Standard for Christian movies needs improvement

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Often, after seeing a Christian film, there’s one comment that reoccurs in post-movie discussions: “That was a great movie,” someone says, “… for a Christian movie.”

That last little phrase irks me. Not necessarily because it’s inaccurate – (it’s often very accurate, and sometimes I’m the one saying it) – but because of what it implies.

The phrase implies that Christian movies can be judged by a different standard than most films.

Initially, this might seem like a good thing. Christian films should be held to a different standard than other films, since we are called by God to do everything we do in order to serve and please God, rather than people. And so, in this sense, the remark that a movie is a good Christian movie is a compliment.

Unfortunately, there’s a difference between a movie that is “a good Christian movie” and one that is “good, for a Christian movie.”

These two very similar phrases have two very different implications.

While the first phrase implies the movie is good and also Christian, the second phrase carries a more demeaning implication. “It was good, for a Christian movie” implies the same kind of backhanded compliment that could be found in other sentences that use the same grammatic structure.

Saying that a female athlete is good, “for a female athlete”, carries the unspoken implication that when compared with all athletes – male and female – she is no longer good enough.

Similarly, saying that a Christian film is good compared to Christian films, implies that it’s not worthy of comparison with mainstream films.

It suggests that Christian filmmakers produce a lower quality of work than main-stream filmmakers.

Even more unfortunate, this suggestion is typically accurate.

Christian films frequently fall short of the quality standards of mainstream fi lms.

This is partially due to the budget limitations of smaller Christian indie films compared to Hollywood-backed film budgets. But it is also partially due to failures of plot and storytelling.

It is easy for Christian films to oversimplify their storylines – writing fables, or apologetic arguments in the disguise of stories. And while sermons and fables are generally good things, the movie theatre is not usually the most effective venue for them.

Many of these films try to wrap up their plots into a pretty little bow in the two hour time span of the film, by telling the story of a huge problem that was easily cured by God.

Take the 2015 film “90 Minutes in Heaven,” for example. The film tells the story of Don Piper – played by Hayden Christensen of Star Wars prequels fame, who dies in an accident, goes to heaven, then comes back to life and endures a grueling physical recovery process while battling depression.

Yet near the end of the fi lm, his entire struggle with de-pression is cured by a single inspirational conversation with a Christian friend, and in the closing scene he gives an inspirational speech, urg-ing his fellow Christians to believe that God really does answer prayer.

Although this particular film is based on a true story, this basic plotline is perhaps one of the most common of all Christian movie plotlines. Despite the detailed character work of Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth, the film lacks the level of artistry required to acknowledge all of the conflicting aspects of physical and psychological recovery.

And like many Christian movie endings – the physical healing and cure for the character’s depression depicted in the film offers Christian moviegoers a reminder of the Christian hope, but potentially turns away others.

When most people attend a movie theatre, they don’t go in order to learn moral lessons, they go to be entertained and perhaps to experience empathy with the characters on the screen – think of your friends who talk about their favorite films being so good they cried, for example.

Moviegoers know that they live in a messed up sinful world, and trying to tell stories to them that promise conversion to Christianity as the wonder drug for all their problems won’t change their minds.

These filmmakers mean well, but their films are unlikely to be viewed or thought highly of by audiences other than converted Christians.

Instead, Christian films should tell high-quality stories that can only be told through film.

Telling an honest, gripping, detailed and nuanced story is an incredibly powerful thing but in order to achieve this we need to tell not just the success stories, but the failures.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with telling stories such as “90 Minutes in Heaven,” we just need to make sure that we’re also telling the stories of those who’s prayers do seem to go unanswered.

Telling both of these kinds of stories is important for three reasons:

1). It allows Christians to see a Christian world-view applied in a context that they can relate to, no matter if they’re on the mountain top in their lives, or going through a valley of sin and suffering with no end in sight.

2). It shows the rest of the world that Christians are relatable human beings, by acknowledging that the answers to life’s struggles are not easy for Christians.

3). Most importantly, it glorifies God by building respect for Christian film-making in non-Christian and mainstream circles.

If we can tell nuanced stories that truly acknowledge the difficulties of life, we show the world we can do better than, “good, for a Christian movie.”

We can make good Christian films.

Graphic design student present senior art show

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Spring is a busy time of year in the OBU art building, as many senior students present their final art show.

This month senior graphic design major Matthew Giudice II’s art show is on display in the building’s gallery April 13-25.

Initially, many of the works in the show might seem simplistic, however, many of the pieces in the show carry a magnetism hidden in them that draws and keeps the viewer’s attention.

According to Giudice II’s artist statement, “I am always striving to portray all things through my lens in their most positive light. […] I use my camera as a means to learn about the world and the people around me.”

These little insightful hints at the nature of subjects, gives Giudice’s work its compelling depth.

The show poses a clear contrast with the other shows that have been recently displayed in the building, with its darker, bolder color scheme and emphasis on photographic work.

Giudice II has been a photography enthusiast long before his time at OBU. According to Giudice, “I have always had an interest in photography. Any family trips we took I always brought a camera and made sure I took plenty of photos.”

Across from his artist’s statement, a collection of nature photography is shown.

This collection includes two works – “Sunflower” and “Leaf” – close-ups of simple golden plant life, they are brought out from their backdrop through camera focus, leaving the green nature that surrounds each work’s subject in a haze of green, brown and pale blue-grey.

