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Treasured music teacher adds simple twist to gospel favorites

Easier-to-follow versions of familiar hymns and worship numbers are featured in two recently released books by Brenda Buford Shaw, who started giving piano lessons before she turned 10 years old.

Shaw’s two publications – “In the Garden of the Wings of Love” and “Inspiring Hymn Song Arrangements” – give basic key and chord instruction and she says even musicians who have not played for years can read the new arrangements.

Brenda B. Shaw

The books are Shaw’s firsts. She envisions them as excellent practice and performance music for church musicians who would feel a bit more comfortable reading more simplified versions of hymns and worship numbers.

Released about a month ago, Shaw’s “In the Garden of the Wings of Love” showcases Christian staples such as “This Little Light of Mine,” “Amazing Grace,” “Somebody Prayed For Me” and “Thank you, Lord.” Original blues numbers are also included in the song compositions and arrangements.

“Inspiring Hymn Song Arrangements” was released on Dec. 13. It provides Shaw’s treatments of some of the best-loved favorites of the traditional, African-American Christian selections.

So, did the world need more arrangements of these widely popular songs? Shaw thinks so.

“It’s just like if your mother has a great recipe. She knows how to make the dish, but writing it down enables others to do so as well. These arrangements I have done simplifies the songs and makes them accessible to musicians who are just developing their basic, musical abilities,” Shaw said.

“You don’t need to be playing music a whole long time to be able to play these songs. Musicians with very basic, fundamental skill in reading music can provide music for an entire worship service.”

For Shaw, teaching piano is a career choice that goes back nearly half a century.

“I was seven years old when my momma caught me giving piano lessons for a nickel,” she said. “They were lined up on the steps, and I was charging five cents for a piano lesson. Well, that is until my momma caught me.”

Over the decades, the musician and teacher has given music lessons to thousands of children. Many of those former students have brought their children and grandchildren to her.

At several Memphis-area nursing homes, Shaw’s is a welcome and familiar face. She regularly shares the gift of music through her own presentations or through young, primary students, which she said the seniors particularly enjoy.

The seasoned teaching professional firmly embraces opportunities to extend her long held love of music, recalling a time when a childhood illness clouded her view of a musical future.

“I was 15, so sick I could hardly move anything on my body, but I could still play,” she said. “My momma said, ‘Don’t ever stop playing your music. It might feed you one day.’

“Well, Momma was right, and that’s what I have passed down to all four of my children. They are all church musicians.”

(For copies of Brenda Buford Shaw’s published works, call 901-606-4532.)

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