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music

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.

Returning Talents

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Organ interludes preceding gospel groups, multi-lingual prayers of the people, and the Word of God presented by a “hip hop liturgist”? These are only a few examples of the kinds of worship I’ve been able to experience and offer to God in my time at JBU.

God allows us to experience him in different and creative ways. 

Worship is meant to be creative. Gary Thomas, author of the Worship Arts textbook Sacred Pathways, writes: “Biblical figures of the Old and New Testaments confirmed to me that within the Christian faith there are many different and acceptable ways of demonstrating our love for God…. In fact, by worshiping God according to the way he made us, we are affirming his work as Creator.”

In this outpouring of praise, we meet with a multi-faceted God who does not lock himself in the cathedral or demand to be praised in the key of A major. Though in corporate worship we gather together as one unified body of Christ, he allows us to express truth and praise through our unique talents, interests, and contexts.

Over time as a Worship Arts major, I’ve learned that different people connect with God in different ways- whether that happens through joyful celebration, traditional liturgy, silent retreat, or thoughtful study. No one of these is better than another- God has created us uniquely. This is something to be celebrated!

May we find joy in our own unique encounters with God, as well as coming to value the ways our brothers and sisters seek God. Let us pray to continually appreciate variation and bless God through our special gifts.

-Rebekah

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

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.

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.