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One of this country’s experts on jazz ministry. – Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN

Church Programs

Best-loved hymns and spirituals reinterpreted by a Sacred jazz pioneer

Bradley Sowash is one of the foremost advocates for incorporating jazz music in the worship life of the church. An accomplished composer, educator, recording artist, and concert jazz pianist, Bradley Sowash has delighted listeners of all ages in concert halls and churches throughout the United States and Europe for over two decades. Publications by Sowash include several volumes of jazz hymn arrangements published by Augsburg Fortress Press and piano music published by the Neil A. Kjos Music Company.

“I embrace the search, not certainty. By speaking directly to our emotions, music welcomes all regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey and I feel blessed when my music can serve as a catalyst for renewal and growth.” – Bradley Sowash

You were terrific and I enjoyed accompanying you. – The Right Reverend John Shelby Spong (author/theologian)

Your musicality shines throughout. – Rev. William Sloane Coffin, (Vietnam era author/theologian)

Your music is wonderful. If I could play piano how you play is what I would like to do. – John McQuiston (author of Always We Begin Again)


Church Concerts

Variety for your series

Whether working solo or with a trio or quintet, every Sowash concert is an exciting, yet intimate event featuring hymns, spirituals, and well-known tunes distinctively reinterpreted in a style that has been described as “very accessible to the non-jazz aficionado.” Sowash is known nationally for his formidable technique instant audience rapport. Listeners are drawn in by his inspirational tales, faith stories and life experiences woven between critically acclaimed music that has been heard on National Public Radio and PBS-TV.

 
 

I wanted you to know my feet still aren’t on the ground! WOW! It was wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with our church. The bass and percussion were awesome! I believe your speaking to the audience really is a touch that makes the difference between listening to music and having understanding, and insight to the story behind the music. You help the audience become connected! – Patti, Westlake, OH

Just must tell you once again how wonderful your groups performance was at Lakeside this summer……amazing music compositions and presentations…..Continued success with your creativity. As an avid audience member with near zero musical ability, I can tell you that it was very impressive to listen to what you had done with old classic songs that I could recall from the Lutheran Hymnal! I suspect most people felt that way but far beyond the relationship to the old songs was just the welcoming and accessible presentations that had people really enjoying your music. – Gordon B. (fan)

Jazz Worship

A long remembered spirit filled service

Every jazz worship service is uniquely tailored to a particular church’s traditions including hymn singing (with jazz accompaniment), readings, prayer and communion if desired. Often, in lieu of a sermon, Sowash performs hymns and spirituals on solo piano (or with his jazz trio or quintet) interspersed with inspirational commentary using inclusive language. Other possibilities include jazz vespers, collaborations with choirs, readings interspersed with jazz-assisted meditation periods… The possibilities are endless but the goal is always to create a worship experience with a music emphasis that is welcoming, participatory and accessible to all.

Thank you for putting so much effort into developing a service in our format that can soar on the wings of a different genre of music, floated by three excellent musicians.  So many people shared their delight with me afterwards and surely you must have felt the positive response, too.  We are already looking forward to next year. – Ruth, 1st Presbyterian, Delaware, OH

It’s hard to imagine why any congregation wouldn’t want to make room for Sowash’s music… It swings without being irreverent, it’s reverent without being cloying, and it’s moving without being mushy. – Steve Penhollow, Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN

 

Denominational Gatherings and Conferences

A. Guest Speaker

A warm and articulate speaker, Sowash’s motivational topics include Discovering Your Personal Ministry, How To Organize A Jazz Worship Service, The Role of the Arts in Worship, America’s Musical Melting Pot and Wherever Two Are Gathered focusing on alternative worship strategies.

b. Workshops

Sowash’s hands-on workshops on the liturgical arts, alternative worship strategies and church musician development make engaging additions to programming for retreats and gatherings. Participants sing, move, clap, play music, create visual art and share their ideas

c. Worship Leader

Working in collaboration with worship planners, Sowash delights in designing and leading innovative worship services. Attendees leave with new ideas about enhancing their home worship services including using music beyond the hymnal and new thinking about the possibilities of visual art.

d. After hours concert

A concert of jazz hymns and spirituals provides a perfect ending for conference participants after a busy day of networking.

