Monthly Archives

January 2015

Counting the Hours

By | Higher Education, Music, Music Education, Music Theory | No Comments

“So, how many hours are you taking this semester?”

This question is always really hard for me to answer. I know that what the other person really means is, “How busy are you this semester?” For me, those two questions aren’t the same. Being a Music Major comes with some strange and unique difficulties that make small talk like this difficult.

The hardest thing to explain about being a Music Major is that credit hours don’t always equal workload. While most of my friends are taking from five to seven classes, I’m usually enrolled in 10 or 11 class sections every semester. However, only four of them count for the standard three credit hours. The rest are classes like orchestra and choir and voice lessons that count for one hour of credit but require a lot of practice time outside of class. On top of that, there are always plenty of extra performance opportunities like musicals and plays and the small a cappella group that’s getting ready for the talent show, or the string quartet that’s playing for a wedding. As a result, a semester with 18 hours of credit can be lighter than one with 16. It all depends. It’s confusing, I know.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to having a lot to do. Sometimes when I get back to my room after a long day of classes and rehearsals and more rehearsals, I realize that I haven’t even started on my homework or practiced for my voice lesson the next day. I find myself wondering if I should have chosen a degree program that is less time-intensive.

But I stop myself there.

Somebody wise once said, “Nothing that’s easy is worth having.”

Someone else wise once said, “You should do what you love.”

Despite the quirks and challenges of studying music, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because I love it. I love learning more about the things I’m passionate about. I love the fact that the JBU Department of Music and Theatre feels like a family. Believe it or not, I even appreciate the hard work that stretches me intellectually. And at the end of the day, I look forward to waking up the next morning and doing it all over again.

So, yes, friends, it is a little bit crazy. But I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.

~Steven

Steven is a Junior, majoring in Music Education. He is one of two student conductors for the JBU Cathedral Choir, the Concertmaster for the JBU Chamber Orchestra, and a talented actor in many JBU stage productions.

Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me…

By | Music | No Comments

It’s after 5:00pm on a Friday.  We made it through the first full week of classes here at JBU.  The Cathedral Choir just left for their annual Spring retreat.  In a few hours, they will be immersed in music, working hard to be ready for their Spring Break tour.  Syllabi shock has set in for most of the students passing through the lobby.  The music office has already dealt with its fair amount of scheduling mishaps and near nervous breakdowns.  Anxiety is crouching around every corner.

But today, we choose peace.  Join us in singing this hymn as a prayer for our semester.  Chart and compass come from Thee.  Amen.

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

Blind To Darkness

By | Leadership, Music, Worship Arts | No Comments

I just walked back from the Chapel Preaching Team meeting that happens at the beginning of each semester. On any given Tuesday during chapel, you will find a faculty or staff member preaching, lecturing or sharing a testimony focused on a certain book of the Bible or theological topic. We do this in an effort to “introduce” a variety of faculty and staff members to the larger JBU student body and to demonstrate an integration of faith and learning, encouraging the faculty and staff to teach and share through the lens of his or her specific discipline or job. Every semester, I make it clear to these speakers that a student worship leader will be contacting them to hear more about the scriptural themes in the specific service and to discuss how music can be a part of presenting the Word of God that day. These points of contact are generally brief, with a few emails exchanged and perhaps a couple of songs suggested. While this process works quite well and closely mirrors the conversations commonly found in a local church context, it’s always exciting as an educator, pastor and artist when students decided, on their own accord, to dig in a little deeper.

In the Fall of 2013, Clint O’Kelley and Seth Kaye were scheduled to lead worship for Dr. Ted Junseok Song, a member of the Engineering faculty at JBU. They sent the initial email to ask about themes and song suggestions, and Dr. Seong asked to meet with them in person.

“He shared with us his heart for JBU to remember that, yes we are saved by grace, but we cannot forget that the Lord is holy and just and our sin is not something to be treated flippantly. Seth and I left that meeting being blessed by the Spirit’s presence in a meeting with a professor that neither of us had met before.”

And so they started the process of planning…

“We went round in circles trying to find a song that would make people slow down and realize that while we do have grace and restoration in Jesus Christ, our sin is something that can’t be overlooked or brushed aside.”

And when they came up empty, instead of landing on a generic song that “would work,” they decided to take a risk. They decided to write.

“The next week, we spent almost every night locked in the same practice room. These nights usually looked like the two of us trading off at the piano playing over chord progressions while the other was singing out melody lines or lyrics. We would make a big chunk of progress and then hit a wall in our writing.”

And they didn’t give up…

“Some nights, we would leave the practice room frustrated because we just knew we were on the brink of creating the next portion of the song, but our minds wouldn’t let us go any further. I recall many times throughout that week lying in bed and texting lyrics to Seth to pray over and think about, and he would do the same with me. One of my favorite parts of this whole process was how collaborative it was. Seth and I both had such a genuine desire to create something that was not only of good quality musically, but that also had a greater purpose than just being a good song.”

And, so, “Blind to Darkness” was born. Dr. Song’s chapel was one of the most memorable chapels of that semester, and the song continues to be sung and led at various chapels, churches, and retreats all over Northwest Arkansas.

“It has been almost a year since then, and we are still completely humbled and blown away by the response to this song. It never fails that tears roll down my cheek when I am in chapel and I hear the voices inside the Cathedral singing out those lyrics that were crafted in that small practice room.”

Many students and community members have asked where they can buy this song. It is my privilege to announce the official release of “Blind to Darkness,” written by Seth Kaye and Clint O’Kelley, performed by The Red Steps. You can find it on iTunes here.

It’s a song written by the Church, for the Church. May Glory be to God the Father, to His Son, Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Ghost. Now, and forevermore. Amen.


 

 “Worthy is the Lord our God.  He is pure and holy.

Sinners come before the throne to be reconciled.

Demanding that blood be shed, Death would take you only.

Redeeming your righteous Bride that you made out of wretched sinners,

blind to darkness, sanctified by Jesus’ blood.”

~Seth Kaye & Clint O’Kelley


Choosing To Be Known

By | Music, Theatre | One Comment

I discover a lot of life when I listen and watch from the background. Given a choice, I grab a quiet spot on the perimeter of a room and just observe.

I get a front-row seat to every story in the room—a guy delivers a pick-up line that falls flat; a little girl sneaks cookie after cookie into her little purse while her mom talks intently with a friend.

Occasionally, I’ll even catch eyes with another person like me. We’ll exchange quiet nods, and never need to say a word.  We understand each other.

Wallflowers like myself can be hard to know. Sure, it’s great to avoid the risks of being noticed.  Nobody laughs when I stumble over a rug on my way to the drink table, and nobody comments on my pitch when I’m singing in the shower.  Nobody can judge the person they don’t see or hear.

But if I’m really honest, there are days when I look back and wish I’d mustered the courage to be seen.

I’m proud of our department’s outstanding people and excellent academic record. Much like me, JBU MT (Music & Theatre) has flown under the radar—not many people know what we do, how we do it, and why.  And while we may have avoided the judgement that comes with the spotlight, we have also missed out on the beauty of being known.

Today, we choose to step forward and be seen.  Today, we choose to be known.

On these pages you’ll find reflections, discoveries, and stories from students, faculty and alumni.  In everything, you’ll find evidence of our passions for music, theatre, worship, liberal arts, and the Kingdom of God.  You’ll also find a lot of honesty, some laughs and maybe even a few tears.

So, join us.  Ask questions.  Walk a day in our shoes.

And we can choose to be known together.

~ Jen Edwards

Jen Edwards is the Head of the Department of Music & Theatre at John Brown University.