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JBU Music & Theatre

Hello, my name is Chester…

By | Chester, Music, Music Education | One Comment

Hi! My name is Chester Wubbena, and I am the mascot and therapy dog for the Music & Theatre Department at John Brown University. I am around four years old, a Corgi mix, and I was adopted from the local animal shelter two years ago by Jan and Terri Wubbena, teachers here in the music program at JBU. I LOVE coming to JBU; the students LOVE me coming to JBU; and I provide a very important service. I go to classes when there is going to be a test. Hanging out with me in the first few minutes of class helps to lower their blood pressure and their stress level. I really believe I help them relax and better concentrate on what they are doing!! I put smiles on the faces of everyone I meet, because I am always smiling.

Life in the Department of Music & Theatre is always busy. Something is always being prepared – the freshman drama production, Homecoming Showcase, music for the Gathering on Sunday nights, the musical theatre production, Candlelight – and the list goes on. But things are never so busy that there isn’t time to talk, to visit, and to share with each other what is going on in our lives.

From time to time, you may hear more from me. It will be an honor for me to give you a dog’s perspective on what it is like to be in the Department of Music & Theatre! And, if you are ever on campus and want to brighten your day (and mine), come see me. I’m most always in my dad’s office.

God I Look to You

By | Leadership, Music, Theology, Worship Arts | No Comments

God I Look to You (circle)James 1:5
“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given to you.”

This Tuesday in chapel, guest speaker Hadden Wilson challenged us to ask for the wisdom of God and not of the world so that we may better lead and love others.

God I look to You
You’re where my help comes from
Give me wisdom

You know just what to do…

May we seek wisdom in all circumstances.

© 2010 Bethel Music

Getting Out of the Pew

By | Leadership, Liturgy, Music, Theology, Worship Arts | One Comment

“I am much more comfortable right there in the pew”

Lea Finder sheepishly said this on Sunday night at the Gathering, nearly as soon as she walked on stage. And it was one of those honest moments that hits you so hard you make this weird sort of “grunt of agreement” sound, and then you nod a lot—at least I did anyway. Then I thought…

“Am I much more comfortable here in the pew?”

While observing services at a local church, I noticed that there appears to be a lack of congregational participation through out the service. Other than singing or laughing at the pastor’s jokes about the Seinfeld clips he uses to relate to the sermon, there is an understood notion of “I stay here in my seat with my coffee, and I watch, listen, and sing. Boom.” So there is almost a learned sense of…

“I am much more comfortable here in this chair.”

During the Reformation era of the 16th century, Martin Luther challenged the ways of Catholic Europe. Interestingly, one of Luther’s many reforms had to do with congregational participation during the worship service. He proposed the adaptation of Gregorian chant, secular art music, and even popular tunes into strophic four-part harmony set in the vernacular German text. This encouraged the congregation to participate more by making the music more accessible to the people. These works were called chorales and are an example of balance between being led and singing all together.

Eventually, over time, this idea of creating accessible liturgy for the church by adapting forms of pop culture contributed to all sorts of different congregations reciting creeds, prayers, calls to worship, and other things together. The congregation became an active part of the service by accepting an invitation to join in worship with the body of Christ. Today, however, there is a natural lean towards pursuing individualism rather than togetherness. Perhaps we have forgotten the beauty and power brought on by the Reformation?

So often I go into a service with a terrible attitude. I am focused on trying to avoid that weird mom who talks a lot or that person I forgot to text back about helping out with the youth group. I just walk in, grab coffee, and go to my seat. This is such a limiting, comfortable way to approach worshipping as a body. I don’t even think about my brothers and sisters that surround me. I like my space.

It takes great faith to learn to get up out of the pew, as Lea confessed. It takes great faith to choose to add your voice to the hundreds of voices around you and throughout history and to believe your voice matters.

“Lord, here are my hands. They’re small, they’re small and

Here are my hands, they’re small and trembling.

Here are my dreams, they’re me protected,

Here are my dreams, so please be gentle now…”

~Aaron Niequist (A New Liturgy)

 

Lord, use us today for the good of your Kingdom. Guide our thoughts, words, and actions in every encounter we face, so that we may know you more and consider all other gains as loss. Let us grow tired from sitting comfortable, and give us the strength to stand up and join in with your body.

 

~Hannah

Building Blocks

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

Sweat was gathering on my brow. I was sitting in musicianship class, trying not to look directly at our professor, who had just given me a pitch from a pitch pipe and was waiting for me to begin. All I had to do was sing this sight-singing exercise, but the heat of the moment made it seem so much more difficult. If only I had practiced more last night!

