Jim Ayars has been singing for 45 years as bass in male quartets. He began singing with the Voice of Prophecy King's Heralds quartet in 1977. When the quartet left the broadcast in 1982, he continued with them, as they became an independent entity and ministry known as the Heralds. More recently, the quartet resumed the King's Heralds name, though continuing as an independent group apart from the VOP.
Ayars was born near and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. From his earliest years, he had a low voice, which meant that as a child in cherub choirs, he sang alto parts. When his voice changed in adolescence, he became a popular choice for male quartets. Although his range was limited at first, he was able to refine his singing and expand his range by studying with a number of teachers. Following one of his early performances, a singing of Grandfather's Clock for a PTA meeting, a music teacher observed, "That boy needs voice lessons." She then proceeded to give him his first lessons for one year free of charge.
He attended Grand Rapids Junior Academy and completed high school at Cedar Lake Academy in Michigan. While at GRJA, he studied voice at Grand Valley State College. When he attended CLA, he studied with music teachers Rolene Hanson and Cecil Lemon. He also had opportunity to study with Mrs. W.H. Neidlinger, who had been a vocal coach for the Metropolitan Opera.
After graduating from the academy, he enrolled at Andrews University, where he pursued a religion major and a music minor in piano. He continued voice study while at AU, studying with Minnie Iverson Wood off campus since she was not a member of the music faculty at that time. He considers Neidlinger and Wood as important persons in his vocal training. Both viewed singing as a natural process which should not be forced.
He enjoyed his music study at AU, particularly the instruction he received in music theory and sight singing from Norman Krogstad. He also did voice-overs with the university brass ensemble, which was conducted by Krogstad, and sang in the Collegians under the direction of Gerald Ferguson.
He graduated from AU with a BA in 1968 and immediately continued study at the theological seminary, completing his studies there in 1971. During his last year at the seminary he was an intern pastor at the Detroit Metropolitan Adventist church and, as he left the seminary, he pastored in Northern Michigan for three years. The rich resonance of his low voice and his singing became a part of his identity in those early years of his ministry. Beginning in 1974, he taught Bible and was campus chaplain at Shenandoah Valley Academy in Virginia.
Ayars had sung with quartets since the 8th grade. Every time the King's Heralds came to the area, he was there, ready to listen and learn. When at AU and the seminary, he sang in a quartet called the Campus Crusaders, which would on occasion sing with the King's Heralds when they came to the campus.
John Thurber, who knew of Ayars' singing, recommended him when Jim McClintock, bass in the King's Heralds, left the group in 1977. He successfully auditioned, but wasn't sure he wanted to leave the classroom. He had also been planning to begin work on a doctorate. Although he initially declined, they kept urging him to come, asserting that they knew of no other option.
After conferring with his family, who initially opposed the move, and praying with them about it, his son Eric finally observed that he thought it was obvious that God wanted him to go. At the end of the school year, the family moved to California. Ayars immediately left with the quartet as they began their summer travels to camp meetings. His first appearance with the quartet survives as a vivid memory:
I will never forget my first concert, standing up there, scared out of my wits. My mouth was dry and my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth. I was thinking, "I'm going to ruin the reputation of this group on my first day!"
Ayars sang with the King's Heralds for the next five years. In 1982, when the VOP discontinued the quartet as part of its broadcast, he stayed with the group, which renamed itself the Heralds. There were challenges as the quartet established itself as an independent entity and established its ministry both in the Adventist church and in other venues outside the Adventist circle of institutions.
They traveled to China in 1985 as part of a cultural exchange program with the U.S., the first Christian group to do so. As an independent ministry apart from the Adventist church, they have had numerous opportunities to perform for other Christian groups, including the Baptist World Alliance, the National Religious Broadcasters' Association, the Christian Booksellers Association, and many others.
They perform for meetings scheduled by the Adventist church, as well. It is an active concert schedule with five-week tours and performances every weekend, except one a month. A typical year will include over 100 performances. Beginning in 2003 they have traveled annually to Africa to present both music and evangelistic sermons under the auspices of Global Evangelism.
Still singing in the group, Ayars is also presently working on a Ph.D. in systematic theology at Trinity Theological Seminary. He plans eventually to return to pastoring and/or teaching. In either instance, he will continue to be active in evangelism.
For forty years he has been gathering information which he now presents in a four-day seminar on the evidence for Christ as a historical person. He draws on extensive archeological and extra-Biblical materials which establish that Christ was an actual historical figure and that His resurrection is the most attested event in all of ancient history. He has given this presentation many times, both in the U.S. and elsewhere, including Japan, Australia, and Africa.
Source: Interviews, February 2005