Pidcoke church pianist produces joyful strains on little country church's century-old grand piano

Courtesy photo - Pianist Velva Riddle, right, rehearses songs with Joyce Edwards for the Coryell Memorial Health Care System’s 2008 Christmas program. Riddle, who has been playing piano for Pidcoke United Methodist Church for almost 20 years, is also a lay reader and a certified lay speaker.

By Michelle Rodriguez

Killeen Daily Herald

The grand piano, with its dark, aging wood and its faintly tarnished keys, sounds as lovely as it did 100 years ago, and it continues to produce harmonious melodies on Sundays for the Pidcoke United Methodist Church.

Velva Riddle, the church pianist, touches spiritual members of her parish through contemporary, traditional and gospel songs.

She has been a member of the church for almost 20 years and finds peace in the small church's country atmosphere.

Riddle, 66, said the piano was paid for and donated by two giving and charitable families of the church.

"The piano is old and has been around for many years," Riddle said. "A small ceramic heater on the back helps keep the moisture out and preserves it."

Inspirational strains fill the church as Riddle's fingers swiftly move across the keyboard, playing the chords to one of her favorite contemporary pieces, "I've Just Seen Jesus."

Riddle's feet press firmly on the pedals and the inspirational

composition takes a spiritual hold of her.

"I enjoy playing sacred classics, traditional, gospel and contemporary selections," Riddle said. "Being a church musician gives me the opportunity to share in God's ministry."

Traditional songs speak highly to the members of the church because they can relate to it spiritually and incorporate the message of the song to the story, Riddle said.

Riddle started playing the piano at a young age and has

been playing for 58 years. She

dedicates one to two hours rehearsing each evening, offering peace to her life and her days.

"Religion is part of my daily life," she said. "My favorite way to support my ministry is through playing the piano at church."

Riddle's opportunity to play started at St. John's Lutheran Church in Bellville. She was a parish staff member since 1957, and was one of four organists for the worship services.

Riddle also performed as the pianist for Sunday school and youth activities.

"There's a peaceful feeling when I play music, and there's a calm and peace that Christians have from hearing me play,"

Riddle said. "It's nice to be able to share that with others."

Although she has devoted many years as a pianist to Pidcoke United Methodist Church, her service to the congregation extends further than her music.

Riddle currently serves as the church lay leader and certified lay speaker. She also writes and publishes the church's monthly newsletter and handles the directory.

The Rev. Jim Crews, pastor for Pidcoke Methodist Church, said that as a lay leader, Riddle plays a vital role in helping the community.

"As a certified lay speaker, Velva speaks to religious groups and occasionally steps in for the preacher in my absence," Crews said.

Music director Wyllis Ament said Riddle is a faithful member of the Pidcoke United Methodist Church.

"She's very active in the church," Ament said. "I'd say she's a very dedicated Christian and a person of very fine moral character."

Ament said he and Riddle work together regularly and choose the hymnal for the Sunday services.

"She's inspirational in providing us with research on religious music, and contributes a lot that way," Ament said. "We're very lucky to have an accomplished musician like Velva."

Ament added that Riddle shares her time playing the piano every first and third Sunday at the Live Oak Baptist Church following every second and fourth Sunday at the Pidcoke United Methodist Church.

"Our church is very small, and yet we are a large

extended family," Ament said. "We are very fortunate to have her and wish she could be available every Sunday."

Crews said Pidcoke United Methodist Church feels very blessed to have a great music program.

"Velva provides that special touch of musical grace for our worship experiences," Crews said.

Riddle received her Bachelor of Science degree in business and education from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and was also named class president in 1964.

She also earned her master's in education and business administration at Sam Houston State University, and went on to teach general business and related math at Gatesville High School for five years.

Riddle continued on to dedicate 25 years as a GED and pre-college teacher at the Windham School District.

She added that if given the choice to do one or the other (teach or play music) for the rest of her life, she would be torn.

Riddle was born and raised Lutheran, and made the decision to convert upon marrying her college sweeheart and husband of 46 years, Kenneth Riddle.

"It was a mutual decision,"

Riddle said. "The differences in our religions were so small that it wasn't a real sacrifice for me."

Riddle and her husband have three children, Anne Ramminger, Ray Riddle and Anita HerrNeckar.

Pidcoke United Methodist Church is a small country church that has served the Pidcoke community for 125 years and is located on FM 116 between Copperas Cove and Gatesville.

Contact Michelle Rodriguez at or (254) 501-7475.

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