophone more in church and that he would look for different ways to help the church grow.

“I do play my sax more in church,” he said. “Chautauqua was a revelation for me on many levels and I hope that we will cook up something up this week. And I have had conversations with my colleagues on how to make the church grow.”

Andrews, senior minister of First Congregational Church UCC of Atlanta, jazz saxophonist and associate professor of music theory and African-American music at Emory University, will be the chaplain at Chautauqua for Week Nine. 

“This week is a blank page, uncharted terrain,” he said. “We are going to have a conversation about American music. It will be a discovery of who we are as Americans. I have been staying away from the news, but I hope this will be an antidote on how to understand ourselves as Americans.”

He will preach at the morning worship service at 10:45 a.m. August 21 in the Amphitheater, and his sermon title is “The Changing Same.” He will share his faith journey during Vespers at 5 p.m. Sunday in the Hall of Philosophy. He will preach at 9:15 a.m. Monday through Friday at the morning worship service in the Amphitheater. His sermon titles include “The Spiritual AARP,” “When the Church is Church,” “The Spiritual Avant-garde,” “Do You Love Me?” and “People Get Ready!”

In addition, he will speak at the 2 p.m. Interfaith Lecture Monday in the Hall of Philosophy with Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music at Chautauqua.

“It is a scary time in our culture and I haven’t felt this way in a long time,” he said. “I am wrestling with the idea that we have not made as much progress as I thought. When we look at Scripture, we see that the problems people have with other people are not new. We see the potential [for change] and the persistent, pernicious ways [evil] comes again.”

Andrews said his church has made small progress toward a different orientation on what it means to be a church.

“My sermon this week on ‘When Church is Church…’ is part of my ongoing revelation from Chautauqua,” he said. “I have been intentional of bringing new voices into the pulpit. The church has to become less segregated from the pulpit on down. I am not surprised the congregation has taken to hearing all voices. We have more students and Middle Eastern Christians. The church has to look like the beloved community.”

Andrews is also friendly with Wynton Marsalis, but said although they’ve known each other for years, they’ve only met at one-night events.

“I could not have expected to be in the same village with him for more than a couple days,” Andrews said. “I have texted him and look forward to getting together.”

The roles of educator, artist and pastor are well-aligned with Andrews’ advocacy of ministries devoted to the whole person — mind, body and soul. As a musician, Andrews has appeared on more than 25 jazz and new music recordings. He has also been recognized for his collaborations with playwright August Wilson and director Lloyd Richards, having served as musical director for the Broadway productions of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars, and the Broadway revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom featuring Whoopi Goldberg and Charles S. Dutton. He provided the music direction for the Broadway revival production of A Raisin in the Sun, starring Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald and Sanaa Lathan. Andrews was the first Quincy Jones Visiting Professor of African American Music at Harvard University in 1996-1997 and the artistic director of the 1998 National Black Arts Festival.

He was awarded the Yale Divinity School’s prestigious Lux et Veritas Award, and was the Distinguished Visiting Scholar of the Arts for 2015-2016 at Spelman College. He is currently writing a book on the musical and spiritual path of six jazz masters: Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef and Albert Ayler.

A Detroit native, he holds bachelor’s and master’s of music degrees from the University of Michigan, a master of divinity degree from the Yale Divinity School and a doctorate in music theory from Yale University.


The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.