Duane Taylor was my senior year choir teacher. He has had a lasting impact in my life musically, spiritually and academically. I had the chance to interview him for our high school paper, The End Times. The transcript follows…
I was born in San Pedro,California
Did you grow up there?
I grew up in Garden Grove, Orange county.
Were you brought up in a Christian family?
What was your childhood like?
Uhmm, it was great! It was, like, perfect!
Yeah. It was real awesome! I grew up in north Orange county. I went to school at an Assembly of God church down in Westminster. I’m the oldest of three boys. I have two younger brothers: Danny and Donny. We’re all about three years apart. I went to public school most of my life — ‘til my junior year. I transfered to Ambassador Christian (not the Ambassador Christian here in Fontana). It was in Downey. After I graduated they tore it down. But it was all great. I commuted from Garden Grove to Downey. I drove like forty-five minutes/an hour a day to get to the high school for two years. And then went to Azusa Pacific.
What did you study at Azusa?
How did the college experience prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Well, they’re real hands on there. It’s real practical application. We did a lot of concerts and sang in a lot of groups. In fact, as a student there were opportunities to be a student director for groups of other students. And so we would have small groups like Light, you know, that were like five, six, eight singers. And it would be led by a student — usually a junior or a senior. I did that for two years and one summer. In fact Loren Hartman, a former choir teacher here was in my first small group that I directed. We were colleagues together.
Where did you meet your wife?
At Azusa Pacific. After I graduated I taught high school for about four years. And then I took this job out here at the college [California Baptist] (I’d been there just about six years) — a little more than two years ago I started the Master’s program out at Azusa Pacific — in Conducting. I was taking classes there. And one of the classes are you get up and conduct the class and you’re critiqued by your instructor. Dr. Bonner was the teacher. He’d call in college students geting their undergrad degrees to come in and sing cause they needed more voices to make up the choir. So she was one of the girls that was singing. And we just kind of met.
How long ago were you married?
We were married… I better do this right. (laughs) June 13, ‘91. So almost two years. It will be two years in June.
How long have you been teaching?
Wait a minute. Let me make sure I’ve got my wedding date right because she’ll kill me if It’s not.
It was ‘92. Yeah, ‘92. We met in ‘91, it’s ‘92. So it’s almost two years in June. Now what was the next question? (laughs)
How long have you been teaching?
Since ‘84… the fall of ‘84…well I started teaching… I started subbing and doing some teaching while I was still in college. I taught the elementary band program for a year over at Gardina Christian School. And I think that was in ‘81. I subbed for Southern California Christian School (It used to be Melodyland High School.). I subbed for them all throughout a lot of my college years. Mostly in ‘81 & ‘82. So, I did some teaching before I graduated, but I really started teaching full time in fall of ‘84 when I taught Newport Christian High School and then at Southern California Christian High School.
What made you decide to teach here?
Well, last summer I was moving from Laguna Hills. I’ll make it a long story, but I’ll go back even further. The summer before that I got married and moved to Laguna Hills with my new wife and decided to take a position at a church out there that was almost full time — a music minstry position — that paid well in a very affluent area, beautiful place to live. Everything was going great. It was right for the time but I don’t think that’s where I was supossed to stay. You know? And God led us away from there. And I came back to school. The college [California Baptist] offered me a full time position. So I decided to take that. We moved back in the summer. My contract with them started in July. I took about a sixty percent cut in pay going from the church to the college. We’d been married just right at year by the time we went back out this way. Two things were going on. One, I began to realize I wasn’t going to make it on the income that we had. There just wasn’t any way at all. But I knew this is where God wanted me to be — at the college. So I had a real dilemma. I had to find other work. All along, when I was trying to decide whether to leave the church or not I’d been praying “God, if you ever put me back into Christian Education — high school — again I would really enjoy it. I was really looking for that. I just prayed. In fact, at one point when I was deciding what to do, I turned in my request and resume to ACSI and I began to get letters from all over the nation about different schools that were opened up. But I didn’t want to move out of the area. So I had been actively looking. In fact, at one point I called Phil Lewis and asked Him if he knew of anybody. At that time he didn’t know that Coach Sayles was leaving. And he said he really didn’t know of anybody. But then later in end of July, maybe it was the beginning of August he called and asked if I’d be intersted. And to me that was an answer to prayer for two things. One, I was excited about teaching high school again. Cause I’ve really enjoyed that. I think of all the things I’ve done that may have been the most rewarding. Two, it meant (not very much) but some kind of extra income that would help us make it. So you asked me… It was a long answer. I think your question was what brought me here. I think very definitely God brought me here.
