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Presbyterian maestro celebrates 20 years of keeping things fresh

Ray McKean celebrates his 20th anniversary this year as the director of music at Southwest Portland's Multnomah Presbyterian Church.

Ray McKean celebrates his 20th anniversary this year as the director of music at Southwest Portland’s Multnomah Presbyterian Church.

Ray McKean and his wife, Amy, are two members of the Southwest Portland community whose musical gifts have touched hundreds of lives. This year, Ray McKean celebrates his 20th anniversary as the director of music at Southwest Portland’s Multnomah Presbyterian Church.

Over the past 20 years, church services at Multnomah Presbyterian have been characterized by a strong musical program with a diverse range — traditional and modern hymns, jazz, folk, bluegrass, African drums and Latin rhythms have all been a part of the worship service under McKean.

It all started when McKean, who received his bachelor’s degree in music at Coe College and a Master of Music from Miami University of Ohio, responded to a “help wanted” ad posted by the church in 1995. At the time, the church was only looking for a keyboardist, but McKean, who started accompanying for a church choir at the age of 12, found a home. His first service was on Aug. 6, 1995.

McKean, who also accompanies the Oregon Children’s Choir and Youth Chorale, has two children with his wife of 25 years. Amy McKean is an elementary music teacher and an accomplished percussionist. Their son, David, plays drums for the University of Oregon marching band, and their daughter, Ellen, is a talented flutist and pianist.

Love for the McKeans’ work has prompted several “Coffeehouse Concerts” throughout the year, as well as special music services around holidays that are open to the public.

What’s the biggest lesson McKean has learned from 20 years of providing music and choir direction for Multnomah Presbyterian Church?

“Preparing music week after week could become a chore, but I have learned how to keep things new and exciting,” he says. “I’m always looking for new ways to worship. I’ve learned how important music is to the life of a church and I am grateful to have been a part of this church’s music ministry for almost 20 years.”

Ed Kuehnel is an elder at Multnomah Presbyterian Church in Southwest Portland.