Sunday, April 18, 1999
Fayetteville's David Pruiksma must be a Christian parent's dream come true.
Most Christians send their student off to college with the prayer that they will make it to church service at least once a month. Pruiksma makes it to at least two services every weekend. And he drives about an hour each way.
It is a labor of love for him; or is it a love for his labor? The 20-year-old LaGrange College sophomore has a heart for music, and is the contemporary pianist for both First Baptist and Heritage Christian churches in Peachtree City.
"My week and Sundays especially are pretty busy," Pruiksma says, "but I love playing piano and glorifying the Lord with the talent he has blessed me with."
He usually gets up on Sunday mornings around 6 a.m. and leaves LaGrange at 6:45. He tries to come home Saturday afternoons, if he doesn't have resident assistant duty at college Saturday night. After the hour-long drive to Peachtree City, he arrives at First Baptist and prepares for their new 8:30 a.m. contemporary service. There, his piano playing is accompanied by drums, guitars, keyboard and more.
When that service is finished, Pruiksma hops in his car and scuttles over to Heritage Christian, which meets at Oak Grove Elementary School. He plays piano and keyboard to the praise songs at their 11 a.m. service, and is the only pianist on staff there.
"I get done around noon or so," he said, "then either head home for a home-cooked meal or go back to school."
If the Sunday commute wasn't enough, Pruiksma also drives back to Fayette County to play softball one night a week with Heritage Christian's team, and returns each Thursday evening to rehearse with First Baptist's music team. Every now and then, he said he gets to attend a Wednesday night service at a Baptist church in LaGrange.
"For his age, he is extremely responsible, easy to get along with and easy to work with" said Wayne Hall, Pruiksma's music leader at First Baptist Church of Peachtree City. "He never misses a rehearsal without a good reason, and he always calls me first." He added Pruiksma is "extremely talented at what he does. He's a very nice kid."
The "Piano Man," as he is affectionately called at First Baptist (they call him "Piano Meister" at Heritage), takes four business classes a day at LaGrange, plus has a two-hour tennis team practice every day. He is also part of LaGrange College's Baptist Student Union. Occasionally he is able to entertain the residents of Peachtree Manor and Christian City nursing homes with his piano playing. Oh, and he also plays piano, organ and keyboard for weddings, parties, banquets and other gatherings several times a month. He has been invited to play again this year at South Fulton Medical Center's Cancer Survivors Day celebration.
"My marker board calendar here looks like there are ants crawling all over it," he laughed.
He also hopes to teach young beginning piano students this summer, through Heritage church, while working during the week at Chick-fil-A.
Pruiksma is majoring in business administration, with a double minor in music and Spanish. He somehow makes time for his homework, usually late at night.
"Usually when we're heading to bed for the night, he's just heading out for the night," said his father, Robert. But apparently, David's piling on of the piano jobs is paying off. "We've seen a lot of improvement over the years," Robert said.
"I love doing it," David said. "I've been doing it my whole life." Really.
He said he begged his parents for a piano when he was 4 or 5 years old. He studied under Gail Kidd at the age of 5, and later, under Dr. Barbara Salter. He has played piano in church, in competitions and in the Landmark Christian School wind ensemble, jazz band and accompanying the elite chorus. His playing has earned him straight superiors in every performance he's ever done. He was one of 15 Georgia high school seniors invited to play at a statewide concert. Then at the age of 17, he started taking organ lessons. He has since played on Spivey Hall's big organ.
"That was a major accomplishment," he said.
Pruiksma comes from a musical family. His mother, Phyllis, plays the piano and sings in the choir, and his sister, Melanie, who is a senior at Landmark, has played the violin, piano and trombone, and is now first chair in Landmark's band. The family lives in Fayetteville and goes to Covenant Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, which has a more traditional service.
At the age of 16, Pruiksma took his first full-time pianist job at the Rock Presbyterian Church in Stockbridge. The next year, he started playing keyboard for Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Peachtree City, helping them get their Sunday evening contemporary service started. He still fills in there now and then.
"I'm very, very proud of him," said his mother. "I'm very thankful he has chosen to use the talent God has given him, and give it back to God." She said many youth use their God-given talent to play in rock and roll bands, and even in satanic bands, but "he has always wanted to use it in church." She credits that in part to a good early piano teaching, using religious music as well as classical.
After graduation, Pruiksma plans to go ahead and get a masters degree in business from Georgia State University or maybe the University of Georgia. He hopes to eventually work in marketing, maybe at Chick-fil-A's home office, while continuing his piano work with the church.
"I hope I can do this forever," he said.