Sánchez brings music to ‘life’ through voice

Gabi Sánchez

Through her courses as a worship major at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gabi Sánchez realized her passion to serve the Lord included performance and “working with people who love music and who want to learn music.”

Sánchez, a Master of Music in church music student concentrating on vocal performance and pedagogy, originally began studying at the Fort Worth-based institution in 2020. The third daughter of Juán Sánchez, associate professor of theology in the School of Theology and pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, Sánchez grew up in a Christian home and began to sense a refining of her calling during her time of study as a worship leadership major at Southwestern.

She realized her “passion was more the performance side and the teaching side” of worship ministry because of her undergraduate degree in music education at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

“Being able to sing was more important to me than being in the logistics of forming the worship service and choosing the songs and choosing the Scripture passages and all that kind of stuff,” Sánchez explained. She added that while she is “passionate” about worship leadership because it is “important,” she “didn’t want to be the one responsible” for worship leadership. However, she said she “loved being up there and singing and serving” her church.

After marrying Matthew Nazier, a Doctor of Musical Arts student in the SCMW, and taking time off of school to give birth to their daughter, Sánchez began classes again this fall, but with a change in concentration to vocal performance and pedagogy.

“I feel like over the course of being a worship major, I was able to understand that I am passionate to serve the Lord, but not in the way I originally thought that I love: being able to serve the music ministry at my church and volunteering in that capacity,” Sánchez observed. “I also just love working with people who love music and who want to learn music and helping them grow in their knowledge and understanding of that.”

Sánchez comes from a musically gifted family. Her parents were music majors at the University of Florida – her father holds an undergraduate degree in music education while her mother earned a degree in vocal performance. Sánchez said she and her four sisters all took piano lessons and it “was just kind of something that they had us do whether we wanted to or not although most of us enjoyed it.” Though all her sisters are “relatively musical [and] talented,” Sánchez was “just the one who grabbed it and ran with it.”

As a 13-year-old, she changed from piano lessons to voice lessons and though she participated in choirs from a young age, it was not until high school choir that Sánchez realized, “I really enjoy this. I feel like I can do this.” She remembered this prompted her to study music in college.

When she began to look for theological education, Sánchez said it was “important” for her to study with “someone like Dr. Crider and Dr. Lewis,” who had recently started teaching at Southwestern.

Through her worship classes at Southwestern, Sánchez said she has learned “practical and helpful” lessons, including “how to structure a worship service, how to use Scripture to guide your liturgy” and how to select songs to “bolster the message that’s being preached, but also to point everything back to God.”

Sánchez added the SCMW vocal performance faculty is “very intentional about emphasizing that we as musicians” have the “purpose” of directing “the congregants to God.”

“Our excellence is about glorifying God, not about just being good at what we do for the sake of being good at what we do,” Sánchez noted. “God has gifted us these talents to glorify Him” and “our purpose is to use them to glorify Him and point the people we’re leading in worship to Christ.”

Coming to Southwestern with a secular undergraduate degree in music, Sánchez said she has appreciated “being able to learn about things like classical sacred music from a Christian perspective.” She explained in her undergraduate music program the choirs and ensembles she participated in were “made up largely of non-believers singing this music that was written for the church.”

“None of them were able to appreciate what that meant – what we were singing,” Sánchez recalled. She cited as an example Johannes Brahms’s “German Requiem,” which she said he wrote from an “overflow” of his love of the Lord.

Sánchez said her love of performing stems from the idea that she can take music that someone composed and “bring it to life.”

“Composition is such an intentional, and painstaking, and loving thing that someone has done,” Sánchez described. “They wrote this music and they want someone to do it as beautifully and intentionally as they can to perform it in that way.”

The opportunity to honor “the original intention of the composer is really enjoyable,” she added.

Sánchez, who sings in Cowden Hall Band and Southwestern Singers, encourages others to study at Southwestern because “it is such an amazing environment in which to study because you the benefit of a conservatory style, classical music education, but you’re doing so in a very loving and encouraging environment.”