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A musician at Bethel Church starts an arts academy for all ages

Stan Wilkerson, founder and director of the new academy for musical training, directs and sings with the Bethel Church worship team during a practice session. He says the academy will keep fees reasonable.


Stan Wilkerson, founder and director of the new academy for musical training, directs and sings with the Bethel Church worship team during a practice session. He says the academy will keep fees reasonable.

TAMPA — Stan Wilkerson has a vision.

He sees a place where anyone who is serious about learning music can learn, without concern for costs. He sees a place that is convenient and accessible.

His vision may become reality Sept. 14, at the opening of the Bethel Academy for the Arts.

The academy is a branch of the Worship Arts Ministry at Bethel Church on W Hillsborough Avenue, a central location for many in Tampa and the surrounding areas. The goal is to train people in music, while offering a Christian atmosphere that "nurtures the development of talents in children, youth and adults," according to the church's Web site.

Though the initial focus will be on music training, Wilkerson, the academy's director, said that the program will expand in time.

"The long-range vision is for us to teach all the arts," Wilkerson, 41, said. "Eventually, we want to offer dance, drama and poetry."

For now, the music program will include instruction in brass, woodwind, string and percussion instruments. At this time, instructors don't plan to include singing, but Wilkerson said it will be just a matter of time.

Wilkerson intends to keep the prices reasonable and is seeking grants and donations so he can offer scholarships. Private lessons will range from $20 for 30 minutes to $40 for 60 minutes. About six or seven music instructors will be paid from the tuition they bring in.

He and others will hold a faculty concert at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the church "so prospective students can get to see who they're studying with," he said.

A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Wilkerson started his career and training in music at his father's church. As he grew older, he shifted to secular music.

"I never thought to work in a church as a profession," said Wilkerson, who is also Bethel's worship arts pastor. "But after working as a professional trombonist with several bands and orchestras, I ended up here five years ago."

Several of Wilkerson's fellow teachers say they were motivated to come on board out of respect for him.

Pat Close, a drummer with 40 years of professional experience, has performed with Wilkerson at the church and on some Christian TV shows. He looks forward to working with Wilkerson at the academy.

"I like Stan, so I'm excited about it," Close said. "When he asked me if I'd like to teach, I said, 'Sure, I'd love to do it!' "

Guitar teacher Jason Thompson, who now attends a church in Ybor City, shared those sentiments after playing several gigs with Wilkerson.

"Stan and I played at some of the same gigs, and I was part of the band and worship team at Bethel," he said.

"He approached me and asked me if I was interested in partnering with him this way," Thompson said. "I have a lot of respect for him, so I said, 'Sure, I'll do it.' "

Arthur Bogalis, a member of Bethel's worship team who will instruct students in bass and guitar, said he was impressed with Wilkerson's vision for the school.

"Stan approached me about it," Bogalis said. "He was telling me about a vision of helping people right in the city. I think Bethel's location is the perfect location to help people who haven't had the privilege of taking lessons."

Bogalis said he thinks there is a big demand for music instruction.

"I've heard a lot from people just passing by in the church who say they're interested in learning the bass," he said.

Sean Ledig can be reached at

Bethel Academy

for the Arts

Classes in brass, woodwind, string and percussion instruments will begin Sept. 14 for children and

adults of all ages and skill levels.

Registration fee is $15 per student

with a maximum of $30 per family, due each year at registration. Private lessons are $20 for 30 minutes,

$30 for 45 minutes and $40 for 60 minutes.

The academy is a branch of Bethel Church. For more information, go to the church's Web site at, call (813) 238-2348 or e-mail

If you go

A free faculty concert at 5:30 p.m. Sunday will give prospective students a taste of what to expect at the academy. The concert takes place at Bethel Church, 1510 W Hillsborough Ave.

A musician at Bethel Church starts an arts academy for all ages 08/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 4:30am]
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