Island View Baptist Church is thrilled to welcome a new leader in worship this Sunday: our Pianist, Janelle Ganey. Janelle is a native of Jacksonville, a graduate of the Florida State University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a former missionary and professor of sacred music in Brasil and (once upon a time) was the first professional pianist at Island View Baptist Church. Members who were here then remember her fondly and the rest of us are excited to get to know her. Below is a bit of an interview with Janelle published in this week’s Announcer. Welcome Janelle!
An Interview With Janelle
Where did you grow up?
I was born at St. Vincent’s Hospital and grew up in Jacksonville. I attended Venetia Elementary, Lake Shore Junior High, and Robert E. Lee High schools. I now live just a few blocks from where I grew up.
When did you first develop an interest in piano and church music?
We had an excellent graded choirs program in my home church, Avondale Baptist, where I started with the pre-school choir and went all the way through the various choirs as I grew up. I started taking piano when I was in 3rd grade from the same teacher my cousins were taking from. I stayed with her, Joy Warren, until I went to college.
My principal mentor in church music was Lloyd Landrum who encouraged me as an accompanist and fostered my interest in hymnology. I even consulted him many years later when I was deciding to work on my doctorate. He was a super model for what a church musician should be.
Tell us about your mission experience in Brazil.
In Brazil I lived in Rio de Janeiro and taught at the Baptist Theological Seminary of South Brazil. I taught a lot of different things over the years, but mostly graded choirs, piano, piano pedagogy and literature, hymnology, and worship. I began the Master’s degree program there.
One of the things I loved about my work in Brazil was the variety of opportunities I had. I did a lot of workshops, preached, taught Sunday School, did worship planning (one of my favorite things), led choirs, worked on the new hymnal for Brazilian Baptists, and had many opportunities to be creative.
I mostly just loved the people; they grab your heart and won’t let it go! I also did a lot of work in the mission with strategic planning and reorganization until changes at the IMB took a lot of that away from us. I love languages and especially Portuguese.
Something unique or surprising about you?
I love to cook and to entertain, although in recent years I haven’t done as much of that as I would like. That was one of my favorite things to do in Brazil. I frequently had students over and often entertained missionaries and others when they were in Rio for meetings and events.
Something that might be surprising is that I was very active in sports during junior high school and played on varsity teams in just about everything except softball (major piano events happened during that season in our schedule, so I spent more time practicing and didn’t risk a finger injury).
What is your favorite college football team?
I am a graduate of Florida State University and an avid FSU fan. In the football that the rest of the world plays, i.e., soccer, I always root for Brazil during the World Cup and Olympics. Most of what I know about that sport I learned in Portuguese.
Tell us about your connections to Island View Baptist Church.
I was hired to teach at Lakeside Middle School right after I finished college. However, the school was being built at the time, so I had a few months before classes began. In the meantime, I learned that Island View was looking for a summer Youth Director, so I applied and worked there during the summer of 1973.
I remained at the church after moving to Orange Park that summer. I became church pianist. In those days organists were paid, but pianists were not paid in most churches. Sometime later the finance committee chair asked me if I would accept taking the job as a paid accompanist. I accepted and that made me Island View’s first paid pianist.
In the six years I was at IVBC I served in a number of ways—Young Musicians Choir director, puppet team director, 5th grade Sunday School teacher, accompanist for Youth and Adult choirs and various ensembles, and director of the recorder ensemble.
After I stopped teaching at Lakeside, I taught piano full time. Probably the majority of my students were children from IVBC. I was one of the two or three piano teachers in the area at the time, so there was a lot of demand for my services. I left Orange Park and Island View in 1979 to go to Southern Seminary in Louisville. I kept up contact with Island View for many years and would visit whenever I was in town during school breaks and, later, on furlough from the mission field. Since moving back to the States, I haven’t kept up as well, and a lot of people have moved or passed away.
Favorite piece of music or composer to play?
I love Brahms and Debussy, although I haven’t played much of their music lately. Among arrangers of hymns, I especially like Tedd Smith, Mark Hayes, and Don Phillips.
-interview by Andrea Collison