When I see a godly lady who lives with intention on a daily basis, I take note. Women like that are the ones who inspire me to become all I can be.
Melody Wedergren is one of them.
I first met Melody at the age of seven; she later became my music instructor and a close friend. She is an accomplished pianist, organist, and worship leader. Melody has fine-tuned these skills (literally) in order to bless the kingdom of God and to help mentor others. She is the owner and founder of Tune Bucket, and online gospel music education company which empowers and trains church musicians. She also just released Devotion, an acoustic piano worship recording, which is available on iTunes. I hope you enjoy her thoughts on music ministry and worship as much as I have!
She’s Intentional:Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, Melody! Would you mind sharing a little about yourself with our readers? What are some of your interests and hobbies apart from music? We know that you are also a graphic designer. We’d love to hear more about that!
Melody Wedergren: It is my pleasure, thank you for considering me!
I was born and raised in Texas, but have lived in Mississippi since I was eighteen. I am currently Minister of Music for First Church in Natchez, MS, where I have been for almost twelve years. I started Market Street Graphics in 2008. I enjoy it because doing artwork brings out a totally different side of creativity. I have so much fun creating things! I’m a read-a-holic; I love to devour books in my spare time. I’m totally into non-fiction: biographies or anything inspirational/encouraging. I’m a DIY-er at heart. I like to imagine my own projects and then complete them. This includes cooking experiments! I also have a Yorkie-Poo named Crosse. He thinks he’s human, but that’s okay with me.
SI:How did you embark on your musical journey? Did you start at a young age? Where has this journey taken you?
MW:I started taking lessons at the age of seven from my pastor’s daughter. I can tell you that there were many times when I told my mom I wanted to quit because I didn’t like it and I would never play the piano, but she wouldn’t let me! The reality is that as a child, I didn’t like the discipline of having to work at something daily, but what child does? At the age of fifteen, my mom started driving me down to Texas Bible College weekly to take piano lessons from Bro. Terry Wilbanks. I remember sitting in my first lesson, being in awe of his playing style. He taught me a version “Oh How I Love Jesus” like you’ve never heard it before in your life. I was so excited, that I went home and started practicing until I had learned the song in EVERY key on the piano. Yes, including B and E.
After graduating from high school, I started attending Jackson College of Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi. I was privileged to play organ on the “Blessed Yes” recording as a freshman. In the years that followed I was a part of three more live recordings: JCM’s “Hallelujah”, “Higher” and Woodlawn Sanctuary Choir’s “Are You Ready?” One funny story: my first year attending JCM I played on the live recording, “Blessed Yes,” I had practiced a fancy run that I was going to play during the interlude of “Battlefield.” I remember that our song was after intermission and I was sitting on the organ bench behind the closed curtains, playing the run over and over while the organ was off. When it came time for the recording I was so ready to play the run that I played it twice! The engineer was able to cover it up though.
SI: What or who inspired you musically growing up? Did you have any specific mentors who influenced you?
MW:I grew up in a semi-musical family. I was probably one when I received my first toy piano as a gift and my brother later got a drum set. Sometimes we’d switch up, doing our own interpretations of making a “joyful noise”! We had a recording studio in our house. I can remember musicians and singers coming over to make albums. I was in awe! Since I wanted to be a producer, like my dad, I would carry a shoe box tape player around the house and record. I would even record us eating our meals!
A few years later, I first heard a Jackson Mass Choir recording, and I knew at that moment that I wanted to go to JCM. I was probably in Junior High at the time. The thing that drew me to JCM was that their song selections, musicians, and live recordings were excellent in quality. You could also have church to one of their recordings! I will never forget the first National Music Ministry Conference I attended at JCM. I cried through the entire live recording. The music was incredible, but the presence of God was so strong.
Earlier I mentioned my piano teacher, Terry Wilbanks. Taking lessons from him really opened up a whole new style of playing. If I had to narrow it down, he would have, hands-down, had the greatest impact on my playing style.
SI:When and how did you begin to see the need for a online gospel music education company? What inspired you to start your own business: Tune Bucket? How did you come up with the name?
MW:I have lost count of the people who have expressed their desire for gospel music lessons and made the comment “If only you lived closer!” As a teenager, I remember driving two hours one way just to take weekly lessons from a qualified instructor. Many cities don’t have a local instructor who teaches good gospel style piano. Online lessons would have been a great benefit to me when I was first starting out. Have you ever heard of the cliché “you can’t carry a tune in a bucket”? The name of my company, Tune Bucket, LLC, is a play on those words.
SI:We know you offer various lessons through Tune Bucket. Will you tell us a little about what you have available?
MW:We currently have piano and bass lessons for adults and piano lessons for children available. The motto that we stick by in each of our lessons is teaching in “bite-size chunks.” When you learn gradually, there’s a higher probability of retention. We devote a lot of time to creating music lessons that are simple and easy to understand. We endeavor to maintain a balance between teaching students who are visual learners and those who are hands-on learners. Our greatest interest is that people are actually learning. We focus on getting lessons to homeschool students and private schools who may not have a qualified music instructor. In creating each series we try to answer every question that could possibly come up in a lesson. Because all of our lessons include curriculum, worksheets and recital materials it is very simple to implement music lessons into school curriculum. The background tracks included in each lesson provide the perfect accompaniment. The best part is that students have lesson access from anywhere: phone, tablet or home computer!
SI:You are very passionate about worship. What fuels your passion for music ministry? Do you have any words of wisdom for others with a desire to minister through music?
MW:I tell our music team, that before any of us are musicians or singers, we are worshippers. It is vital to remember that our talents are not what bring the glory down. When we invite His presence through our worship, it makes all the difference! There’s an old song that says “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all.” It’s important to remember that music ministry isn’t our lime light. With our calling comes a much greater sacrifice. Being completely sold out and dedicated to God is the secret to having an impact. We have the sacred role of leading God’s people into His presence. While talent and a spirit of excellence is important, we must also not forget that our hearts must be right.
SI:In closing, would you share a favorite scripture that inspires you in your walk with God?
MW: My favorite scripture is one that reminds me that any talent I receive from God should not be used for my own glory, but for His. “ For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:26