I decided the only thing to do was to give it my best shot, and that’s what I did. It wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t terrible either. And it was better than last time, which was the important thing. Something I was doing in practice was paying off, even if only a little. Somewhere in those late night sessions of trying to figure out what was going on in this harmonic dictation, or which prepared sight-singing exercises I was going to neglect preparing, or why we had to go this in-depth with musicianship anyway, I was actually learning something.

That something was musicianship skills, and they have showed up in my study of music ever since. As hard as it would have been for me to believe at the time, everything I was doing mattered. Learning to read simple lines with solfege would give me a leg up on learning tough pieces in choir. Reading multiple cleffs and trying to understand harmonic dictations made me more prepared to play hymns in class piano. And learning to practice even when I didn’t want to has made me a more competent musician in every way.

It wasn’t just musicianship, though. My experience in Music Theory classes has helped me, too. Whether analyzing a piece in Music History, or harmonizing a melody, or writing an aural analysis of a piece performed in a recital, a deeper understanding of the basic workings of music has given me the ability to succeed at every point along the way.

While it wasn’t easy, it was worth it. I’m glad I worked through the tough classes in the first two years of my music major. Not only has it given me valuable music skills, it has given me the motivation to work hard in the rest of the hard classes I have yet to take.

~Steve

Ash Wednesday

By | Music, Theology, Worship Arts | No Comments

Wonderful Cross

Today, Ash Wednesday, begins the season of Lent. This period is one of preparation for the celebration of Easter observed through prayer, penitence, and fasting, so that we may die to self and set aside time to reflect on the life, death, and resurrection Christ.

Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live…

“The Wonderful Cross” © Lowell Mason, Jesse Reeves, Chris Tomlin, J. D. Walt, and Isaac Watts

Pride and Prejudice

By | Higher Education, Theatre | No Comments

Today, I got a sneak peak at the preparations for the upcoming JBU drama production, Pride and Prejudice. I also had the chance to ask some of the actors a few questions about their experience in the show so far. Watching the novel come to life on stage made me extremely excited to see the final product. Already, the production is brimming with life, wit, and charm. The cast has dedicated themselves to portray their characters with all the color that Jane Austen intended, and their work is paying off.

Joel, cast as Mr. Collins, told me about the process of bringing his on-stage character to life: “My favorite part of preparing for the show is probably figuring out which of my lines have great potential for comedy, and using different body language than I normally would.” Every small detail is important. Joel has spent a long time refining the “postures, motions, and facial expressions that distinguish this character from others I have portrayed.” Today I could see that each actor was striving for their own set of emotions and expressions that make their characters unique. Alec, who is playing Mr. Darcy, explained his character: “He is not a character you can judge from the outside alone, and I think that applies to many people in the world.”

The play is definitely taking shape, but there is still much work to be done. With less than two weeks until production, Kaitlyn, who is playing the role of Mrs. Bennet, understands the pressure of limited time. “Right now we’re trying to cram as many lines as we can into our heads,” she told me. Memorizing lines is a challenge in any play, and Pride and Prejudice is no exception. Joel explained that the dialogue for this show contains “difficult and wordy language that we no longer use,” which makes memorization even more difficult. The show places demands on the backstage crew as well. Joel also told me, “There will be no black-outs or scene changes that occur without lines. The lighting crew has a great task set before them, and it will be fantastic to watch.”

Despite the challenges of the production, the cast is enjoying themselves. In addition to the usual fun that accompanies acting on stage, Kaitlyn told me, “We’ve also discovered the joy of rapping in our British accents. Such fun!” Putting together a show like Pride and Prejudice requires a cast that is willing to band close together, and that closeness often creates lasting friendships. “At JBU specifically, the hearts of the cast are always what make the production so enjoyable and memorable,” Alec told me. Kaitlyn agreed: “I’ve been in shows with a lot of these people before and they’ve become some of my best friends.”

The biggest takeaway of the day? This show is going to be great. Alec called the script “a very fun and entertaining version of the novel.” Combine a great script with a great cast, a great crew, and a great director (Jan Lauderdale), and you have the recipe for a fantastic show.

In the words of everyone I interviewed, “You don’t want to miss this show!”  In fact, click here, and buy your tickets now!

~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.

Songs That We Sing

By | Higher Education, Music, Oxford Adventures, Theology | One Comment

“These are the songs that we sing, to make the day better.” – Matt Costa, “Songs We Sing”

Saturday morning I woke up late (like, three hours after I had been planning on getting up) and groggily pulled myself out of bed, still wrapped up by terrible dreams, still worrying about work I hadn’t finished, and conversations that had said too much or not enough the day before. A depressing heap of dirty laundry sat at the foot of my bed, a heap composed of every piece of clothing I’d brought across the Atlantic except for one formal dress, a few scarves, and two sweaters. Those were still marginally “clean.” I needed to buy laundry soap (and to buy groceries for the week while I was out: bread, eggs, milk, bananas…), to respond to that professor’s emailed question, to catch up on emails from friends that I had somehow still not gotten to answering…. I sat blearily on my bed, and some voice in my mind began to sing a little ditty that I had made up a few days before as I biked up the steep Headington Hill, coming home after a long day of studying and lectures. The lyrics go like this:

