Music Alumna: ‘Gardner-Webb is One of the Best Decisions I Ever Made’

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Marissa Parsons ’03 Answered Call to Ministry, Missions and Music

Marissa Parsons in Guatemala
Marissa Parsons has ministered in two countries, including working at an orphanage in Guatemala.

Marissa Parsons placed a decal from Gardner-Webb University on her car window after her first visit to the campus. She was called into ministry and felt the Lord was showing her GWU was the next step. “I saw how many opportunities I would have beyond the classroom,” Parsons reflected. “I spent a lot of time prayerfully considering where the Lord wanted me to go and where I would have the most opportunities to serve and grow.”

Since graduating in 2003 as a music education major with concentration in voice and a minor in Spanish, Parsons has ministered in three states and two countries and served as a full-time missionary. The choral director at James River High School in Midlothian, Va., Parsons leads a show choir that competes locally and nationally. She has taught music to people from age 5 to 85 and directed large and small groups. She’s worked in small private faith-based schools, charter schools and large public schools.

In each experience, she recalled lessons learned from her music professors at Gardner-Webb. She is especially thankful for her studies in voice, theory, opera theater, piano, music history, critical listening, writing and voice leading. “So many professors and people worked with me and shaped the person and professional I am today,” Parsons observed. “They taught not only by their instruction but by the example they were to us in how they lived their lives and interacted with us.”

Marissa Parsons with the show choir at her high school
Marissa Parsons directs the show choir at James River High School in Midlothian, Va. This picture was made in March after the Heart of America Show Choir competition in Atlanta, Ga., where the choir placed third runner-up in the Unisex Division.

One of those professors was her advisor, who helped her choose her major. “I knew I felt called to ministry, missions, and music. He clearly told me he felt like I should do music education,” Parsons recalled. “He saw in me something I didn’t see in myself. I trusted him completely and knew it was the right decision.”

She also realizes how every class she took at GWU prepared her for the future. “When you are receiving your education you don’t understand why you need to know the things you are learning,” Parsons offered. “It isn’t until you enter the work force that you know you have this wealth of knowledge and a specific skill set and experiences employers are looking for. I did the best I could in my classes and soaked up every opportunity that came my way. I valued the smaller class sizes, the personal connection with professors, and the amazing service organizations. Gardner-Webb is without a doubt one of the best decisions I ever made and nearly every part of my current life was shaped by someone I met or an experience I had while attending GWU.”