Rickie Byars has gone from singing with such jazz artists as Pharoah Sanders, Roland Hanna, and the New York Jazz Ensemble to composing and performing for the Lord. The leader of the Culver City, CA-based Sound of Agape Rhythms, a multi-ethnic group she founded with her husband and songwriting partner, Reverend Michael Beckwith, Byars has helped promote the music ministry of the Agape International Center of Truth, home of the Agape Church of Religious Science. Born and raised in North Carolina, Byars displayed musical talent as a youngster. After studying with choir directors in segregated churches, she received several scholarship offers to attend East Coast colleges. Turning down the offers, she elected to attend Morris Brown College in Atlanta, where she studied composition. Moving to New York, Byars became an in-demand session vocalist, appearing with many of the city's top jazz musicians. She continued to perform jazz until relocating to Los Angeles in the early '80s. Shortly after her move, she was invited by Beckwith to form a choir. A year later, she began her songwriting collaboration with Beckwith, composing a lengthy litany, "Eternal Dance Music." Byars has continued to pursue a solo career, as well, having released two memorable solo albums, Deeper Love and In the Land of I Am, which was produced by former Michael Jackson, Kenny Loggins, and El DeBarge producer John Barnes. An experienced workshop facilitator, Byars is a frequent contributor of articles published in the Agape Vision newspaper, Inner Visions, daily meditation guides, and an Internet magazine, Spirit Matters. She received an honorary doctorate degree in music from the United Church of Religious Science. In 1996, the church awarded her its first-ever Arts award.
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