In the next room, however, Giudice’s artwork truly comes into its own. Here his photography showcases his use of negative space.

The silhouette work of “DNA Picasso” on one side presents the shadowy figure of a person against a white backdrop, and in the other neighboring image by the same title, a similar figure can be seen – however, this greyscale image contrasts the light striking the subjects face with surrounding darkness.

Nearby, Giudice’s “Luke Garner” photography captures the movement of a motorcycle rider in black and white panning photography.

The streaked back-ground of the image permeates the sense of movement in the photo.

While these works feature the contrast of black against white, other works play with the contrast of color – especially red-oranges – against darkness.

“Luke Garner Silhouette” places the black outline of a motorcycle rider against a blazing orange sky.

This darkness that permeates much of the artwork, draws the eye instantly to a few sparse features that leap outward from the plainness of the backgrounds.

In “Strange” spirals of brilliant golden light show against a black background, while “Colorado Sunset” displays a lowering sun outlining a few sparse colds in liquid gold as orange light floods over grey hills.

Sprinkled amidst these works are several sports action photos, shot with a skill that suggests his preference for sports.

“My main focus is in flash photography and sports,” reads his artist statement.

Several of these sports images are also shot as brilliant full-color figures against a black backdrop, returning the pattern of negative space visible throughout the show. Yet while the display emphasizes Giudice’s digital photography work, it does not limit itself solely to photography. An example of his graphic design work can be seen in a packaging mock-up titled “Aunt Ginger.”

Nearby on a table in the center of the gallery, examples of Giudice’s screen printing skills can be seen beneath several samples of his film photography.

On another wall, a painted portrait can be seen, that captures with loving detail “Mr. G” in the form of oil on canvas.

Throughout his senior show, Giudice’s sparse and selective use of color controls the viewer’s focus, and creates a sense of energy and vibrancy that engages viewers imagination.

In his artist statement he wrote, “I hope you enjoyed it and feel inspired.”

This show is certainly one that viewers will leave full of energy and perhaps a little inspiration.

Orchestra celebrates Hansford’s final concert before retiring

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

The OBU Division of Music will soon bid farewell to one of its longest-serving individuals.

Dr. Jim Hansford has already been retired from his role as of Burton H. Patterson Professor of Music for quite some time. However, this spring the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra’s spring concert marked Hansford’s retirement from his role as the orchestra’s director and conductor – a role he has filled since the group began 20 years ago.

“We have been so lucky to have Dr. Hansford here at OBU,” junior music education major and flutist and piccoloist Lauren Rivers said. “He truly cared for each and every member in the orchestra and the fine arts program would not be the same if it wasn’t for all of the years and wisdom he put into this program.”

Other students agree.

“Dr. Hansford is a dedicated musician and has given so much time to help this orchestra, I say this because he deserves to be recognized as this is his last concert,” freshman worship studies and women’s ministry major and second violinist Alethea,” Jade Coffey said.

Hanford passion for music has fueled his long career as a music educator and conductor.

“Just seeing Dr. Hansford conduct, it is evident that he loved music and loves being a director,” Coffey said. “His passion for music just reminded me that no matter the age always do what you love.”

This same passion for music shows in his enthusiasm during rehearsals.

“He would get so excited when a piece came together, as we have so many instruments that it is very easy for one little thing to go wrong,” Coffey said. “He just gets so excited for the little victories.”

All of the little victories the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra makes helps the students in the orchestra develop artistically.

“I have enjoyed seeing the growth of the orchestra,” Rivers said. “Throughout my time in the orchestra, we have made tremendous progress throughout the music we have played.”

Hansford encourages the students to take on difficult musical tasks.

“During the time I’ve been in the orchestra, Dr. Hansford always challenged the orchestra,” Rivers said. “This last year, he had me playing the piccolo part which has been extremely challenging. After a lot of hard work, I have learned to enjoy this instrument and I owe it all to Dr. Hansford.”

The OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra is a joint musical effort of OBU students, faculty and community members that was founded by Hansford. The ensemble comes together in weekly rehearsals to prepare for its performances.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we only meet once a week which isn’t always enough time to put together an entire concert,” Rivers said.

Like many OBU music ensembles, handling these scheduling difficulties in one of the largest challenges the group faces, especially during busy parts of the spring semester.

“Some challenges for be-ing in the orchestra this year was mainly trying to juggle the degree, homework, study sessions, and practicing all in a week or even on days or rehearsal,” Coffey said. “Yet Dr. Hansford was very understanding of life getting in the way but made sure we kept up the amazing standard that the orchestra has.”

This spring, as it bids its director and founder goodbye, the orchestra prepared for its spring concert 7:30 p.m., April 26, in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium. The concert featured many pieces that hold a special place in Hansford’s heart.

“I decided to include several of my favorite musical works for this final concert with the orchestra,” Hansford said in a press release April 16. “Upon reflecting on my 46 years as a band director, I have programmed a couple of my favorite wind band works that have been transcribed for orchestra.”

The works performed included a variety of musical styles, ranging from John Barry’s “Somewhere in Time,” to Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” to Alfred Reed’s “Russian Christmas Music.”

“This year has gone by so fast, we have performed and are preparing to perform so many amazing pieces,” Coffey said. “They all emphasize different instruments and are completely different.”

