Piano vs. Poverty

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Ever since Carter Cook (’94, JD/MBA ’98) played “Onward Christian Soldiers” for the Youth Sunday offertory at Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte as a teenager, he has appreciated the opportunity to share his talent with local churches.

After playing the piano for nearly 34 years (he began lessons as a kindergartener in Greenville, S.C.,), Cook, who is associate counsel in the Legal Department at Wake Forest University, recently recorded 12 instrumental hymn arrangements, including timeless favorites “Sweet By and By,” “How Great Thou Art” and “Shall We Gather at the River.” The resulting CD, “Sundays In Belvedere,” was initially intended as a gift for his grandparents, James and Myrtle Carter.

Carter Cook

Inspired by the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and cognizant of the importance of reaching out to the poor (Matthew 25:31-46), Cook decided to make the album available to a larger audience with the hope of helping those in need. Any profits from the sale of “Sundays In Belvedere” will be donated to faith-based charities working to fight poverty.

“For Christmas in 2009, my parents offered me a trip to a recording studio so that I could record a CD of hymn arrangements on the piano for my grandparents. I had never considered myself worthy of such a gift, and did not get up the nerve to visit a studio until the spring of 2011,” says Cook.

The finished product contains two duets with his wife, Michaele (’94), and is named in honor of his grandparents’ single-traffic-light hometown in Aiken County, S.C. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in October 2010 and have been members of Belvedere First Baptist Church (the steeple of which appears on the album cover) for more than three quarters of a century.

“After I had recorded the songs, designed the album and delivered the finished product to my family, it occurred to me that I had an opportunity to do something more,” says Cook.  Realizing that there are more gifted musicians all over the Internet — and that he may not even be the most talented member of his own household — Cook sought to follow the Parable of the Talents by doing the best he could with what he had. He decided to donate any profit from the sale of “Sundays In Belvedere” to faith-based charitable organizations engaged in the fight against poverty. The website pianovspoverty.org is a central reference point for the project.

Cook says the “vs” in the name was chosen intentionally, since its pronunciation represents both the battle against poverty and the Bible verses that have inspired him to join it.

“Sundays In Belvedere” is available through iTunes and online at CDBaby.com.

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