Organist Richard Willis Grant II, more commonly recognized as simply Ric Grant, believes that when God gives you a talent you give it back to Him and that’s how he has spent his life-giving back to God and giving back to others to honor God.
“If you enjoy hearing me play that’s awesome and I am glad, but I really don’t care for the praise because it’s more about giving it back to Him,” Grant said.
He did not come from a musical family; although his mother played a little bit by ear, but his attraction to the piano and love for music has directed his life.
Grant attributes his interest in becoming a pianist/organist at the age of six to the fact that both his Sunday school teacher and his first grade teacher, who was also the organist for his church, played the instruments.
“That was interesting,” he said.
Grant began taking piano lessons, and by the age of 12, was the musician for his church.
And like many others who were enrolled in piano classes, Grant said he learned the little songs and attended the festivals and received the little gold trophies for his efforts.
“I went to school with tons of people who got those little gold cups and now they can’t play Mary Had a Little Lamb,” he said.
Grant said he wanted more.
“The thing was, I wanted to really play well, (so) I made God a promise that if I learned to play well that I would give it back to Him,” he said.
The musical virtuoso said from that point he learned very quickly and later after the organist for the youth choir resigned, he taught himself to play the organ so he could play for them.
He even played the organ for his own baccalaureate service.
“I played the prelude and when they walked in, I went and sat with them,” he said.
Grant can read music and he can play by ear, and he admits that for church hymns he can usually play those without practicing.
However, for anything else he said it requires spending time tickling the ivories.
His wife Sherri said that’s only because he is a perfectionist.
“The religious hymns he plays are very important to him and what he’s giving back to God,” she said.
Grant added that the religious songs are his favorite pieces to play and for just that reason.
With regards to his playing and adding what he calls the “Baptist flair,” Grant said, “I’ll take the melody line, I’ll just look at the melody line and I’ll get the chords and I just make it up.” With a quirky smile, Grant said, “I’ve got 10 fingers and 88 keys.”
The Canton native and 1982 high school graduate did not set out to be a musician. His earlier aspiration was to attend Mississippi State and become an architect. He even spent his first year after high school working for an air conditioning contractor installing ductwork in structures trying to get some hands on experience.
However, a hunting accident in 1983 that resulted in the death of his younger brother, just three days before his brother’s 18th birthday, left him and his family in a tailspin. And he chose not to enter college right away. “I stayed home for a while, I didn’t go to school until I was 26,” Grant said.
He attended Holmes Jr. College before finding his way to Cleveland and enrolling into Delta State University in 1989, where he then majored in music and business. “It was a double major and it was tough.” Grant said.
The modest maestro said he enjoyed DSU and reflected on how picky he was about the music his professors assigned him. He said the amount of time he spent working on the pieces was determined by how much or how little he liked it. He would always try to get his instructors to play it first to see if he liked it. “If I don’t like something and it’s not pretty, I’m not going to work on it,” he said.
While at DSU, Grant played for several Baptist churches, one in Greenville, and two in Cleveland. He played for 20 years at his last church before coming to Indianola. So, just how did he end up in the Crown of the Delta? Heeding the advice of his mother.
“My mother told me to take the postal exam just in case I didn’t have a job when I graduated. I graduated on one day, started at the post office on the next, never went home, so that’s her fault,” he said jokingly. Grant’s job with the United States Postal Service transferred him to the Indianola office where he has been working as a postal supervisor for the past five years.
About four or five months after starting his new position, Grant was called to be the musician for First United Methodist Church and that allows him to pursue his passion, which is his love for traditional Christian music. “I just like high church, I just don’t feel like I’ve been to church until I’ve had an organ prelude and a choir that’s singing and touching me.”
Although he plays all types of music, Grant is typically not a fan of services that feature only one kind of music. “My thing is don’t make every service conform to a pop service to conform with the world and don’t make every service a traditional service and make them conform to that.”
Grant said he believes in having a service that appeals to multiple audiences. “That’s what happens here (FUMC), at nine o’clock we have a communion service and it also features a praise band and the dress is casual and at o’clock we have the traditional service. So, you have both that you can go to instead of having a service that is all one thing,” he said, when that happens, “You lose people.”
Grant said he usually rehearses at the church and not at home.
Sherri said, “I don’t know anything about music, so if he hits a wrong note I won’t know.” Grant asserted, “I don’t want anybody to hear me when I am practicing, I don’t want you to hear it until I am through.”
Even though he has a piano, keyboard and organ at home, Grant said he doesn’t play there unless he is working on a particular piece.
Growing up, he would move the piano back to the furthest part of the house, shut the vents and put towels under the door. “And try to make it as quiet back there as possible, away from everybody,” he said.
So, if you were to ask him which is his favorite, he would say. “I like the organ; it’s the king of instruments. I feel mighty when I am playing the organ, but if I want to play something with emotion and feeling, I do it on the piano.”
The accomplished artist could easily be playing in nightclubs and bands, but said that’s not what he asked God to bless him with so he doesn’t want to do that.
Instead, he plays for funerals and other services in addition to the monthly visits to the residents at Indywood Personal Care Home, because he likes touching people’s lives with his tunes.
“I am lucky that I was blessed with this ability and the best part about it is giving it back to others,” said Grant.
The dedicated musician is quick to divert attention away from him and to the source of his talent.
“It’s not about me playing at church, It’s about enhancing your worship of God.” He said music can make or break a service.
Both he and Sherri are also strong advocates for the Arts and feel as though they should be more prevalent in the schools.
“I wish more children would play,” Grant said. Unfortunately, his workload is so full that he doesn’t really have time to teach.
Sherri stressed that a gifted musician can takes somebody’s horrible day and make it better. All it takes is an attitude that you’re going to use your ability to bless somebody else.
She said, “With a gifted musician no words have to be spoken.”
The Grants touted music as the greatest form of self-expression, and said Grant can play what he’s feeling instead of saying what he’s feeling and not offend anyone.
If you were to sum up Ric Grant’s philosophy on life it would be, “I gave it back to God and He blessed me.”