After the performance, a reception was held to celebrate Hansford full retirement from the OBU faculty and staff, and students also planned a surprise for their director.

“The orchestra has planned on having all the members sign a framed picture of the orchestra,” Rivers said. “Many members have also put together money for a gift card.”


D’Emilio to complete debut year as full-time faculty

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Newly hired as a full-time assistant professor of music at Oklahoma Baptist University, Kelsey D’Emilio has set up her office to be nearly as soothingly cheerful as she is. Visitors and students stepping into the office are greeted by the sight of soft pastel paintings, a large pastel floral painting on the wall, Victorian-esque chairs and a table lamp surrounded by a shade of little teardrop-shaped prisms.

“She has the greatest office in Raley, I think,” professor of music and dean of the Warren M Angell college of fine arts, Dr. Christopher Mathews said. “It’s like out of a magazine or something, you know, it’s beautiful.”

The close of the spring 2019 semester marks the conclusion of D’Emilio’s first year as a full-time faculty member at OBU, although she has served as an adjunct professor at OBU, prior to joining full-time for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Yet originally teaching was not originally something she expected for her career.

“I never really thought of teaching as something that I’d want, or thought I knew how to do, I guess,” she said. “Even though my masters is in pedagogy and performance, I was really performance driven the whole time. So, it was a new adventure for me – to do that professionally.”

After starting as an adjunct, at OBU, she found that she enjoyed teaching at the college level. “The first day, I was sitting there, and I came home, and I absolutely fell in love with this,” D’Emilio said. “This is the greatest job in the world.”

The journey that led her to the role of collegiate assistant professorship was a winding one, although she knew she loved music from a very young age.

“I always was like a kid, [who] sang and hummed before I spoke, like as a kid. So I [always] was attracted to music,” she said.

However, at first, she was self-conscious about her voice.

“I didn’t sound like any of the kids in choir at church,” she said. “And so, I didn’t ever sing out in church choir – because I sounded different.”

It was only a little while later, that she began to confidently embrace her singing ability.

“I was in the car with my parents. And they put on an album that was, had an opera singer on it, but singing something, not from an opera, but like she was singing operatically,” D’Emilio said. “And I [thought], ‘Well, I can do that.’ I was about 10, and my parents said ‘Okay, sure.’ Then I started singing like myself, as opposed to making my voice sound differently like the other kids sing in choir.”

D’Emilio then started taking voice lessons.

“Finally, when I decided to not compare myself or change myself, I was able to pursue the gift that God gave me,” she said.

Now, as a voice instructor and music professor, she helps students embrace their own natural voices.

“As humans, it’s really easy to compare ourselves,” D’Emilio said. “And then that’s how we feel about ourselves – it’s just the comparison, which is not ideal for something.”

These kinds of comparisons can give music students inaccurate ideas as to what their singing should sound like.

“It can be demotivating,” she said.“It can give us false expectations, what our voice should be able to do,” D’Emilio said. “God made each one of us uniquely. And what we need to do is bring out who He made.”

She encourages students to consider their voice as part of being fearfully and wonderfully made.

“Our voice is a gift from God, and to try to alter it, or change it or compare his gift to another gift that he’s given,” D’Emilio said. “It’s just not something that I encourage them to do.”

For D’Emilio, that incident singing along with an operatic singer in the car as a child helped her begin to realize her vocal potential. It also helped spark a love of opera.

“It’s just a really exciting and powerful medium of art that I feel I really just connected with,” she said. “It’s the whole experience.”

Like other art forms, opera centers around the human experience.

“[Opera is] human stories. written and performed by humans,” she said. “It just happens sometimes to be in another language; it happens to sometimes be in a style that’s from another musical era and they’re just told so beautifully.”

As an Oberlin College and Conservatory student, D’Emilio trained as a classical vocal performer.

“I knew from a young age that that that was my calling was something in music,” D’Emilio said.“And I thought at the time it was performance, I just didn’t realize that my stage would eventually be the classroom and not the operatic stage alone.”

After getting her master’s degree, she moved back to Oklahoma with her husband.

“We both were pursuing professional opera careers and then he wanted to go to law school,” D’Emilio said. “And so, he moved us here to Oklahoma, so I could be near to my parents.”

It was in Oklahoma that D’Emilio started teaching voice.

“I went out to lunch with one of my old musical influences,” she said. “Now, friend, previously teacher, and the Holy Spirit was kind of sitting in on our conversation.”

A week later, she received an email from OBU offering her a job as an adjunct faculty member.

One of most difficult challenges for D’Emilio was developing how to grade vocal work.

“Quantifying vocal growth in a letter grade, I think that was something hard to kind of make something subjective, objective,” she said. “And so I’ve gone through making a bunch of rubrics, and that’s been really helpful.”

One aspect of the work she feels strongly about is encouraging students to enjoy their work.

“Oftentimes, the work that needs to be done can overcome the original thing that brought us to music which is to sing for the joy of God,” she said. “I always ensure that my students [think of] 10 reasons why [they] love singing for [their] next lesson.”

This view of music as for the glory of God can be seen in D’Emilio’s own life and work.

“Her love for Christ is evident when she sings, and when she teaches and when she walks down the halls,” Mathews said.

While students may have difficult times in their studies – especially at the end of a long spring semester, it’s about continuing to try.