[Verse 1a]

It is dark

And it is cold

And my fingers

Are trying to hold

Onto

These frozen handlebars

 I rummaged through the laundry pile for something that was clean-ish, mumbling vaguely-coherent morning prayers, and glanced at the stack of books that I had to read, at least one of which is already overdue (I’ve only been here two weeks; how have I already managed to forget to renew a book?). So, like a mature adult, I didn’t do anything and scrolled through Facebook and Instagram. Then I didn’t read my Bible and shuffled downstairs to find something for breakfast, still hearing the now-familiar tune in my head:

[Verse 1b]

It is dark

And it is cold

Oh, why was I so bold

As to think

This was a good idea?

This was clearly not a good idea.

Breakfast is a good thing (scrambled eggs, muesli in yogurt, hot coffee mixed with hot chocolate powder). There are friendly people, conversations, dishes, and laughter, and I somehow manage to partly engage and still partly remain in my own unhappy head, singing my unhappy song:

[Chorus Part A]

But I’m here now, aren’t I?

I’m afraid, and I’m alone.

I’m here now, aren’t I?

Singing about my woes.

Though I could stay and linger with my cup of coffee-cocoa and talk with people, I don’t. I carry my isolated self to my third-floor room and, still lacking the energy to read Scripture or pray properly, I plug headphones in and listen to Krista Tippet’s interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a program titled, “A God of Surprises.” The fifty-minute conversation ranges across Tutu’s spiritual influences, the Truth and Reconciliation Council, forgiveness, apartheid, racism, and overall, a God who is in the business of putting things right. Near the end of the interview, there’s this exchange:

Ms. Tippet: …I think people might look at you and the life you’ve lived and also, you know, the bad things that continue to happen in South Africa and all the rest of the world, and say, “This guy says this is a moral universe?” And there’s this line you’ve just echoed, you’ve written so many times, “God is in charge,” and they might also say, “How can he say that?” I mean, tell me, you’ve been saying God is in charge for a long time, for decades. And so what do you mean when you say that and what that means to you, has that changed? Has that evolved? 

Archbishop Tutu: Well, I mean, you must add that I’ve sometimes said to God, “It would be nice for you to make it slightly more obvious that you’re in charge.” [laughter]

When the program ended, I pull out my headphones, take the stack of books in my arms, and head to the “typing room” (computer lab). As I thud down the stairs, I finally finish the second-half of the chorus, the final two lines that had been resisting my attempts to make them fit the way I wanted them to:

[Chorus Part B]

I’m here now, aren’t I?

So what am I to do?

But keep pedalling

And crying out to you.

Because that’s all I really know to do: to bring myself to God and say, in a very basic way, “I’m unhappy. Please help.” And perhaps the strangest, deepest mystery of faith is that my prayers have been answered. Not in clear-as-sunlight ways. But in, choose-to-have-eyes-of-faith ways. When I suddenly understand the significance of Handel’s switch from opera to oratorio. When a connection is made and an acquaintance feels like a friend. Being invited into an unplanned dance-party in the kitchen after lonely hours studying. A warm radiator to lean against after a cold bike ride. Someone asking, “How are you?” The opportunity to ask another, “How are you?” The strength to get out of bed in the morning. Seeing a friend via Facetime. Hearing a song I know.

Tiny answers to tiny prayers that give me the energy to keep pedalling (and, when the way gets very steep, the humility to step off my bike and push it the rest of the way up.) It’s not much, but it’s enough. The point of today is not to accomplish a lot of things but to echo Tutu and every other biblical prophet and say, “God is in charge.” And then, to prove my belief by doing what I’ve been given to do: essays and groceries and people and emails and paying my overdue fine. And I am comforted in that.

Biking to the Wycliffe Library, about a fifteen minute ride down a hill, over speed bumps, across a field, and on the bike path, I composed and sang Verse 2:

Today the sun is shining bright

Sending sad thoughts

Into flight

Like pigeons,

Startled by my bike.

 

So I’ll raise my head up high

And drink in that blue, gorgeous sky

And praise God

for his tender mercies

For truly, they are

tender mercies

 

[Chorus]

Because I’m here now, aren’t I?

Not afraid and not alone

I’m here now, aren’t I?

And grace is what I’m shown.

 

And I’m here, now asking,

What am I to do?

But keep pedalling

And singing praise to you.

~Jewel

Jewel is Senior, majoring in General Music.  Jewel is spending the semester studying music and literature at the University of Oxford in England.  She is an accomplished cellist and is very involved with the Chamber Orchestra at JBU.