VERGE: Spirit of Song

Behind the scenes of a worship band’s rehearsal

Ayah Ali-Ahmad

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Every Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., members of the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church’s Praise Team meet for rehearsal. The Praise Team consists of middle school to high schoolers, who practice and lead worship during the two English youth services. Each weekend, a Praise Team Leader is switched out with another to lead rehearsals, and members are cycled through. 

They open rehearsal with a prayer led by pastor Brian Hwang of the church’s English Youth Ministry. Here, Hwang sets out the rehearsal timeline and splits them into two groups — the members who are going to perform during both services the next day and those who will practice for the following services. 

Here is a look at what members do at each rehearsal. 

On Jan. 11, senior Yoanna Lee, one of the three Praise Team Leaders and a Ministry Leader, ran the rehearsal for those performing.  

Leigh HS juniors Irene Kang and John Ryu of Leigh HS, sixth-grader Eleanor Kang, Santa Teresa HS sophomore John Lee and Leland HS junior William Choi took the stage with Yoanna to set up for rehearsal. Irene and Eleanor, both backup singers, start with vocal warmups, as Yoanna and Choi plug in microphones. John, the drummer, tunes his set and practices “Deep,” with keyboardist Ryu. 

Praise Team members who were not needed in the main auditorium for the youth services move into a separate room to discuss life at church and school. Praise Team leader and Gunn HS junior Youbin Cho facilitates the discussion on “in reach” and “outreach,” two branches of the youth service who recruit people for their church. Not all praise team members are part of either branch, so the discussion moves on to general advice for the team. 

Stage technician Nicholas Yoon, a senior at Branham HS, creates slides with lyrics to the music and adjusts stage lights and sounds, as Yoanna provides suggestions to do so. 

The praise team starts with the second song on their setlist, “Jesus Loves Me” by Chris Tomlin. Throughout the first hour of rehearsal, Yoanna uses the first few runs of each song to pause and critique the members on stage, as well as give notes to Yoon.

After they run through the first song, the team practices “Deep” by Higher Praise. They play this song again before they move into closing prayer for the end of their rehearsal, letting the rest of Praise Team come to watch and sing along to the last run-through of the setlist. 

Listen to the last run of their rehearsal. 

When the mics are turned off and Yoanna dismisses the members off stage, the entire team gathers to pray. Hwang gives the team three prompts to pray to during the beginning of rehearsal. Cho leads, leaving time in between topics for the members to pray. 

Once the prayer is over at 6 p.m., members head home. Many stay behind to play instruments and eat snacks.