Largest Church In America Relies On Yamaha Instruments For Worship And International Broadcasts

9/12/2008 [Pianos & Keyboards]

Renowned Pastor and Author Joel Osteen Delivers Inspiration and Outstanding Musical Offerings from Lakewood Church in Houston

HOUSTON, Texas — When Lakewood Church moved its home worship base into the former Compaq Center in 2005, it transformed the former home of the NBA World Champion Houston Rockets into a 16,000-seat facility that is a beacon of hope and inspiration to people of all ages and backgrounds. According to Outreach Magazine's annual Top 100 list of America's largest and fastest-growing churches, 47,000 congregants attend Lakewood's four weekly services. Lakewood's Senior Pastor, the charismatic best-selling author Joel Osteen, was named "Most Influential Christian in America" in 2006, and his weekly television program is America's most watched inspirational program. Osteen's broadcasts reach over 200 million United States homes and over 150 nations throughout Europe, Canada, Australia, India, Korea and Africa. Each year, Osteen and Lakewood Church stage 20+ sold-out arena events around the world.

Yamaha Disklavier MK IV
Music is central to all Lakewood Church worship services and events as well as to its highly rated broadcasts, and a full cadre of Yamaha instruments and recording and mixing technology is used to convey the worship center's inspirational message. Since all services are recorded for Internet broadcasts, and weekend services are mixed for television distribution, a full tracking studio and several mixing rooms are utilized to allow Lakewood's staff of musicians and recording engineers to record and post television broadcasts and Internet podcasts and streaming video. The tracking room is set up so rhythm sections may be quickly tracked for any project.

"We are constantly recording," says Michael Hodge, band leader at Lakewood. Hodge has endorsed Yamaha instruments since 1995, and says when Lakewood Church moved into their new arena-sized home, it was a good opportunity to bring Yamaha onboard. "Our relationship with Yamaha is just great. Technologically speaking, this is a leading edge facility. We recently brought in a number of people who are just amazing in their fields, including Platinum-producer Brian Tankersley (Shania Twain, Brooks & Dunn, Wynonna, Charlotte Church, Faith Hill, Sawyer Brown, New Song, Toby Mac). We beta-test for many companies — equipment, technology, computers, computer chips — because, basically, a lot of nerdy people work here," he laughs. The church places particular emphasis on mentoring young musicians and, with nine separate bands including the 11-piece band that plays in the main auditorium and a full-time rhythm section on staff at all times, opportunities to express and celebrate religious faith through music are quite prevalent.

Lakewood Church
A Yamaha 7-foot Disklavier grand piano is onstage in the Lakewood Church sanctuary, and a Yamaha C7 grand piano is in the recording studio. Each location also has a matching Yamaha 5-piece Absolute Birch series drum kit with a Paul Leim signature snare to provide over-dub consistency. To conduct its 18 to 22 sold-out arena events each year in venues such as Madison Square Garden in New York City, Lakewood Church relies upon Nuendo software, another Absolute Birch drumset, and Motif keyboards.

"The Disklavier is our main piano for the television broadcast, and it actually triggers a Rack-mount Motif, giving us amazing flexibility to switch to a full range of keyboard sounds. We never worry about leakage into the microphones during our broadcast and, if we have a concert, we can mic it up and it's fantastic. It's an amazing controller and a beautiful piano," says Hodge. "And, for second keys, we use a Motif for pads, organs and ear candy stuff. It is also a controller for a computer with software synths." Several Yamaha guitars (including a customized Wes Borland Signature electric and the AES 1500), and a number of Yamaha horns round out the instrumentation for Lakewood's popular TV broadcasts.

Hodge says the Yamaha C7 in the church's recording studio is "one of the best sounding pianos for recording I've ever heard." The Yamaha C7 and the Yamaha Absolute Birch drumkit are used in conjunction with Cubase and a giant Nuendo rig with the capability of recording 112 channels of audio for each broadcast.

"This is especially cool when you consider that between 90-112 channels of audio are all recording for about 90 minutes at a time for each of four weekend services," Hodge notes, adding "this includes our 11-piece band, choir and ensemble mics, up to about 19 wireless mics and about a dozen or so room mics. Nuendo works close to flawless. We are using four euphonics consoles all hooked up together in different locations and each has full access to Nuendo. This allows recording engineers to overdub vocals and edit horns, for example, while services are still in progress."

"Yamaha has a longstanding dedication to educating and equipping worship musicians and facilities, and offers the proper mix of quality instruments and outstanding technology to suit churches of all sizes. Turning to Yamaha is an easy decision for any church, from the smallest home-based gathering to worldwide ministries like Lakewood," says Mike Overlin, Manager of Worship Resources, Yamaha Corporation of America. "Many smaller churches do not have the technical staff that Lakewood Church is blessed with, so finding a brand like Yamaha that they can be comfortable with is invaluable when it comes to making purchases, particularly in new technology areas like digital consoles and recording technologies. Yamaha's broad range of musical instruments and audio products is affordable, available and applicable to any worship purpose."

Considering the panoramic scope of Lakewood's offerings and the requirements of its highly demanding production schedule, the range of Yamaha instruments, supported by state-of-the-art multi-site technology and musicians of the highest caliber, is a key component in the church's ability to successfully minister to a worldwide congregation. "The music here is just great," says Hodge. "Many of our performers are session guys from Nashville, and they're over the top. We look for musicians with great hearts that understand worship, love God, and serve people: that's obviously Number 1. To me, ministry life is all about relationships – and our relationship with Yamaha is a really important one. It's not just business as usual; we are serving and helping each other," he continues. "We are so grateful to Mike Overlin, Ken Dapron (of Yamaha Artist Services Hollywood), and all the guys we work with at Yamaha. They have always been kind to us and go out of their way to help. They are my kind of people. Yamaha is a great example of a company that is always thinking about the needs of their customers first."

For more information, write Yamaha Corporation of America, Piano Division, P.O. Box 6600, Buena Park, CA 90622; telephone (714) 522-9011; or e-mail

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