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Southern student pursues opera as ministry
January 23, 2006
By Garrett E. Wishall

Anson Hanbury will graduate from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in May with hopes of being a bi-vocational pastor. While this may not sound out of the ordinary, Hanbury's second vocation desire is unique: he wants to be a professional opera singer.

Hanbury, a tenor, qualified for the regional round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Jan. 8. While he did not advance to the national finals, Hanbury had already auditioned with an agent in New York last fall, who is searching for a position for him with a professional opera company. Hanbury said if the Lord opens the door into that profession he would gladly walk through.

"If I am able to support my family through this type of performing then that would be a 'Gideon's fleece' type of testing grounds for whether or not this is something that the Lord wants me to do," he said.

Hanbury came to Southern Seminary in the fall of 2001.

"When I began at Southern, I studied singing as my primary discipline," he said. "I sort of stumbled onto opera, and I enjoyed it and decided to do it."

Hanbury sang in the seminary choir for two years and with the oratorio chorus, and people started encouraging him to compete outside of the seminary.

Michael Lancaster, associate dean of the School of Church Music and Worship, and staff accompanist Debbie Durks worked with Hanbury, who said Durks has most influenced his growth as an opera singer.

"With her coaching she has helped me develop technique," he said. "She has helped me to learn what to listen for, how things feel and how to think about my singing, particularly for professional performing."

The idea of performing professionally began to grow in Hanbury's mind after Earle Patriarco, a Christian professional opera singer, performed at Southern in 2004. At that time, Hanbury had not considered performing professionally, but after singing for Patriarco, who thought he had professional potential, Hanbury began to consider the idea.

"I started a dialogue with Patriarco, about what it is like to be a ministry-minded Christian in that environment," Hanbury said. "Through that relationship I have auditioned with a few coaches and teachers."

Hanbury said that his goal as a professional opera singer would be to view his workplace as a mission field.

"From what I understand, it is a small community of people, and I would want to be a solid, Christian man who puts his family first and thinks pastorally about the people around me," he said.

Hanbury and his wife Dina have been married for six years and they have two children: Miles, who will be 2 in March, and Valerie, who is eight months old.

Whether it is bi-vocationally or as his sole vocation, Hanbury wants to be involved in leadership in a local church.

"I would love to participate in a teaching and leading ministry in a church, in addition to performing," he said. "If I don't wind up singing, I would look for a position as a music minister in a church with an eye toward teaching and preaching. I would love to be mentored by a strong pastoral teacher and in 10 or 15 years take that type of role myself."

Hanbury currently serves in the worship ministry at Clifton Baptist Church. He regularly plays the piano and occasionally leads worship there. Before joining Clifton, Hanbury served as the music minister at Millcreek Baptist Church for two years.

Be it on the stages of New York theaters or between the walls of Kentucky churches, Hanbury is seeking to fill his role in the body of Christ.

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