At age 23, Dana Henderson is an accomplished worship leader, singer and pianist.
For the past 17 years, she has committed her life to one of practice, dedication and sacrifice.
With the experience of leading praise and worship for an assembly of 2,000 people in Nashville, she has recently returned to her home church, LifePointe Church of the Nazarene, as the worship leader.
Her desire is to be a part of the process of others' growth in their understanding of praise and worship.
A 2003 graduate of Eastside High School, Henderson earned a Bachelor of Science in church music from Trevecca Nazarene University in December 2007.
During Henderson's last semester at Trevecca, she sent out her résumé to several churches. When she came home for Thanksgiving in 2007, she learned that the worship leaders at LifePointe had resigned.
"I saw a great need, and the Lord began talking to me," she said of praying about the decision. "When no other offers came, the Lord kept pressing on my heart that I needed to come back home. I can tell you that I have never been happier in my life."
A native of Covington, Henderson was born to musically talented parents, Daniel and Donna Henderson, who encouraged the desire to develop her gift of piano and voice.
Her sister Dawn followed her father's aptitude for drums and plays for the praise team. Her mother sings and often operates the sound equipment.
She thought back on the first song she played in church as a child, "Little Things," a fitting piece that talked about how God takes little things and makes great things. Over the years, Henderson cultivated her gift as a sight reader as she accompanied the song leader on Sunday mornings.
Henderson began piano lessons with Martha Melton at age 6. She competed in local, district and state competitions.
"Mrs. Melton became more than a teacher to me," she said. "She was a mentor. She knew I was a Christian and wanted to be in the music ministry. She helped me as I played in church."
Henderson consistently received superior ratings at Georgia Music Educators Association competitions. She played in the winner's recital in Savannah with other gifted musicians from elementary to college age.
"I got to see where I was headed," she said reflecting on the collegiate pianists who played the more difficult selections. "I remember thinking - I will do that one day."
For several years, Henderson received Melton's award for "most practiced of the year" with more than 500 hours of practice. She credits her father for teaching her the importance of practicing daily. Henderson requires that same dedication from her piano and vocal students at McKibben Music.
"It has been a joy to watch Dana grow from a little girl, a teenager and now to a young adult," said instructor Martha Melton. "Thanks to her dedicated parents, Daniel and Donna, Dana stuck with her piano study through high school. It was a given that Dana practiced an hour a day, sometimes more on the weekends, which helped her excel in her piano study.
"She performed in church almost monthly and soon became an important part of their worship program. Dana will always hold a special place in my heart, as well as her family. When you share 10 years of someone's life, they are part of your extended family."
Henderson worked hard as a gifted student. She remembers the exact moment when she realized the measure of her ability.
"I was playing "Preludium" by Jean Sibelius," she recalled. "That's when I discovered my love for music. The song seemed to consume me. After getting to that point, I realized I could play anything I wanted and loved it."
Henderson said she accepted Christ at age 12 after a youth service. Later when she attended services at Camp Adrian with her family, she asked God to sanctify her of any selfish desires.
"The pastor preached about letting the Holy Spirit come in and fill us," said Henderson of her desire to want God's will for her life. "I went to the altar and asked the Holy Spirit to fill me with his presence."
During her senior year of high school, Henderson attended a Festival of Life piano competition at Trevecca Nazarene University. The theme was "from God, for God." It was there she accepted the call to the music ministry.
"I felt God press upon my heart that I was to attend Trevecca and get my education and be in the music ministry," she said. "Some people run from their calling, but I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait until I got my education and became involved in the church. It was God telling me that my dreams were going to come true."
Henderson values her experience attending a Christian college where she learned a significant life lesson.
"I had to learn not to let my love and passion of music get in the way of my love for the Lord," she confessed. "I discovered that my music had become an idol to me. I worshipped the songs I was playing and the sound of my own voice instead of being humble and recognizing this is a gift. I studied and practiced all the time, so I thought this was me becoming great instead of the Lord developing me."
Henderson was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists and couldn't play for more than 15 minutes without pain. She remembers feeling angry at the Lord and questioned if he was taking the gift of music from her.
"I came back to the Lord and concentrated on my calling," she said finding her happiness again. "Sometimes after praise team practice, I will have some pain in my wrist, but nothing as bad as what it used to be. On Sunday morning, I can play as hard as I want to and there is no pain whatsoever."
Henderson leads a 15-member contemporary style praise team that sings and plays a grand piano, keyboard, clarinet, flute, acoustic guitar, bass guitar and drums. According to Henderson, churches are moving toward contemporary worship because that is what is reaching people today. The choruses are easy to understand and are Biblically based.
"I love leading worship," she said describing her enthusiasm. "That is something that just thrills my heart. I can't wait until Saturday afternoon when we get together to practice. We pray over it and know that God is going to do something great on Sunday through us. The best feeling in the world is to see God speak to someone and know that you were an instrument in that process."
Henderson has good advice for aspiring musicians - be patient with your music and wait for God to open those doors.
"If he has given you a gift, he will fulfill that commitment in you," she said from personal experience. "There should not be a day when you go without practicing."
Henderson has written the music to a few songs that were driven from something weighing deeply on her heart. Although she has no immediate desire to publish the songs, she refers back to them to see how God was working in her life at that time.
"I don't consider myself a writer," she said defining her gift as more of an interpreter. "I can take classical music from Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart and once I start playing them, I get an ear for it and play it the way it should be."
Over the next several years, Henderson hopes to travel and experience many styles of Christian worship. She is planning a trip to visit her best friend, Melissa Eick who is an elementary music teacher in a private Nazarene school in Hawaii. Henderson dreams of going to the Holy Land and walking where Jesus walked.
"In my line of work, we don't stay in one place more than seven to 10 years," she said comparing the life of worship leaders to ministers. "I want to stay with the ministry because that is what God called me to do. Wherever he leads me I will go. I can't thank him enough for this gift of music. I will be forever grateful that he chose me."