MOBILE, Ala. – When Roger Breland took the first step down the road toward a career in Christian music, he had no idea what a very long journey it would be.
In 47 years, he traveled more than 4 million miles across 47 countries, presented over 12,000 concerts and produced 100 albums. His 31 years with TRUTH, one of the first internationally successful contemporary Christian groups, helped launch the careers of artists such as Avalon and 4Him.
He spent another 16 years on the road with Voices of Mobile, an ensemble he co-founded with Dr. Al Miller, dean of the Alabama School of the Arts at University of Mobile. They led an expansion of the Alabama Baptist university’s music program that includes the school’s first doctoral degree in musical arts. Along with faculty whose expertise ranges from opera to worship leadership, they have prepared thousands of graduates to pursue their professional calling as musicians, educators, worship leaders, missionaries, music industry professionals, music ministers and more.
Now, with his touring career drawing to a close, Breland’s lifetime of accomplishments will be recognized May 11 when University of Mobile awards him the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The accolade joins others: Breland and TRUTH were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2000, and he holds an honorary doctorate from Liberty University.
But his greatest accomplishment isn’t found in the number of miles traveled or concerts performed.
It’s in the message he has taught students in the Roger Breland Center for Performing Arts in the Alabama School of the Arts.
“There’s really only one song to sing, and that is the song that will honor God. We want to do that with excellence,” Breland said. And it’s not enough, he tells them, to simply believe the words of the song.
“The bottom line for people who live our life on the platform in ministry is not that you believe what you sing,” he said. “The most important thing is that you live what you sing. I want students to know that what they do involves so much more than music.”
UM Interim President Fred Wilson said Breland’s “obedience to taking the message of Christ all over the world with music” reflects the heart of students and faculty across the university to serve Christ.
“We’ll really never know the impact it’s had, this side of heaven,” Wilson said. “Voices of Mobile and other ensembles have taken the message of Christ, as well as the message of University of Mobile, to congregations around the world.”
UM graduate Andrew Goodwin said Breland practices what he preaches. Goodwin is among several alumni who form the male vocal group Veritas that toured internationally with Sandi Patty and performs in churches and concert halls across the nation.
“I would not be who I am today if it were not for the influence Dr. Breland has had on my life. He has had the single greatest impact on my career as an artist and taught me the importance of the ‘small things.’ Everything I know about being a successful musician, teacher, husband, father, leader and friend I learned, not from listening to, but from watching Dr. Breland,” Goodwin said.
Breland and his wife and “prayer warrior” partner, Linda, have shared their lives with over 400 students whose college years included the long hours and high expectations it takes to be a member of Voices of Mobile.
When Voices wraps up its final tour on July 7, this academic year alone the group will have presented 150 concerts, including appearances in Cuba, Romania and England. Over the course of 16 years, Breland has traveled half a million miles with the ensemble, presenting 2,000 concerts across 12 nations, while recording 16 albums.
Collin Clardy, who currently serves as assistant director for Voices and is pursuing a master’s in theology, will take over as director of Voices of Mobile in mid-July. Hannah Clardy, his wife, will continue to serve as road music director.
This fall, Breland will make the transition to executive director of Voices of Mobile and work toward realizing another dream – establishing the Roger Breland Endowed Scholarship to help the next generation have the advantage of a Christ-centered higher education. In his new role, he will assist in fundraising for scholarships and special projects, while continuing to assist in the Roger Breland Center for Performing Arts.
Breland’s career began with serving small rural churches in Alabama during his college years. Following graduation from Troy University, he served as choral director at Opp High School and minister of music at First Baptist Church of Opp. His full-time church ministry began as minister of music at Spring Hill Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, then he formed TRUTH. In 2002 he joined UM as artist-in-residence, served as co-founder and director of Voices of Mobile, and was named dean and later executive dean of the Roger Breland Center for Performing Arts.
He delights in using his extensive network of contacts in ministry and Christian music to open the door for more opportunities for students and graduates. Most recently, a student looking for a short-term job and housing expressed her frustration to Breland, saying she would go anywhere an opportunity presented itself – even Alaska. That’s exactly where she went – Breland called a music minister in Alaska and found her a position.
When Breland accepts his honorary doctorate, Voices of Mobile will be the platform with him, singing a song he finds most appropriate for a lifetime of music and ministry: “God is Able.”
About University of Mobile
University of Mobile is a Christ-centered liberal arts and sciences institution with a vision of higher education for a higher purpose, founded to honor God by equipping students for their future professions through rigorous academic preparation and spiritual transformation. Core values are: Christ-Centered, Academically-Focused, Student-Devoted and Distinctively-Driven. The university offers on-campus and online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs in over 90 areas of study. Founded in 1961, University of Mobile is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention and is located 10 miles north of Mobile, Alabama on a campus of over 880 acres.
For more information about University of Mobile, visit the website at www.umobile.edu or call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.