Philip M. Young (’56) “was determined to become a church musician before the first grade.” A teenage organist in the Pendleton Street Baptist Church provided the spark and the singing of his father, William “Bill” Young, the “constant and decisive” influence.

Philip grew up in the Mountain Creek Baptist Church and when he entered North Greenville in 1954, he was no stranger to Taylor Hall, where he had spent several weeks in associational summer camps.

Through a tenor in the church choir at 14, Phil was passed over for a place in the high school chorus. On arrival at NGC, he found his niche in the college choir and as a baritone in the male quartet.

For two years, Phil traveled with the two groups. On one occasion the four men headed for “M” night in Oconee County. Sopping off at Clemson House to dine, they depleted their combined wealth to 60 cents. After the service, they found two flat tires on their car. Back in the church they told the associational officers they must either have the flats fixed or adopt them. They immediately called a filling station.

At Furman, Mary Lou Strawhorn, a music major, was the student pianist for Phil’s voice lesson. Three years later, she became his wife and music collaborator. On completing his B.S. degree at Furman, he spent a year in graduate study at Florida State University.

Phil and Mary Lou were married – 1959 – and almost immediately he joined the staff at First Baptist Church in Henderson, N.C., as minister of music, and Mary Lou as organist. She is now the associate minister of music and organist.

Now for more than two decades, Henderson has been their home and First Baptist Church their base for a fruitful ministry in music. In addition to 187 persons enrolled in four graded choirs, he has developed a handbell program second to none that includes the Beginning Bell Ringer, the Bell Ringers, from the youth division and the Adult Bell Ringers – a total of 59 ringers and 95 bells. The handbell choirs are in demand to play for church and civic programs.

Phil first tried his hand at composing while at Furman. Since these academic efforts, when three of his choral works were published, he has composed anthems, cantatas, hymns, and a vast wealth of handbell music. In 1966, he was commissioned to compose an anthem for Choir and Cross ensemble for the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference in Miami, Fla. “Fanfare With Alleluias” was introduced and has been the most successful of his anthems to date.

His handbell works have been commissioned for various festivals sponsored by the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, the North and South Carolina Baptist Conventions. Choral works have been commissioned by the Furman Concert Choir, the Centurymen, N.C. Singing Churchmen, and Churches groups. The hymn tune “Acclamation” is included in the 1975 edition of the Baptist Hymnal.

In celebration of North Carolina Baptists’ sesquicentennial year, Phil was asked to provide the text and tune of the hymn to commemorate the event. “God is Our Hope, Our Joy” is an interpretation of those qualities and beliefs that unify Baptists.

Philip Young has taken a leading role in the advancement of the quality of church music in the past two decades and has added tremendously to fill the void in the literature for handbell ringers.

Phil’s parents are active musicians. His father “Bill” since retirement has built more than 400 dulcimers and along with his wife, Milo, performs for various groups.

Philip and Mary Lou have one son, Jim, who plans to enter college this fall to pursue the study of the oboe. Three generations in the field of music and a growing list of music, contributions to the praise and glory of God is an achievement of which North Greenville College takes pride.

Article published in the April 1980 issue of the North Greenville College Alumni Newsletter.

Leave a Reply