Ingenious jazz played by an original master. – Canon Peter Strimer, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle

Tell them I said you are the real deal. – The Rev. Cam Miller, Trinity Episcopal, Buffalo, NY

You are a fabulous gift and I hope those gifts will be picked up by others often. – Richard A. Wing, Senior Minister, First Community Church (UCC) in Columbus, OH

I want to thank you for everything you did and all that you brought to us last Sunday at St. Mark’s — the whole community has been absolutely floating since then... – The Rev. Katherine Lewis, The Episcopal Cathedral of St. Mark’s, Minneapolis, MN

Why Jazz Belongs in Worship

by Bradley Sowash (reprinted from Presbyterians today, sept. 2003)

– Jazz is multi-cultural and inclusive – Jazz was born in America when the harmonic and melodically based music of European colonists blended with African rhythms preserved by slaves. Jazz continues to be enjoyed by people of diverse backgrounds.
– Jazz is indigenous but universal – Jazz is indigenous to America, unlike the European musical imports featured in much of U.S. Christian worship. It is also enjoyed worldwide. Similarly, when we gather together to worship locally, we simultaneously participate in a worldwide Christian body.
– Jazz involves cooperation – Each musician both supports his/her colleagues and work as a soloist. Listeners inspire the music through their reactions. Church life exemplifies similar cooperation.
– Jazz makes for excellent outreach – Many churches have discovered that a jazz worship service appeals to people whose past experiences have led them to consider organized religion uninviting, dogmatic, irrelevant or even repressive.
 Jazz is spontaneous – The essence of jazz is improvisation, spontaneous variations on a given theme. Creativity relies on a connection to the Spirit. Jazz imitates God’s creation – ever evolving.
– Jazz has a range – Sometimes meditative, sometimes celebratory, jazz touches us by speaking directly to a spectrum of emotions. Louis Armstrong said, “What we play is life.” The church year also reflects this range of experience – from the wonder of Christmas to the reflective Lent season, and from baptisms to weddings to funerals.
– Jazz offers a tradition-based alternative – Most churches are interested in balancing heritage and contemporary relevance. Jazz renditions of the remarkable American hymnody we inherited link the past to the present.
 Jazz crosses generations – Unlike some types of music featured in contemporary worship services, jazz appeals to people of all ages.

 

“Why should the devil have all the good music?” – Martin Luther

“When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.” – Julia Cameron, Author of The Artist’s Way

“The church will die of boredom long before it dies from controversy.” – Bishop John Shelby Spong

“Creativity is . . . seeing something that doesn’t exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God.” – Michele Shea

“The most important function of art and science is to awaken the cosmic religious feeling and keep it alive.” – Albert Einstein

“Artist’s have a way of loosening up a congregation to create room for the spirit to operate.” – Rev. James R. Adams

“What we play is life.” – Louis Armstrong

“Great improvisors are like priests. They are thinking only of their god.” – jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli


More from fans...

When a jazz pianist as good as Bradley Sowash puts his imaginative touch to these songs, it is a genuine sharing experience. – Jazz Review

What a wonderful weekend , the raves keep coming!!!! – Richard (Music Director, Covenant Presbyterian, Roanoke, VA)

I have received so much positive feedback from so many different types of people in the congregation that our worship team is now considering getting funding to make that sort of worship style more the norm than the exception. – Larry, Lakewood Congregational, OH

Thank you for making the trip to Iowa. All of us at Lakeside so enjoyed working with you. The congregation was moved by the service. Your artistry brought new meaning to our worship experience. I personally can’t wait for more piano books! – Barb, Director of Music, Storm Lake, IA

Thank you so much for playing at our church. I have gotten nothing but positive comments from everyone. – Darrin, Music Dir., David’s UCC, Dayton, OH

We enjoyed having you here. It was surprising to us to have an artist who was so personable. – Rev. Marcia Cham, Union Congregational, East Bridgewater, MA

Your faith is so evident in your music. It pours out and reaches my spirit like no other music has for a long time. – Nancy, Minister of Music, Pilgrim Church, Bozeman, MT

Your presence and leadership were profoundly appreciated and will be long remembered. – Rev. John M. Schaeffer, UCC Conference Minister, Billings, MT

Your performance was wonderful and I am still smiling. – First Congregational UCC, Mount Vernon, OH

Your presence in our community for just one day was a gift and we thank you for inspiring us with your stories, and moving us with your music. As I am sure you could tell, the spontaneous standing ovation from the audience indicated their sentiments of joy. – Ann, Trinity UCC, Wadsworth, OH

It was so obvious that you were truly enjoying the moment and that joy and love just seemed to spread across the audience. – We were all entwined with it – and I thought over and over, Yes! This is how it’s supposed to be. – Sally, Sylvania UCC, Toledo

You touch many people through your music, saying for us to God what may not be possible to articulate. – Laura (listener)

Thanks again for a wonderful evening. Your concert brought a buzz that has not yet subsided. – Andy, (Music Director), Cleveland, OH

Thank you for sharing what gifts God gave you. Some have the ear and do not hear. Some have the sight and memory and never put forth the work needed to make it special. We at Christ Lutheran are far richer– Sheila, Athens, OH

We were really enlivened by your music and your presentation. We liked you! – Pastor Cathy Stentzel (UCC), North Olmstead, OH

Your keyboard skills and sensitivity were a wonderful expression of thanksgiving and praise to God! The way you spoke about your music made us feel we knew you as one of us. – Rev. John Ferris, Kilbourne United Methodist