“You know, you can climb the mountain, you can just do it one step at a time,” D’Emilio said. “But you have to take the first step.” “

OBU hosts spring University Chorale concert, bids Ballweg farewell

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

OBU Burton H. Patterson professor of music and director of choral activities Dr. D. Brent Ballweg directed his final University Chorale concert Apr. 16.

Ballweg will retire from higher education this summer, to take up a position as associate director and conference liaison for the American Choral Directors Association in their national office located in Oklahoma City.

“I’ve been involved with ACDA for my entire career, those 37 years on the side of volunteering,” Ballweg said.“And I’ve had a bunch of leadership positions in the state, and our regions and national organization and so now, I’m going to be on the flip side, and helping all the folks do the things that I used to be doing in those volunteer situations.”

Known to many of his students as “Dr. B,” Ballweg has served at OBU for nine years.

“He’s played a big role in my life,” senior theatre major McKenzie Reece said.

Reece studied under Ball-weg both in University Chorale and OBU’s acapella ensemble, True Voice – another vocal ensemble directed by Ballweg.

“I have loved getting to work with him and grow with him, underneath him as a student,” she said. “He’s helped me be a more collaborative singer, but also have the confidence, and him and his wife, Mrs. B, they’re like the parents of the Chorale.”

For Dr. Ballweg, the best part of his time at OBU has been getting to know and work with the students.

“It’s always going to get back to the students, to the singers and just the personal relationships that I’ve had,” he said.

At the close of the Chorale concert, the choir sang “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” by Paul Manz. Performing the piece at every show is a tradition that Ballweg has shared with his students both at OBU and at other schools.

“We’ve sung the same benediction song for all these years. The last song we sing is a motet by Paul Manz […the] text comes from Revelation 22 and so that’s always very special,” Ballweg said.

The piece has a special place in the hearts of both the students, alumni and Ballweg.

“I’m so proud of all the work that we’ve done,” Reece said.“And what this group has done over [my] four years [at OBU]. The hardest piece that I think will be singing is ‘E’en So, Lord Jesus.’ That is our anthem as the Chorale. It’s our motto. And it will be very emotional to sing that for the last time.”

Every year when the choir closes the final spring concert, alumni are invited to attend and to join in singing with the choir.

“I’ve [also] let it be known through social media and such that any some Southern Nazarene University Chorale members in the area come to the concert, we want them up there as well,” Ballweg said. “So that would be pretty special just to see a lot of former members of both places.”

Ballweg taught at Southern Nazarene University for 10 years before coming to OBU.

The performance provided a chance for students from multiple schools were Ballweg had taught to come together and celebrate his career achievements.

During his time at OBU, Ballweg taught numerous music class, directed University Chorale and True voice, and taken both groups on tour around the country.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, he led a group of University Chorale students to perform in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

“There’s always been some wonderful performances. […] I think of last year when we sang […] in Carnegie Hall,” Ballweg said. ‘Okay, New York City, that was pretty special for a lot of students.”

Other memories include performing in OBU’s annual Christmas performance.

“I think of several performances of ‘Messiah’ during the Hanging of the Green; they’re very special because I love that work, I love that style,” he said.

OBU Division of Music hosts student recitals

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Watch the TV screens in the GC or cafeteria for very long, and the plethora of music events this semester becomes quickly noticeable.

Campus is halfway through the semester and student recitals are gearing up.

Over the course of the next month, OBU will present student recitals including Marlee Tate Voice Recital April 5 at 7:30 p.m.; Isaac Reel Composition Recital April 9 at 7:30 p.m.; Jonathan Deichman Trombone Recital April 18 at 7:30 p.m.; Sydney Mathews Voice Recital April 25 at 6:00 p.m.; Mitchell Manlapig Piano Recital April 25 at 7:30 p.m.; Reagan Clark Voice Recital April 26 at 7:30 p.m.; and Emily Wright Voice Recital April 27 at 7:30 p.m.

Each performance will present musicals works from a number of musical styles.

The reason behind student recitals is two-fold: to fulfill music major graduation requirements and to share what they have learned with their friends, family and community.

“It’s the capstone experience for students’ applied lessons they’ve taken throughout their college career,” said Dean of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts and chair of the division of music Christopher Mathews.

All music students are required to hold at least a senior recital.

“You would have studied in most cases with the same professor for three to four years. And then the culmination of that is a […] public performance individually, of your repertoire,” Mathews said.

The length and content of the recitals vary by students’ major areas within music.

“Depending on the area, the level of study, it might be 30 minutes, it might be up to an hour long,” he said. “And it’s just a demonstration of the development of your skills, the breadth of repertoire that you know, […] level of comfort.”

Since the recitals are based around the student’s primary instrument or music composition if that is their focus of study, the recitals include a wide variety of musical styles.

“I will have a big band playing on one piece and most importantly this is a bass trombone recital,” senior music arts major Jonathan De-ichman said. “Bass trombone is a more obscure instrument that people haven’t heard of before so it’ll be something new for a lot of people.”

Even non-performance majors must still complete the recital requirement.

“We keep the standards for performance high, though, regardless of what degree, so the music faculty has said,” Mathews said. “And [it] is in accord with our accrediting body, National Association of Schools of music, that regardless of degree we want students to demonstrate a depth of knowledge and a proficiency in one performing area.”

The performance benefits non-performance music majors by giving them a larger understanding of music as a whole.

“In any of our degrees, but specifically, in this case, music, we’re always concerned with both breadth and depth,” Mathews said.

The recital process presents students with many challenges that require them to grow as a student in order to successfully perform.

“It’s helped with my expression, endurance, and routines for practice and warming up,” Deichman said. “[…] It builds character, as you are trying to push yourself and strive for a specific goal.”

Students must also learn to handle stage fright for their recitals.

“Having to deal with nerves, having to do with your perception of yourself, all of us wish we could be a little better,” Mathews said. “All of us think that someone else’s more talented. And so, I think having to wrestle through, number one, that you really are talented, that you really aren’t gifted, that you’ve worked hard, and that God has given you all in the abilities and gifts that you need to be successful.”

This understanding helps prepare students for graduate music programs.

“If they go to graduate school, they’re going to still be studying in an area; they’re going to always be performing,” Mathews said. “Students of music will always perform at some level.”

For example, OBU faculty members still perform, in faculty recitals.

“One of the elements of the faculty recital is inviting students to join us in the profession,” Mathews said. “And so, as you develop as a career musician, and a career music educator, you’re asking students to come along with you, right, so every faculty member that’s here give a recital, at some point.”

The exact performance expectations for students does vary depending on the students’ specific major.

“Music education students […] only give one recital, and typically they’re a little bit shorter, depending on the student’s desire and ability level,” Mathews said. “Versus a vocal performance, or a piano performance student, who is going to give two recitals that are full-length recitals.”

Music composition students represent a selection of their own compositions often performed by other students, although they might perform some of their works themselves.

All the student recitals allow students an opportunity to celebrate their achievements during their time at OBU.

“The recital provides opportunity for friends and family members to get together and say ‘you really have done good work’,” Mathews said. “‘We’re really proud. We’re impressed with what you’re doing

Bison Hill Jazz Festival to feature Grammy-nominated trombonist Steve Wiest

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Trombonists Steve Wiest’s life has taken him on a journey from school band music, to multiple Grammy-nominee. This April he will have the opportunity to share what his experience has taught him with as the guest artist for OBU’s Bison Hill Jazz Festival.

Thursday, April 4, The Festival provides educational opportunities for local jazz music programs.

“We are sort of a hub for the Shawnee area for jazz,” assistant professor of instrumental music and director of Bison Jazz Orchestra Justin Pierce said. “When band directors want advice on helping their jazz bands get better at their schools or students are looking for a place to audition, you know, one place they look is OBU. So, this offers us a large-scale opportunity for us to reach out to local students.”

This year’s Festival draws participants from many local schools, including Shawnee High School, Midwest City High School, Crossings Christian School, Grove Middle School and Shawnee Middle School.

For OBU’s students, the Festival provides the opportunity of learning about the event administration process.

“That’ll carry them into their careers as an educator,” Pierce said. “Just becoming great at carrying out administrative events which being a band director is one of the most administrative heavy jobs.”

Both visiting students and OBU students will also have the opportunity to learn from the Festival’s guest artist: Steve Wiest.

“The biggest blessing for me about the OBU Jazz Festival is seeing our students get to work with world-class guest artists, and knowing that they’re going to carry that experience into their professional careers,” Pierce said.

This year’s feature guest holds multiple Grammy-nominations for his musical work and has performed and worked alongside such Jazz legends as Maynard Ferguson, and Doc Severinsen.

Wiest is currently a Co-Chair of Jazz Studies at The University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.

However, his musical career began in circumstances that are quite relatable to OBU students.

“I began playing trombone in the school band program in Hattiesburg, Mississippi,” he said.

Shortly afterwards he became certain he wanted to pursue a career in music.

“My true beginnings as a writer-performer were when I put together a ‘garage band’ where we played the popular eclectic mix of tunes of the 1970s and I added horn parts […]” he said. “It was such an amazing feeling writing music and then getting to play it myself along with my friends.”

Then he moved on to study music in college. “At [university] was my first mentor, Raoul Jerome, who also taught Tom ‘Bones’ Malone (of SNL, David Letterman and Blues Brothers fame),” Wiest said. “Raoul [Jerome] made sure that I had my foundation together in music theory and the jazz tradition.”

Jerome introduced Wiest to many other musicians.

“I had the all-important opportunity to work with some amazing people in my undergrad professionally including Bob Hope, Rich Little, Nelson Riddle and many others,” Wiest said.

College had a large impact on Wiest’s musical career.

“Thanks to college, I essentially had been exposed to all of the most vital aspects of the music before I even began my full-time career,” he said.

He continued writing and performing after college, before an unexpected opportunity came along.

“Fate smiled down upon me when Maynard began a tour in Chicago after a large portion of his band quit,” he said. “After the top-call trombonist in Chicago turned down an offer to join [Maynard’s tour], I got the call and jumped on it. Being with Maynard Ferguson has brought me virtually everything that I now have in my life.”

After the tour with Ferguson, Wiest’s musical career took off.

He has worked and performed with numerous groups and individuals including The Doc Severinsen Big Band, Ice-Nine, and Vinyl Hampdin – a group which Wiest’s website describes as “a modern rock-pop-funk group with an incredible vo-calist.”

Now, while still a member of with Vinyl Hampdin, Wiest has returned to higher education – this time as a professor.

“It is an honor for me to be helping students here at The University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music in the same way that Raoul Jerome and Maynard Ferguson helped me,” he said. “What a joy to pay good stuff forward!”

His full career in music has taught Wiest many lessons. At the Bison Hill Jazz Festival, OBU students and community Jazz Bands will have the opportunity to gain of his knowledge as well.

One aspect that Wiest considers important for students is to find balance in their careers.

“Learn to ‘survive and thrive,’” Wiest said. “‘Survive’ as in research what it will take financially to support your desired lifestyle… then make it so! ‘Thrive’ learn what your artistic soul needs. Then make sure to always nurture that creative need.”

Although Wiest holds multiple Grammy nominations, he acknowledges that musical technique alone is not the only thing important for musicians.

“There is nobody who plays well enough to be a jerk,” he said.

Students and community members will also have the chance to hear Wiest perform Thurs. evening April 4, 7:30 p.m.

“Justin [Pierce] has put together a wonderful set of classics as well as new works,” Wiest said. “A very exciting aspect of the show will be that we also get to showcase OBU’s own Paul Stephens on trumpet. Paul is one of the great lead trumpet virtuosos on the scene today having performed with Maynard, Chicago and a long stint with the world-renowned Jazz Ambassadors just to name a few!”

OBU Theatre attends KCACTF Region 6 Conference

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

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Last week, a group of seven OBU students and three faculty and staff members loaded into two vans and drove to Abilene, TX.

They were on their way to attend the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Region 6 Conference February 23-March 1. The weekend after their return, several of the students shared thoughts about the trip with The Bison via email.

Freshman theatre and accounting double major Emma Greathouse reflected on her first time attending KCACTF Region 6, theatre major Grant McGee described attending the festival for the first time as a junior, and senior theatre major Chase Hendrickson discussed the experience of his fourth time at the conference.

Below are some of their responses, lightly condensed and edited for clarity.

The Bison: What were some of the blessings of going to KCACTF Region 6 this year?

Greathouse: I was able to connect more with the members of the department that also went to KCACTF. Also, I learned many skills that will be incredibly helpful as I continue in a Theatre major such as auditioning skills, stage management skills, and working in a large theatre.

Hendrickson: Personally, I’m glad I was able to go to the festival in the first place. I have been going to KCACTF every year since I was a freshman (and not even a theatre major at the time, but that’s a story for another time). So, I’m glad that I was able to round up my time here at OBU with one more trip.

McGee: My scene partner and I were selected to move on to the semifinal round of Irene Ryan’s, which was simply amazing. We weren’t expecting to move on past the preliminary round. Another blessing was seeing how much everyone was achieving at the festival. I especially liked reuniting with people I hadn’t seen since high school.

The Bison: What were some of the toughest parts of going?

Greathouse: Personally, as part of the Honor Crew, I was required to be there at 6:30 am every morning to help load in and load out shows that were being presented at the festival. While being part of the crew was a blessing, it was hard to run on only a few hours of sleep but still be present that early in the morning. Being mentally present was important because safety is the most important thing and the load ins often involved using the fly system (which can be danger if one is not aware of their surroundings). Overall, it was a positive experience, but it was definitely challenging.

Hendrickson: The toughest part that I have found is making sure to stay on top of the classwork that I am missing by coming to the festival. Since it’s a school-sanctioned event my absences are excused, but I still have to find the time to get it done during some downtime at the festival.

McGee: Irene Ryan’s were definitely difficult, because there was a lot of work to be put into the acting. It was pretty stressful for me, and I lost some sleep because of it.

The Bison: What are some of the things you learned?

Greathouse: I learned many things at the festival this year including operating an automatic fly system, auditioning skills, how to correctly write performance and rehearsal reports (for stage management), and the best recipe for Totally Washable, Non-Toxic Stage Blood.

McGee: I learned just how truly diverse the theatre community is, even among other college students. I also learned that it’s important to be as coordinated with your partner as possible, whether that be in acting or color-coding.

The Bison: Describe something that surprised you about KCACTF Region 6 this year.

Greathouse: Something that surprised me at KCACTF this year was the vastness of backgrounds, talent, and choices made by those around me. There is a huge vastness of talent from our region, and it was surprising and wonderful to see how God blesses humanity with good things, even if the people He blesses are unaware of the fact.

Hendrickson: What surprised me the most was how much easier it was to network at this year’s festival, as compared to previous years. In years prior, the festival was hosted at Angelo State University in San Angelo, TX. And so, you would have various areas where various workshops and competitions would take place, but you were also surrounded by a bunch of normal students that weren’t there for the festival and so it was a lot harder to see someone that you had met earlier in the week. Having it at a convention center meant that we were the only people there and were a lot more compact. So, it was a lot easier to run into people that you had met during the workshop earlier that day, and that is what I experienced this year.

McGee: I was surprised by the sheer amount of people that were at the festival. It was so refreshing to see hundreds of fellow thespians in the convention center. OBU has a relatively small theatre department, so it was crazy to see jus this many more people there could be working on a singular show or representing a university.

The Bison: What was your favorite memory from KCACTF Region 6?

McGee: Watching my close friend, Caleb Frank, perform at the final round of the Musical Theatre Initiative. He sang beautifully and was engaging the audience spectacularly. I was and am very proud of him, especially since he placed third overall!

Greathouse: Three of my favorite memories would be (1) the laughter, pure enjoyment, and fun moments that happened in various workshops, restaurants, and experiences throughout the festival; and (2) the costume parade. OBU was given the opportunity to display three costumes from the fall production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was fun to see reactions from others backstage about the costumes. One woman even asked for a picture before we went on. It made me proud to display the hard work of the costume department and have it appreciated by people who understand the hard work and preparation that goes into each costume. (3) The final memory that I will treasure for a long time is a prayer meeting we had as a department on the second night of the festival. We had just learned that two of our teams had advanced, one to Irene Ryan semifinals and one to MTI finals. We took ten minutes, sat together, and prayed.

Theatre is often looked on as being very liberal and inappropriate, but this week, we were able to show the light of Jesus Christ through our interactions, our character, and our choices.

We wanted to make sure that we had our focus on glorifying God, not ourselves, and it was a sweet moment of unity and togetherness for our team.

The Bison: If you could only say one thing about KCACTF Region 6, what would it be, and why?

McGee: KCACTF is worth the cost. While the trip may cost a bit from your wallet and time away from classes, I say it’s worth it because of how beneficial it is to get involved in the events at the festival. You never know what’s going to happen!

Greathouse: It was a crazy week, it was a hard week, it was an amazing week, and it was worth it.

Bisonette Glee Club to tour Oklahoma, Texas

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

OBU’s Bisonette Glee Club will head out on tour for the first time in three years Thurs. March 7. 

The Bisonettes take their music on the road to share it with a wider audience by singing at out-of-state churches and schools,” senior English major and president of Bisonette Glee Club Melody Pierce said. 

We haven’t been on tour since 2016 so this is new for most members. The four-year members have the opportunity of reliving fond memories from three years ago. 

The ensemble will perform seven times before returning to OBU late Sun. March 10. 

Performance locations include Dickson OK High SchoolEra TX High School, Lamar Baptist Church in Arlington TX, Southwest High School in Fort Worth TX, Woodlake Baptist Church in Carrollton TX, First Baptist Church in Possum Kingdom TX and First Baptist Church in Altus OK. 

Because of the full schedule, the trip is an intensive music experience for the students. 

I find the major benefit for me is the way the music will become part of us — singing it 7 times in 4 days makes it part of your soul,” professor of music and Bisonette Glee Club director Dr. James Vernon said. “I love seeing the students make it their own.” 

Performing seven times in four days can be tiring for students. 

The greatest challenge is exhaustion,” Pierce said. Singing several times a day and traveling a lot is not easy for anyone. Another challenge is the trip away from school–on the tour bus there will be several girls at any given time working on papers and reading and studying for tests. 

However, Pierce agrees that such continual interaction with the music, improves the ensemble’s musical ability. 

There is nothing like our final performance of the tour where we know our songs best and are also the most exhausted we can be,” Pierce said. “It is difficult and beautiful all at the same time. I see it as our best performance. It is also the point where I feel closest to my fellow Betties. 

The group tries to make sure that students have the time and space they need to study despite the busyness of the trip. 

They have to miss a couple of days of class, and for some, some work opportunities,” Vernon said. “It is also hard to study and concentrate on the bus, but we try to minimize the distractions to students and get them to use the travel time to their advantage.” 

Students will also have time to relax and enjoy the trip. 

There are also times for the Betties to rest and grow closer to one another,” Pierce said. There is always a lot of laughter involved. 

Sat. March 9, in the middle of the tour, the group will have a break from performing. 

“On Sat., we will tour the Fort Worth Museum District, then take in a musical at the famous Casa Manana Theater there,” Vernon said. 

These kinds of events allow the members of the group to grow closer relationship with one another. 

My favorite part of tour is spending time with other members of the Bisonettes,” Pierce said. We’re comprised of a diverse range of majors so often the only time we are together is during our hour-long rehearsals. Tour gives us an opportunity to spend more time together and get to know each other better. 

The travel also gives the Bisonette Glee Club the chance to perform for different audiences than their usual audience at OBU. 

Any time you travel together, it creates an entire new set of experiences for students,” Vernon said. “They are also singing to different audiences – varied audiences  than normal. Sometimes they will sing for audiences who know what good choral music should sound like, and other times they will sing for people who have never heard a women’s choir sing.” 

Taking OBU’s music outside of OBU’s immediate community is an essential aspect of the tour. 

It is important to take our music off-campus – to share our talents with as many people as possible,” Vernon said “It is also a recruiting opportunity for the University – not just for the music program.” 

Students are able to share their enthusiasm for OBU’s music program with the communities they visit. 

It also helps us to share about the wonderful music program we have at OBU–especially the exceptional Women’s Glee Club,” Pierce said. 

The tour is a celebration of the Bisonette member’s love of music. 

The best blessing is being able to be a part of the choir community and the moments of laughter and beauty that we share together,” Pierce said. 

The student’s participating in the tour is voluntary. 

We do not have to tour or do run-out concerts each semester – but we do it because we love to sing, and we love spreading the good news of OBU to as many people as possible,” Vernon said. I admire these ladies’ energy, sacrifice, and attitudes when they perform off campus. They are outstanding ambassadors for OBU.” 

Senior show displays different aspects of art

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

“My show I hope proves that graphic art and graphic design is not boring commercial art work,” senior graphic design major Caleb Cole said.

