As the pews filled up at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach this past weekend, over 1,200 worshipers were in for a delightful surprise.
They were about to enjoy a Sunday concert and Sunday worship service featuring students from KidWorks’ Avanti program, who joined with Brandon Muchow, St. Andrew’s Minister of Modern Worship & Production, and several other professional studio musicians.
It all came together thanks to the efforts of KidWorks’ volunteer Joe Cristina, who began a KidWorks music program in 2012 called Avanti Music. In Joe, the students learn from a professional musician with 37 years of experience in composition, arranging, orchestration and production.
“The ‘KidWorks/Avanti Music Concert’ was a bilingual presentation, and therefore was a true bridge-builder since residents from Newport Beach and Santa Ana worshipped together,” Joe says.
There are 18 KidWorks students currently participating in the Avanti program. Those who performed at the St. Andrews concert included Lilian Ramirez (vocals) Liliana Ledezma (vocals and flute), Melisa Luis (piano), Julie Cons (violin) and Luis Lopez (guitar).
The second event was held in the church chapel, and was equally well received. Lilian Ramirez joined Brandon Muchow and Hector Rivera on vocals. Emily Barrios, 12-years-old, recently joined Avanti, and she joined in on percussion and vocals.
David Benavides, Executive Director, KidWorks & Councilmember, City of Santa Ana, also spoke to the congregation, sharing KidWorks’ story.
Dan Wendell, Minister of Missions & Outreach at St. Andrews says he is delighted with the result: “Having the students up front, leading through worship was a beautiful example of extending the family and valuing them as part of our community. I was particularly encouraged to learn that as a result of Avanti’s work, Lilian Ramirez, one of the vocalists, will be leaving for San Francisco State University to study music in just a few weeks. The ministry is changing lives."
Lilian and our Avanti students are equally grateful to Joe and the staff at St. Andrews for providing them with such a special opportunity to perform.
"I couldn't get this experience anywhere else than KidWorks and Avanti,” she says.
Knowing Joe’s commitment to Avanti and our students, we can’t help but say, “Encore!” to him and “Bravo!” to St. Andrews for providing such an extraordinary opportunity.
By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer