By Andralena Miller

Killeen Daily Herald

Gospel music – a music genre that is written to tell a story, whether it's struggle and triumph or trials and praise. It is music written to express a personal or a communal belief regarding Christian life.

This is the music that fills the sanctuary of Westside Baptist Church in Killeen as the Ole School Gospel Choir rehearsed Saturday afternoon, as it has done every Saturday for the past nine weeks.

In the back of the church, the Ole School Youth Choir, composed of kids from various churches in the community, sing the traditional gospel songs that the generations before them grew up listening to.

They are all rehearsing for the third annual Ole School Gospel Musical, which is set for 6 p.m. June 28 at First Baptist Church in downtown Killeen.

The event will benefit the Word of Life Substance Abuse Center, a nonprofit organization in Killeen.

The Ole School Gospel Choir is composed of adults in the community interested in supporting the cause through song. Each year, enrollment has been open to all, no matter what church they attended or their music background.

The purpose of the Ole School Gospel Musical is to share traditional gospel music to the community and make them aware of the foundation of gospel music, said Doris Ellis, the event coordinator of the Word of Life Substance Abuse Center and the head director of the Ole School Gospel Choir.

Traditional gospel music is what brought the earlier generations through the hard times, she added.

Ellis also said the program is to not only make the community aware of the roots of gospel music but also aware of how to support the substance abuse treatment center.

Three years ago, Doris Ellis envisioned a way to bring traditional gospel out into the community. She thought about different ways that she could do this, including starting a choir and showcasing a gospel music event.

Then Bishop Darryl Shaw, the founder of The Word of Life Substance Abuse Center and pastor of Rivers of Living Water, approached her about starting an old school gospel program that would raise funds for the substance abuse center. This approach was confirmation for her.

The Word of Life Substance Abuse Center is a 501-C3 nonprofit organization, which is the only substance abuse center in Killeen registered with health and human services, that specializes in outpatient care, which was started in 2003. Residential care started in 2004.

In its 26-bed residential facility, the center services residents 18 years old and above who have problems with substance abuse and works with them until they get educated and reintegrated into the community.

This is done through teaching personal development classes, substance abuse classes and anger management classes. The money from the concert goes to support clients without money or families.

This year, the musical will include a youth choir, and they will open up the program.

"The reason the children were added this year was to teach them the basics of music," Ellis said.

She added that she found out that a lot of young musicians do not know old songs, including hymns. Because of this sparked the idea for Ellis to include the youth.

"The purpose of Ole School Gospel Program is to inspire the youth with the traditional music," Bishop Shaw said.

Ellis agreed, "They say young people are our future, but they don't know anything about the past."

Having the youth choir helps them learn their history, their culture, their music, she added.

Brockley Moore, one of the choir members who assists with rendering sponsorship for the program, agreed.

"We hope that the Ole School Gospel Musical (brings) awareness to the community of all ethnic backgrounds."

He added that he appreciates the musical because it is for "a very worthwhile cause."

Rita Harmon, one of the lead singers in the choir, agreed.

"I am very happy to be a part of the Ole School Gospel Choir again. I love singing and I love being a help to it."

Both Moore and Harmon have great expectations for this year's program.

"I expect a better time than last year and I am looking forward (to the musical)," Harmon said. She added that she enjoys the fellowship with other churches as they love one another and help the people in their community.

Moore said, "I hope that the community embraces (the music) like they did last year, and I hope that it grows as an annual affair and support."

To date, the adult and the youth choirs have around 30 members each. The adult choir is expected to grow to more than 100 members by the date of the musical, as it did in previous years.

Adults and children from any church are invited to the rehearsals at the church from noon to 2 p.m. every Saturday until the date of the musical.

Tickets are $5 for students and $15 for adults.

Lillian Billie, retired teacher of Killeen Independent School District, will be the mistress of ceremony.

Other groups performing in the Ole School Gospel Musical include The Divine Messengers of Killeen and The Gospel of Holy Tones of Temple. The Ole School Gospel Choir will close the program.

Organizations and businesses are invited to serve as a sponsor or patron the event for $25. Donations to the center are accepted year-round.

The next performance benefiting the Word of Life Substance Abuse Center will be in September in celebration of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.

For more information about rehearsals and the upcoming events, call 371-3086. For more information about the substance abuse center, contact Bishop Shaw at 254-554-8451.

Contact Andralena Miller at or (254) 501-7567.

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