By Errol Castens
TUPELO – There's bad news: Temple of Compassion and Deliverance will soon lose a frequent preacher and the head of its vibrant teen music ministry.
Good news: He's leaving to expand his abilities in both musical performance and production.
George “Buddy” Parks, the 18-year-old son of TCD pastor Bishop Clarence Parks, has won a scholarship worth a total of $40,000 toward an undergraduate education at Berklee College of Music.
The elder Parks believes the opportunity was ordained.
“It must have been divine intervention,” he said. “David said the Lord knows how to direct a man's steps.”
Based in Boston, Berklee is the world's largest independent college of music, with some 3,800 students, and “the premier institution for the study of contemporary music.”
The school emphasizes education to meet the challenges of careers in music and boasts such alumni as saxophonist Branford Marsalis, “Tonight Show” bandleader Kevin Eubanks and soundtrack composer Jan Hammer.
The younger Parks plays bass and lead guitars, organ, keyboard and drums.
“It's a God-given talent,” said friend and admirer Luanne Wooldridge. “He had never touched a bass guitar until he was given one, and the next day he could play it.”
After participating in most of the musical opportunities available at Tupelo High School and making a start on those at the University of Southern Mississippi and Itawamba Community College, George Parks heard late last year from THS choir director Clint Harris that Berklee was auditioning in Nashville for scholarships.
“I owe this all to Mr. Harris; he's the man,” George Parks said. “If it weren't for him I wouldn't be here.”
But as much as he enjoys performing and leading musical groups, Parks also enjoys the technical side of music – and appreciates the wisdom in understanding the business.
“I'll probably be here five years for a double major – one in music production and engineering and another in music business and management,” said George Parks, who spent part of this week touring the school with his mother. “The most important thing I've seen is the music production and engineering department, with all the synthesis and pre-production labs they have.”
So how does a young man who preached his first sermon at age nine move from the sheltered environment of his father's church to the middle of an admittedly wild music industry?
“I really believe God has anointed me to have these talents so one day I'll be able to touch people all over this nation,” George Parks said. “Everybody doesn't want to be preached to all the time; sometimes they need to be played to or sung to.”