Ask talented musician and pastor Kenneth Hollins how he ended up being a pastor and schoolteacher, and he will tell you, “It was an accident.”
The gifted artist was on the road to the lucrative, professional life of a traveling musician.
But a desire to share his talent with a younger generation and a persistent call from God to preach derailed that career train.
Now the senior pastor of the multi-cultural, nondenominational Overcoming Faith Christian Church at 4105 St. Elmo Ave. in Raleigh is teaching students how to master music, the universal language, while providing spiritual guidance to his congregation.
“According to my parents, I started on drums when I was two,” said Hollins. “And then, my older brother gave me a saxophone that his son didn’t want, and I just began to teach myself how to play.
“I started bringing my saxophone to church and playing along with the musicians. That’s when I discovered I could play by ear.”
In the seventh grade, Hollins attended Whitehaven’s Hillcrest High School, where the music teacher recognized his gift. By the eighth grade, Hollins’ music teacher had taught him how to read music.
It was then that Hollins knew music, in some form, would be his career.
“I was greatly impacted by the power of a teacher who not only nurtured my gift, but challenged me to a standard of excellence,” said Hollins. “I didn’t know it then, but I gained great respect for the power of teaching that would guide my steps later on.”
Hollins is a native Memphian, whose mother dabbled in music during the 1970s, and whose father was a pastor.
Hollins was invited to play at various churches growing up.
After graduating from Whitehaven High School in 1995, Hollins earned a bachelors in music and a minor in education from the University of Memphis five years later.
“With my music degree in hand, I was ready to pursue a professional career, on the road,” said Hollins. “The reason I said becoming a teacher was an accident is because I had friends who would ask me to teach them how to play.
“I developed little techniques to make learning easier. They said I had a gift for teaching. After spending (time) in LA (Los Angeles), I returned home … God was showing me the path that I should take. That path was in Memphis.”
Today, Hollins teaches all things music at LaRose Elementary School. Youngsters learn the basics of music, “the universal language.”
“Every day I go to school, it’s hard to believe I have such an awesome job,” said Hollins. “I am reminded of the nurture and care that goes into teaching. A teacher impacted my life when I was young, and I strive to make a difference in these students’ lives.
“Men make a tremendous difference in the classroom, no matter what they are teaching. Their impact is even greater in underserved communities, where fathers are mostly absent from the home.”
Hollins particularly notes the exceptional effect Black male teachers have in the classroom. Boys and girls get to see a caring, responsible man who is “investing into their lives, almost like a father would.”
“After slavery, white church denominations sponsored schools for former slaves and their children,” said Hollins. “Many teachers were the pastors and trustees of those schools because they were literate men.
“They were our first teachers. We appreciate the great job women are doing in the classroom. But I think Black men as leaders of our community should consider teaching. Their presence is powerful.”
That explains the teaching career. How did Hollins become a pastor? That was more intentional than accident.
“About eight years ago, I perceived that a call to preach was in my life as well,” said Hollins. “I mean, it was on me. I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t shake it.
“Then, I talked to my wife, Paula, and we prayed about it together. We started a weekly Bible study on Tuesday evening. People began to come and tell us they wanted to be a part of what we were doing.”
As a result, he founded Overcoming Faith Christian Church.