Columbia pastor lives to ‘make a joyful noise’

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.” —Psalm 100

Lamont Walker has spent his life serving the Lord with gladness, singing with family at church, performing as a backup for world-famous talents and leading entire congregations in song.

It is a joy that is evident as soon as he enters a room, eyes shining, head held high, grinning ear to ear, laughing as he relates a recent anecdote, exuding a larger-than-life energy.

That joy is there, too when he sings. Whether his eyes are squeezed shut and his hands clenched and raised with intensity as he hits a verse that particularly hits home, or his smile and arms are stretched out wide as he belts out an exuberant chorus, it is obvious Walker truly feels — and loves — the music he is sharing with his audience.

The son of two musical parents who were active with their church choirs, Walker — now the assistant pastor and director of the Voices of Power and Glory choir at United Community Cathedral — said he has been singing for as long as he can remember.

 

“I was born into it. My mother and father are both singers, my father was minister of music,” Walker said, noting his father is a Missionary Baptist and his mother a Pentecostal. “In the church I grew up in, they would clap and show emotion as a result of the music. Mom and Dad would reach down in their soul and delve deep for something in themselves to pull out.”

At age 3, Walker started singing in the Sunbeam Choir at his family’s church in Kansas City. His joined the adult choir at age 7. When Walker turned 9, his father told him he had to learn how to play an instrument. He started on the drums and added the piano to his repertoire at 12.

Outside of church, Walker became one of the original members of the Kansas City Boys’ Choir. The group gave him opportunities to perform as a back-up musician for artists such as Celine Dion, LaShun Pace, Dorinda Clark-Cole and the Boys Choir of Harlem.

His vocal talent and experience led to a scholarship to the University of Missouri, where Walker majored in musical performance and became the first member of his family in three generations to graduate from college.

At Mizzou, Walker directed and performed with the Legion of Black Collegians Gospel Choir. He led the group to first place in the choir competition at the national Baptist Student Union (BSU) retreat.

“My first year at MU, we went to BSU and we lost. The second year, I became choir director with Jessica Bauchum,” Walker recalled. “We went to camp two years later, and I taught an acapella song, and we took first place. That was a highlight of my college years.”

At the direction of an uncle and a couple of cousins, he also got involved with United Community Cathedral, where he came into his own as a minister of music. “They knew I could do music, so they said, ‘Sit down and play,’” Walker said. “I’ve been there ever since.”

On three different occasions, Walker said, he received a divine message saying, “I am calling you by name and calling you to a purpose.” At first, he said, he didn’t pay attention to his calling to the ministry. Eventually, though, he “woke up to being more involved on a deeper level of service in the church and the community.”

Under the leadership of Bishop Russell Freeman, Walker received his ministry license in 2004. He became ordained as an elder in 2005, received a promotion to general overseer in 2009 and became officially installed as assistant pastor in August 2015. He coordinates all of the church’s music and performing arts, including the Voices of Power and Glory choir.

“It wasn’t anything I asked for, but I was always willing and open to do it because I love him and his people,” Walker said, referring to God. “People are in need, and I have something I can give them to help with that need.”

Music speaks to everyone, he said. It is a big part of the church, especially in the black community, where there is “a lot of singing, a lot of soul,” Walker said. “It’s about gospel and the message. The message of friendship, hope. It pulls you from a place of darkness to a place of hope. It makes your heart more open to the message. I want to leave an impact on whoever’s listening.”

Walker said he loves all music, though jazz is his favorite because “it’s alive, it’s organic, you can do what you want with it.” He incorporates many genres into his ministry to make his music and message “alive and relevant.”

Another component of Walker’s role is running His Word His Way, a ministry that emphasizes creative and performing arts including music, dance, drama and poetry. He has traveled around the country performing, preaching and teaching.

His social media streams feature regular video posts with titles such as “Monday Motivation,” “Thankful Thursday” and “Fresh Fire Friday,” as well as teasers for performances. They are part of his Pastor LEW Live marketing strategy. He is active on Facebook as LaMont Walker and on Twitter and Instagram as MyJazzyRiffs.

Recently, Walker took a few steps closer to his dream of being a recording artist. He released two singles, “He Did It Again” with Voices of Power and Glory and “Love Lifted Me.” He wrote and composed both. Ideally, Walker said, he would like to tour as a recording artist and make Columbia or Florida his home base, enabling him to continue pursuing his other ministries.

In the meantime, he is happy to share his joy, his message and his music with anyone who wants to listen. “The most amazing thing is people want to hear me. That’s reward enough for me, just to know people think that highly of me,” Walker said. “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”