After more than five decades as minister of music at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Floyd A. Hearns Jr. has become a permanent fixture of the Meridian church.

Soft spoken and modest about his musical legacy, Hearns said he is most at home when surrounded by music.

"In my leisure time, that's what I do ... play the piano," he said.

A native of Bessemer, Ala., Hearns' love for music developed at the tender age of 9, when a family loss became his gain.

"My aunt Minnie B. and uncle Willie Hampton lost their home during the Great Depression and my parents received their piano," he said. "A cousin, Georgia Reed, taught me my first piano lessons."

At the age of 13, Hearns played for Sunday School and churches in the Bessemer/Birmingham area. He later majored in music at Alabama State College, where he played drums and bell lyre in the marching band and xylophone in the concert band. Piano and choral music were his special interests.

Always part of the college choir, Hearns played for services while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He directed the Boy Scouts of America Chorus, a special group that traveled to various cities on special occasions. He also taught his three sisters music.

While he does not consider himself a composer, Hearns said he likes to arrange tones suitable for ensembles and other choruses.

"I enjoy classical, contemporary and sacred music," he said. "'Hymns of the church' are mostly what I teach during the local and East Mississippi Baptist State Congress."

His passion for music has extended to his three sons, Reginald, Ronald Sr. and Roland.

Reginald, who started playing piano by ear at age 3, plays bass guitar and sometimes piano at Wilson Chapel Baptist Church in Birmingham. He also plays trumpet and organ.

Ronald Sr. is a self-made musician, beginning with drums he received at the age 5. He played drums in junior and high school bands, and for the young adult choir at New Hope. He occasionally plays in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

Youngest son, Roland, also took piano lessons at an early age and played for Sunday School at New Hope.

A third generation of Hearns musicians has evolved through grandson Patrick Hearns, son of Ronald Sr. and Emma Hearns. Patrick began taking piano lessons from his grandfather in junior high school and his music repertoire includes the Meridian Community College Gospel Choir, the Inspirational Choir at New Hope and the Sweet Spirits and the Male Ensemble at St. Paul United Methodist Church.

Hearns has taught private piano lessons for several decades, however he now teaches on a very limited basis. His advice to aspiring musicians:

"Find your place; the sky is the limit, the challenge of change is Now. Your dreams are possible," he said.

Hearns memberships – both professional and civic – include the National Music Teachers Association; the state and local League of Meridian Music Teachers (member and president), the Optimist Club, Toastmasters and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. In addition to serving as minister of music at New Hope, he has served as a layman, as well as a Sunday School teacher and superintendent.

He is married to Bettye Hearns, a retired librarian with the Meridian Public School District.

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