For Ocoee resident and Take 6 group music member Khristian Dentley, music is everything, and performing with Take 6 in the “This is Jesus” concert means the world to him.
“Music is, for me, an opportunity to allow the sunshine of God’s love to emulate everything and everyone,” he said. “That’s why I love this — the idea of the whole ‘This is Jesus’ concert, because I get to do what I love in front of the people that I love for the One that gave me the gift. (Music) is everything, it brings people together, different nationalities, different cultures. Everybody doesn’t like apple fritters, everybody doesn’t like Popeye’s chicken, everybody doesn’t like sushi. But music is this thing that has the ability to unite and connect everybody without saying a word. You can play a song, and it touches everybody, and I love that.”
Dentley was born and raised in South Carolina, a place he believes helped shape his persona and his character because of the charming hospitality that sets it apart from other states in the country.
“I’m really happy about that,” he said. “There is something about Southern hospitality and the Southern charm that really equips people in their upbringing to be just genuinely nice. … I love the fact that there’s a warmth in my person and my character, and it was shaped from being born in South Carolina.”
MUSIC AND MINISTRY
Dentley grew up surrounded by music on both sides of his family as well as ministry. The son of a pastor, he grew up attending church and playing music alongside his father since age 9.
“For me, it was almost like (music) is the code that God wrote into my family’s DNA, so I didn’t have to search hard,” he said. “I remember my first solo in church … my dad, he would show me what to play, and I remember singing a song, and nobody knew that it was me. They would be looking around for the person who was leading the song and they saw me — this little guy whose head could barely get over the organ. And … I remember not only how that felt for me — the joy that it gave me to be able to do this in (that) space, but also how the people’s faces looked, the joy that it gave them. So, I use music to make people smile.”
Even though his parents were not formally trained in music, they were blessed with the gift to be able to share their melodies with those around them for generations. Dentley did attend — for two years — the Dillard Center for the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, where he completed his junior and senior years of high school.
“That changed my life, being in a space … designed to enhance, pour into and help you nurture the gifts in you, regardless of whether that’s music, dance or drama,” he said. “That was my first time ever being in a space where not just my family supported the music but (also) my teachers and the administration. Everything pointed to you finding your gift.”
A songwriter in every sense of the word, Dentley takes all the lessons life has taught him over his years in this world to reflect and depict all of what he’s learned — with its ups and downs — with the hope to connect with everyone he shares his music with. An example of this is a song he composed in 2015 he called “The Scale,” Dentley’s favorite song he has written to date.
“I actually wrote it when I was in the middle of my divorce, and it was a song that reminded both, me and the people that hear it, of how much God loves you,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you are experiencing, what you are going through, why you’re going through it. It’s just that His love is extremely strong and that when I sing it, it has the ability to reach people wherever they are. It talks about sliding down the scale and just when you thought that you reached the end, you hear the voice or your familiar friend, and He clears the scale and lets you start again.
“That means a lot to me because I know what that felt like,” Dentley said. “When you are going through something in life and you feel like you’ve let yourself down or you feel like you’ve let your family down or the world down, there is somebody who understand you and that love you anyway. And His scale is different than yours, and He has the ability to put you back where you belong.”
Dentley plays the piano and the drums, and he can dabble on bass when necessary. However, when he sits down to compose and write a song, his go-to instrument is the piano.
“I feel like I go into my little space, and I write from my heart, and then I bring my heart to the group (Take 6) and they embellish it,” he said. “So, I bring a song to the group and Mark Kibble, who is our main arranger, will take it and make the arrangement. And then, we all sing and it’s magic.”
Dentley was not always part of Take 6 — an American a cappella gospel sextet that was formed in 1980 in Alabama. Take 6 performs medleys jazz with spiritual and inspirational lyrics, and it has been awarded 10 Grammys, and 10 Dove Awards and was nominated for the NAACP Image Award.
The first time Dentley made contact with the group was in 2000. He was 16 and had attended a Fred Hammond concert. Suddenly, he found himself backstage, helping set up the keyboards and sound system. He attributes this to the Hammond shirt he was wearing that day and his music background.
“Never in my life would I have imagined that I would be a part of this incredible musical legacy,” he said. “I can’t honestly say that I was driven to be a part of the group, I’m just the kind of guy who uses what I have and whatever happens, happens.”
Four years later, after he had completed his college studies, Dentley was working in a call center and had a gut feeling he was meant for more. So, he reached out to Kibble and asked if he could send a song — not a demo — asking him if he believed he had what it took to be an artist.
“If I (didn’t,) I’d rather know (then) and (I would have) adjusted my expectations,” he said. “Well, that was when they were looking for somebody to fill in for the baritone at the time, which was Cedric Dent, and it was a moment where I knew that this was the reason for me being born. I didn’t have to pray about it or anything, I was like, this is the opportunity that all the years of preparation were designed for, and that day had to happen. I think that if people would take more risks, then they would see more reward in their life, honestly.”
A natural tenor, Dentley adapted to singing the baritone part of the group, and he loves it.
“It’s great because I never lose my voice,” he said. “I always get the chills in the concerts, because I’m the cello — the low range. And that’s specifically the part that makes some of the harmonies special. … I can sing all parts, but with the guys, baritone is my sweet spot.”
Dentley has been a fan of the group since he was a young teenager and becoming one of the guys — as he calls it — didn’t come formally until 2011, when he received a call while he was at a golf course in Orlando. They asked him if he wanted to, formally, be a part of the group — and not just a fill-in.
“It was at that moment something clicked,” he said. “Now, it’s a totally different space. It’s literally like when you go to get married and you’ve been dating for all of these years. At that moment, when the preacher says, ‘I now pronounce you man and wife.’ That’s like, ‘Oh my God, this is it.’ That’s what that moment was for me, and it was like, ‘OK, we are committed. They are committed to me, and I’m committed to them.’”
Dentley’s favorite song to perform with Take 6 is “I Got Life/Spread Love,” because it contributes to the group’s purpose: to spread love to those who are listening.
THIS IS JESUS
This is the second time the group was invited to perform at the “This is Jesus” concert that will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center.
“This concert means so much to me — not just because I live here in Ocoee, in Orlando, and it’s coming here and I get to sing here in front of my home team,” he said. “But (also), because it’s sharing the truth that I know with the people from this place that I love to let them know, ‘Hey, it’s not that you’re this horrible person that God is mad at.’ It’s like, ‘Let me reintroduce you to Jesus. He loves you.’”
Take 6, “The Voice” season 9 winner Jordan Smith and Tecla award winner Blanca will join forces to deliver renown tunes within the contemporary Christian music community.
“This concert is going to be phenomenal,” Dentley said. “I love the fact that it’s a representation of really how much God loves you. I’s like the sun coming out after a hurricane. It’s like, with all of the things that are going on in the world — the devastation, the atrocities, the mass killings and the wars and all these other kind of things — to have this brilliant, beautiful ray of light that gives us hope, that’s what this concert is.”
Staff writer Andrea Mujica covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. When she’s not on the sidelines, you can find Andrea coaching rowers at the Orlando Area Rowing Society in Windermere.