Rachel Merrill

There are two things that inspire the passion for the things I pursue in life: my faith in Jesus Christ and my love for music. I am a native of Camden, NJ, born into a family with a rich heritage of preachers, civil activists, and musicians. These influences laid the foundation for my diverse experiences and accomplishments as a musician, and advocate for the underserved.

I am blessed to have the privilege of serving youth in Camden as Founder and President of Jubilee Music Enrichment A NJ Nonprofit Corporation. Its mission is to cultivate young leaders through the discipline of music training. The cumulative experiences of my life inspired the development of this organization.

The sounds heard in church every Sunday, streaming from the piano, moved me to beg my parents for piano lessons. At the age of eight, I commenced my first lessons. The classical pieces assigned by my teacher were usually put aside and practiced after I finished learning the gospel music I heard on the radio.  I remember the first opportunity I had to sing a solo in church. It was not a good one. I was nervous and in my mind I slaughtered the song. I was determined never to sing a solo again. Several years later, while playing piano for a group, I was encouraged (commanded) by one of my elders, to sing. I had no choice but to obey. My fear was replaced by the realization that my voice was a gift. As I trained and cultivated my gifts, opportunity was presented to use the power of my voice to touch audiences throughout the country and internationally including Vienna Austria, Israel and Russia. I enjoy singing classical, gospel and most of all, African American Spirituals. My love for the Spiritual, the stories of the overcoming faith of my people during their most difficult time in history, has led to an in depth study and teaching of the Slave Narratives. My CD, Great is Thy Faithfulness, features many of these beloved songs and some of my original compositions. I have directed numerous choirs and ensembles and have been recognized in “Dedicated to Music” a book that recognizes the accomplishments of South Jersey Musicians, commissioned by the Historical Society of New Jersey. I served as President of the Marian Anderson Music Guild, Inc., Board Member and 2nd Vice President of the historic National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. These experiences and achievements compel me to help youth to realize their abilities, to overcome challenges, and to create opportunities for them to succeed.

Growing up in a home where there was consistent modeling of the Biblical command to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and shelter to those in need fostered a desire to advocate for those who would be considered the least among us. I obtained degrees in Social Work and Bible from Philadelphia Biblical University and pursued a career as a Family Service Specialist for the State of New Jersey, Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), protecting the lives of children and advocating for families. Subsequently, I took a position with Communications Workers of America Local 1038 to help organize a campaign to establish caseload limitations for DYFS workers.  I collaborated with Children’s Rights Inc. to initiate the federal litigation for case practice and caseload standards reform in order to protect the rights of children in New Jersey’s child welfare system. I also served on the Governor’s committee for Child Welfare reform.

I am retired from the State of New Jersey and as President from the Union. The intense work in these fields have provided keen insight on the obstacles that would challenge the success of our children. This drives the passion to invest my knowledge, skills and resources, to create and support a path for them to achieve.  Jubilee Music Enrichment is what now occupies my time. The organization uses music to teach valuable life skills that will propel our children to accomplish great things. I often consider the words of wise King Solomon, “where there is no vision the people perish.” My vision is to see our children rise up, dream and succeed.