Cole presented his senior art show at a reception February 16, 6:00-8:00 p.m. The show will remain on display through March 17 in Oklahoma Baptist University’s Art Building.

Although the show displays the range of Cole’s artwork while a student at OBU –including paintings and drawings – it heavily features his graphic artwork.

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“My show will have commercial art, it will have graphic art, and the difference between when I say graphic design and graphic art [is]: I do have some pieces that are made on a digital platform, but they’re just [graphic] artwork, they don’t serve a commercial purpose at all,” Cole said.

On the other hand, his graphic design work is specifically intended to market or sell a certain item.

One example of this work can be seen on the front of this newspaper, in the form of The Bison’s Masthead logo, which Cole created for a competition the Bison held several years ago.

“Since I’m a graphic design major most of my work will actually be brands and visual identities – so like logos and style guides and promotional posters – which I think is still an art form even though it’s more commercial art, it’s not like high art like oil painting or charcoal,” he said.

However, the commercial aspect of the work will not diminish the final art show.

“The process is still the same, it’ll still fill up a gallery space and look like an exhibit,” he said.

Instead, graphic design art shows can invite viewers to experience an art show in a new way.

“It gives people a chance to see design in a new light, to think about the color, the typefaces, the photography, and also to meet the artist or designer — the visionary — behind it all,” associate professor of graphic design and division chair of art and design Corey Fuller said.

According to Cole, graphic artwork can be appreciated in a show, just like any other art form.

“Just because it’s being sold does not mean that it’s not fun or enjoyable or can bring a smile to someone’s face,” he said.

There are many details that go into these kinds of art projects.

“I’m going to have some packaging products there – fake product that we have created a package for,” Cole said. “And a lot of people when they see a packaging on a soda bottle or any product, they don’t really think about ‘oh, there’s a brand on this bottle, there’s a color palette, it’s printed, it’s all on the bottle where we can read it and find the information we need, it’s all organized and planned and there’s an aesthetic to it’.”

Yet from a graphic designer’s perspective, all of these things are important artistic decisions to make.

“For a graphic artist, it’s important but for the rest of the world they just kind of take it and don’t always appreciate it,” he said. “So, I’m hoping that people who come to my show will get a new appreciation for what graphic artists do.”

But for Cole, when he first planned on attending OBU graphic art was not even in his game plan.

“I actually, when I came here four years ago, I was a history major,” Cole said. “Just cause I wanted to declare a major when I came here, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

He quickly decided to change his major to study in OBU’s College of Fine Arts’ Division of Art & Design.

“I had taken one drawing class in high school and I had heard that they had an art department here so two weeks before classes started I went and met with the faculty and had one conversation with them,” Cole said. “They asked me if I wanted to switch my major and I was like ‘sure, let’s try it, let’s just see how it goes’.”

It was only later that graphic art become his primary focus.

“I had no idea what graphic art or graphic design or any of that was,” he said. “But I just started taking the general classes, the basic art classes, fell in love with it and it’s where I am now.”

Switching to an arts major presented new challenges.

“I had to take a bunch of drawing classes – like advanced drawing classes – and I’m the worst at drawing,” Cole said. “But if you draw every single day, even if you don’t like it, you will get better at it.”

Arts classes also require students to determine how to set realistic expectations and goals for themselves.

“So when you get an art project or you get a prompt like ‘make a product for this or make a logo for this’ you’re going to have all these big ideas – things that are amazing, but you don’t have the timeline to do it,” Cole said. “So like yeah if you had three weeks to do it, it would be, you know, a great end product, but if you don’t have the time for it ‘what can I do?’ balancing your time.”

Another challenge he faced specifically preparing his senior art show was preparing all of the individual works.

“We make projects and pieces all the time for school projects, but not all of those – you know, they might not turn out so well, you might not get a great grade on them, but when it comes to your show you have to have A level, you have to have the best work you’ve ever done,” Cole said.

It was important for Cole to selectively choose the work included and make the changes necessary to make sure everything was show worthy.

“A lot of its been going back to old projects and kind of fixing them up, fixing where they went wrong and just making sure everything that’s hanging up in the show that I’m super proud of and I feel like it’s perfect, because you want it to be your best work,” he said.

The process of preparing the show started a long way back.

“There isn’t like an official start date,” he said. “I started working on it the start of my senior year just because I wanted to get things going so for when it was time for me to start actually planning and printing and setting out my show, I’d have more ready for it.”

Quite soon, now though, Cole will have the chance to relax a little.

“Once you get to the show’s opening [reception] all the pressure and stress is off,” Cole said. “Everything is done, it’s all hung up, all the pieces are done. You just get to enjoy the moment with all your friends or family and just have a good time.”

Cole hopes to find work as a commercial graphic designer after college.

“After college […] work in an industry where you can create graphics, marketing or advertising, photograph product and create content for the world to enjoy,” he said.

Other graduates of OBU’s graphic design program have successfully found work in similar fields.

According to the OBU website, “Students find a variety of contexts in which to work professionally — large and small design firms as well as in-house creative departments.”

Cole’s personal history at OBU suggests the potential for great things in his future.

“He’s a remarkable young man, a talented designer and a very hard worker,” Fuller said. “Caleb has served in leadership in Art Club and also has served for a couple of years as our lab monitor in the Mac lab, which is sort of a tutoring role, as he helps underclassmen with projects.”