Helping communities across the state connect their heritage arts and traditions to local development, education, and active citizenship
Work In Progress
By Minister Roy Burroughs
Henderson, Vance County, NC
Skills: Demonstrating Artist, Public Presentations
Minister Roy Burroughs is a Vance County native, born and raised in Henderson. Burroughs’ parents both worked in area textile mills, and his grandfather farmed. As a child, the musician earned pocket money working in the fields. “My grandfather would say, ‘If you want money for the fair, you’ve got to go pick that cotton.' I heard that more times than I care to remember,” laughs Burroughs.
In 1969, the 11 year-old Burroughs entered a Battle of the Bands at the local high school. Impressed by his vocal performance, a group of older musicians from Halifax County sought him out, eventually drafting the young singer into their nascent R&B group, the Ebony Six. In time, the group was playing soul music on the East Coast club circuit every weekend. “I was in the seventh grade,” he recalls. “It still baffles me that my parents let me go. I begged, I cried, I pleaded, and they let me go.” Though Burroughs’ tenure with the Ebony Six lasted only two years, the lessons he learned during his time with the group are lasting ones.
“I’m still using those same tools with the people that I work with in my choir now. I still hear those guys [in the Ebony Six] in the back of my head every time I get up to sing.”
Following several years of intense personal struggles, Burroughs turned his life around and rededicated himself to his faith. In October of 1999, Burroughs began hand-picking members to form a multi-church choir as part of an appreciation service for an elder at his church, Jones Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Warren County. Out of this event emerged a new community choir, Work in Progress. “Our rehearsals are awesome,” he explains. “We have a ball and everybody's just who they are. There's no pretense.”
Burroughs takes his duties as the director of Work in Progress very seriously. There is a hardly a weekend when the group—widely considered one of the best community choirs in Eastern North Carolina—is not asked to perform at a church program. The group’s repertoire is a mixture of traditional hymns and contemporary music, all of which Burroughs arranges meticulously. “Music has always been in me,” he says, “and I suspect it always will be.”
Will consider all engagements with Work in Progress.