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Dear Mrs. Dromi…

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

Dear Mrs. Dromi,

I attended your faculty recital tonight. I must admit, I came primarily because it was required of me. I supposed that was the case for a few of us tonight. The whole “Recital Attendance” course has never really been my favorite part of being a Music Major. In fact, I’ve been guilty of conquering multiple levels of Candy Crush during several of these “culturally broadening opportunities.” However, tonight, I feel there are a few things you should know about how your recital impacted me.

First, as you were in the middle of your second German set, I realized that your diction had been and continued to be impeccable. You talk to me a lot about diction in our lessons – how it is a part of musical excellence, how it communicates story and how it enhances and propels melodic phrases and lines. I get it now. I know I’ve told you that I understand in my lessons, but I really understand now. Watching you do what you teach and seeing how much that small detail changed the entirety of each piece, took my cognitive understanding to a higher level and birthed an emotional understanding that I believe will be invaluable.

Second, your French set was breathtaking. I mean, truly breathtaking. It could be the romantic in me, but hearing you sing this music reminded me that you are not only a teacher, but you are also an artist. The precision of your intervals mixed with lines and phrases that told every story left me teary in my seat. I could hear your voice in my head telling me that good technique would give me the freedom to really be an artist and reach deep places in people. Again, I get it now. I also get that all of tonight’s recital must have taken an insane amount of preparation. You must have spent the majority of your summer preparing for this. I don’t think you had to do that, but I’m really grateful that you wanted to. It was really inspiring to see that performing and making music is such a high value for you. I love that you still want to be an artist in the midst of teaching and mentoring the rest of us.

Finally, I really want to thank you for being so accessible to us tonight. As you sang your encore piece, I was taken aback by what a privilege it is to know you as a person. Tonight, we watched you and your sister perform for the first time together an entire (very ambitious) professional recital. We watched your family file into the center section of the auditorium, already proud of their daughter, wife, mother, and friend. We watched your father walk to the stage and give congratulatory flowers to his two daughters, and if we were watching closely, we saw the almost tear that he wiped from his right eye. You even let us listen in as you sang a lullaby to your children. Tonight, you weren’t just a JBU faculty member delivering a memorable performance in terms of difficulty of literature, professional artistry and near flawless technique. Tonight, you were a woman who chose to be vulnerable with a room full of people in hopes that they might experience beauty. Thank you for that.

I’m really looking forward to our lesson next week. Thanks for your willingness to help me be better. After tonight, I realize you could have chosen a much more glamorous path. Thanks for choosing us.

Sincerely,

Your student

Beginnings and Endings

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3A5A9049As the school season draws to a close, many students are preparing for a summer break, filled with internships, travel, and adventure before coming back to JBU in the fall.

For some students, however, this is not just the end of a semester, but the end of a life season.

As the years go by, the JBU Music and Theatre Department is obligated to say goodbye to students who are preparing themselves to graduate. It is with mutual joy for our graduates’ success and sorrow for the department’s loss JBUMT bids these incredible students farewell.

We have asked a small collection JBUMT graduating seniors for a word of wisdom to share with other current JBUMT students, incoming students, and prospective JBUMT students.

They responded with the following:

“Something I want to pass on — something I have learned through my experiences in the music department at JBU: Never let the fear of failure hold you back from building relationships with someone who intimidates you [or confuses you], learning new things that you may or may not end up enjoying or being successful at, or becoming better at things you think you’ve already mastered. At the end of the day, the choices that are the most difficult or risky or uncomfortable are the ones you will look back on and never regret.” – Jenna | Music Education

“Singing is my talent; I’m using it for God’s glory. What is your talent and who’s glory are you using it for?” – Seth | Vocal Performance

“If I were to say something to incoming and current students, it would be this: While you’re here, BE here.  Be with the people, take advantage of spontaneous fun and invest.  Embrace challenges, whether academically or personally, and be thankful for the humbling experiences that the Lord uses to sharpen you.  It is an incredible journey!” – Olivia | Public Relations, Drama

“Enjoy every single second in college, and take advantages of being in college, JBU. Do everything you want while you are here so you don’t regret after you graduate. College friends last forever so don’t lose them” – Jo | Worship Arts

“Go for everything. Audition for things you think you’ll fail at, take classes you think you’ll hate, talk to people you think you’ll annoy. You might have been right, but regret is worse than failure. Also, wash your socks & call your mom. She misses you.” – Kaitlyn | Cathedral Choir member, 2014 Best Actress in a Musical, 2015 Best Actress in a Play

John Brown University Music and Theatre Department graduates, we thank you for leaving a legacy. May the Lord ever bless you and keep you, and may His face shine upon you.

A Call to the Lionhearted

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

BeBrave

A blank page is a beautiful thing, don’t you think?

It’s fresh, opportunistic, and challenging. It’s a space that’s capable of becoming anything.

Okay, maybe a blank page doesn’t always seem so exciting–at least, not to me. But, it’s my suspicion that I’m not alone in ever having felt intimidated by a blank page.

Does a blank page, with its blinking cursor or its empty blue lines, look overwhelming to you?

Does it look like the song that you’ve held in your mind for years but never transcribed? Does it look like the paper that you have to write by tomorrow, but feel incapable of finishing? Does the intimidating blankness look like all the things you’ve wanted to write and accomplish, but have never felt capable enough to complete, or even start?

No ability. No talent. Mediocre.

Perhaps your self-criticism swirls endlessly in your mind, and all the while that cursor blinks at you–no words on its left side, no ideas on its right side.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

Perhaps you echo it with words confirming your self-doubt.

“I can’t.” “I can’t.” “I can’t.”

And perhaps, by simply looking at that blank page, you become increasingly aware that you’re not good enough.

You’re not capable enough.

You are worthless. 

And, isn’t it that continual rejection that we fear? We fear seeing our own inadequacies on paper, in black and white. We sit in that fear, marinate in it, and do anything to escape it, including sliding the mouse to the “X” at the top corner of the page, shutting down the computer program, crumpling up the paper, and avoiding the notion to write anything at all.

Do you want to know something strange? Every successful songwriter, novelist, playwright, or poet that I have ever studied has had trouble writing. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that it really doesn’t seem strange at all that most writers struggle with writing.

You see, I’ve found that writing is more about courage than ability. You might think that you are incapable of writing that song, lyric, script, or novel.

But I think you’re wrong.

It is my sincere conviction that you do, in fact, have the ability to write–and not just write, but create–beautiful things.

William Wordsworth once said, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

Allow your heart to overflow onto the words of your blank page. They don’t have to be well-constructed words; they must only be authentic words. 

You see, we all have very important stories, memories, and experiences to share–stories that come so naturally to our minds and hearts that they feel as simple as breathing. And this, dear friend, is where you must begin–have the courage to breathe in and breathe out the things of your heart.

One of my favorite moments in the children’s novel The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is when Aslan, the mighty and gentle ruler of Narnia says to Susan, “You have listened to fears, child. Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?”

You have listened to fears, child.

Be unafraid. Be vulnerable enough to expose yourself to failure and rejection in the exchange of speaking things that simply must be heard.

And may the things that we speak be uttered in praise to the Lord.

It is time to inhale the breath He has given to you, and let it make you brave, once more.

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
Pour out our praise to You, only

Pick up your guitar.
Place your fingers on the keys.
Put your pen to the paper.

Breathe in, and be brave.

 

– Chelsea

“Great Are You Lord” – All Sons and Daughters
© 2012 Integrity’s Alleluia! Music

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