Exemplary Leadership in Church Music

The Award for Exemplary Leadership in Church Music was instituted in 2005 and is given to a graduate of Baylor University who has contributed uniquely and significantly to some aspect of the broad scope of church music ministry. The award can be given for cumulative lifetime achievement or a singular contribution.

This summer we are excited to present the Award for Exemplary Leadership in Church Music to:

Thomas Coker

Thomas is a retired Minister of Music, having served for 50 years - the last twenty-five at South Main Baptist Church in mid-town Houston. Ordained in 1974, he previously served in similar capacities in Weatherford and Tulia, Texas; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Falls Church, Virginia. At each ministry point, Thomas successfully worked to create the ethos in which ministry, musicianship, Christian character, and koinonia developed for all ages by various means, including singing, hand bells, brass ensemble, and various instruments and vocal ensembles.One of these ensembles, SMILE Chorale, initiated by Thomas in his first year at South Main, was/is for internationals involved in the church’s SMILE ministry (South Main International Learning Experience). Thomas also worked to involve his choirs/ensembles in mission/choir tours in churches and mission points in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and China.

Thomas made use of major works as tools to meet the goals of music and ministry in worship. Some of these works included John Rutter’s Mass of the Children, Requiem, Gloria, and Magnificat; Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor; G.F. Handel’s Messiah (part 2 complete and the Christmas portion several times); Brahms’ Requiem, Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah and St. Paul; and Randall Thompson’s Testament of Freedom and Peaceable Kingdom. In 2006, he and the South Main Choir and Drama Troupe were honored to present a dramatized performance of Arthur Honegger’s King David for the Texas Choral Directors Association convention in San Antonio.

At South Main Baptist, outstanding choral clinicians and composers were brought to in to encourage choral singing in the church and in the community. Among these were: Dr. Earlene Rentz Turner, the late Dean Woodward of Oklahoma Baptist University, Dr. Milburn Price formerly of Samford University, Dr. John Dickson of LSU, Dr. Michael Hawn formerly of Perkins School at SMU, Dr. Betsy Cook Weber of the University of Houston, the late Ovid Young, Joseph M. Martin, the late Dr. Robert Young of Baylor University, and Dr. Anton Armstrong of St. Olaf College in Minnesota, among many others. Thomas led the church to provide an environment in which youth and children grow through serving. In addition to singing for worship on a regular basis and preparing a Christmas program, youth choirs also often presented major spring musicals including Beauty and the Beast, Godspell, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Thursday Night – the Musical, an original Broadway-length show written by Daren Butler. In 2008, the youth choirs presented Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass for several churches in Chicago. During Thomas’ two-year term as Church Vice President for TCDA he was instrumental in bringing John Rutter back to TCDA and in eliciting the beautiful anthem With Heart and Hands, written at his request. This anthem (combined with the three anthems Mr. Rutter had written for TCDA 30 years earlier) was used in the 2010 TCDA worship service.

Past Recipients

Year of Award Name Baylor Alumni, Class of
2005 Wesley L. Forbis 1956
2006 Milburn Price 1963
2007 Buryl Red 1957
2008 Billy Ray Hearn 1954
2009 Hal H. Hopson 1954
2010 Mark Hayes 1975
2011 Joan Sutton 1951
2012 Sam Prestidge 1950
2013 O. D. Hall, Jr 1957
2014 Lloyd Hawthorne 1966
2015 Arnold Sherman 1966
2016 Nick Strimple 1969
2017 Robert Sterling 1977
2018 Benjamin Harlan 1976

Alleluia Conference
One Bear Place
Waco, TX 76798-7408

(254) 710-2360