What have been your goals teaching here?
Make it through the first year. No. Well, I would say that they’re some of the same goals that I’ve had with other groups at other schools. And one is I want to put Calvary Chapel High School of Redlands on the map because of their choral program. I just want them to say, “Oh yeah, that school out there that has a great choir.” And not just to have a great choir, [but also] because of the impact that I think choirs have on people and how music impacts the soul and how music is used as a tool for God’s Word. So my goal was to take a group of kids and make them as great as they could be and get as many involved in that as I can. In a lot of ways I’m a little discouraged just because I came in so late, and there was so much transition going on in my life before that and there wasn’t enough time to prepare for this year. So this year has been kind of a rag-tag thing. It just like this spring concert. I’d die to do a spring concert, but in reality unless they come through with something here an a Tuesday or Thursday it just won’t happen.
Tell me what you do at Cal Baptist.
I work a singing group called Light that is out of the Institutional Advancement Office. They’re the ones that do the advancement for the institution financially and public relations and communications. The group was originally developed out of the admissions program as a recruitment tool. Then it moved six years ago into the Institutional Advancement program. They travel around and do sixty to seventy concerts a year. They’re a small, select ensemble considered by many the best group this school offers and the administration supports them very strongly. They sing all over the western states. I pick all the music, do all the rehersals, do all the booking and that’s what I do there.
What brought you to the Lord?
I grew up in the church and a Sunday school teacher it was a very normal salvation experience — very natural.
How long have you been saved? Since you were a child?
Since I was a young child, yeah.
Where do you go to church now?
We really haven’t decided. We’ve been out here since November. Most of that time we’ve been on the road with the group. It’s hard to settle into a church. We’ve been visiting Victoria Community Church more than anything else. But we really haven’t found a church that we’re totally satisfied with.
Who has most influenced your Christian walk?
I’d say two people: Dr. Gary Bonner and Dr. Bruce Baloian both were professors of mine at Azusa Pacific.
How do you relate God to your everyday life?
You’re getting philisophical on me man, you’re getting deep. How do I relate God to my everyday life? Well, that’s kind of tough cause I guess I don’t… I’m not always consciously relating him to my everyday life. I think that it can and should at times become second nature. I know that yesterday (I don’t know what John told you) I didn’t ask him to make anything secret. I just took yesterday off. I didn’t go anywhere yesterday. My wife wanted me to go out and do something with her. I didn’t do anything yesterday. I was just… I’ve been so goin’, goin’, goin’, and I slept in. I read a little bit of Tolstoi, which is a turn of the century Russian author who writes just very beautiful, poetic and religious pieces that I think really… I think there’s alot… I guess what I’m trying to say… I read some good literature, some classic literature. I listened to some good classical music. I went for a walk somwhere where I never had walked before, picked some flowers. Now I brought them back and I planted them in my garden. And I weeded my garden. And I potted some other plants. And I washed off my sidewalk. I came in. My wife and her mother came back. And I cleaned up. And my mother-in-law made a casorrole and I ate the cassorole. And I came out with my wife and went to a rehersal last night in Glendora with Dr Bonner and sang for about two hours, fellowshipped with some friends, came home late, crawled in under the cold sheets and thanked God for the day. I know that in one point (at least) in all those activities there was conscious communication with God. I was reading Tolstoi about the prince who became a monk then struggled with his morality, his doubts, and finally became a sinner again — a beggar that still sought God. And I thought of him as I walked down that street. And I saw the beautiful well-kept houses and ones that were kind of run-down and the people who were out in the yard bothering smiling and the ones that were arguing out in the porch. As I worked in my garden and I felt the soil and I felt like, “God thanks for the earth that gives life to the trees and to the plants and for this time now where I can just enjoy it.” You know? So I guess that’s how God relates to my every day life. I think we all need to find ways to put him into that. The trick is that was my day off. And I took time to read the book. And I took time to take the walk. And I took time to get in the garden and to enjoy the cassorole and to relish that great rehersal I had that I was part of. But the hard thing to do is when you’re sitting in traffic, when you’re conducting a choir and it’s a drudgery, when you’re working in the office just trying to book concerts, to make that an active sacrament too. Try to put that in one sentence. (laughs)
One thought on “Living the Simple Life: An Interview with Duane Taylor”
You probably would have been the teacher’s pet if you’d been in my journalism class. Talented since back in the day!