OBU student finds calling in music

By Loren Rhoades, Assistant Features Editor  (Courtesy photo/Raelyn Williamson)

OBU is a university filled with talent that is used to glorify the Lord. This talent extends from athletic ability to musical ability.

One student with musical skills here on campus is Raelyn Williamson. Williamson is
a freshman worship arts major.

She said she hopes to use her gifts to one day work in ministry.

“At first I didn’t know what ministry I was being called to,” she said. “I didn’t know if it would be women’s ministry, missions, or worship. But, once I learned about the worship arts degree at OBU, I knew worship was a perfect fit.”

Williamson said she only recently discovered her call to lead worship but has performed this type of music and others since a very young age.

She has played the piano and sang since she was 10 years old. She said she discovered her love for music even before learning to play the piano, because she was always in elementary choir and enjoyed being able to sing and perform.

“When I was really young, I actually loved performing in front of people,” Williamson said. “When I was four years old, I was known for going down during halftime of my hometown’s basketball games and dancing in front of the entire crowd.”

Williamson said her love of performing has grown over the years, and since then she has been a part of the worship band at her home church and her high school choir, and she
now performs with 519 Collective and Chorale at OBU.

Byng High School choir director Lane Taylor said he sees the Kingdom in her work.

“Raelyn has always taken her giftings in singing and piano performance seriously and
integrated them into her life worship of Christ. I am proud that she has chosen to obey God’s calling to use those giftings to lead the multitudes in the extremely important task of praising Him,” he said.

Williamson said she especially enjoys performing worship music because of the diversity in the types of worship music that are played and the freedom it gives to show off everyone’s musical ability no matter what they like to play.

“I think worship music is a form of teaching. I think a lot of people look at teaching as a preacher getting up there and giving a sermon, but I really love how worship songs are
based on scripture, and how the words you sing are portraying the word of God,” she said.

Williamson said she has now used this type of teaching at home and across the globe when doing mission work overseas.

While doing so, she has been able to grow others while growing herself as well.

“Last summer Raelyn went with our church to Nicaragua,” youth pastor at Trinity Baptist
Church Whitley Tracy said. “During this trip I saw Raelyn really grow her relationship with God as she stepped out of her comfort zone and was sharing the gospel and leading congregations in worship in their native language,” Tracy said. “I was so proud of her
for being obedient to the Lord and the call to go tell others about him.”

Williamson said all of her favorite memories of worship are in Nicaragua because the people there are so free and energetic with their worship.

She said singing worship songs with the people there and hearing the different languages has made her look at worship differently.

“It’s inspired me to be more free in my worship,” Williamson said. “When you hear what you are singing, you should be jumping for joy.”

Williamson said she has had the opportunity to lead now in many different settings. Throughout all of them she has used her music to glorify the Father and lead others toward him.

“Raelyn has never been a ‘look at me type of leader’ she leads quietly but strongly, and that’s something I’ve always admired about her,” Tracy said.

Keyboard Academy hosted high schoolers


Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

The Oklahoma Baptist University Division of Music hosted its 10th Keyboard Academy Nov. 9-10.

Keyboard Academy is an annual event where the faculty and students of the keyboard study program at OBU hold a free, two-day workshop for high school students interested in studying keyboard music.

Guest artists are brought in to perform Thursday night and then hold a master class with the college students and visiting high school students on Friday. This year, the guest artists were Alan and Alvin Chow.

“We’ve had Van Cliburn finalists, we’ve had international pianist – these two are both internationally recognized,” Dr. Michael Dean, associate professor of music at Oklahoma Baptist University, said.

Both Alan and Alvin Chow graduated from Julliard School and were awarded the Victor Herbert Prize in Piano, and hold numerous other international music awards. Alan has received First Prize Winner at the Concert Guild International New York Competition. Alvin has won prizes at competitions including the New York Piano Teachers Congress International Piano Competition.

“It’s not limited to any certain number of people but this year we [had] sixteen high school pianists in grades 9-12 come in,” Dean said.

Keyboard Academy was started in 2008 by Dr. Carol Bell.

“The voice area had done something similar before that and we thought it was going really well for them and we should try it,” Dean said. “And it’s really great because it gives us a chance to foster the relationships with the pianists in the state, with the teachers and the students. And since it’s ninth through 12th, we’ve had some people who were here as ninth graders, tenth graders, 11th graders, 12th graders and then they decide maybe they want to come here for school. So that works out really well. So, it’s a recruiting thing, but it’s more than that. It’s a way to put feelers in the state and to get some fabulous guest artists on campus.”

The high school students stayed overnight in the dorms on Thursday night, with student hosts, which allowed them the opportunity to get to know what it might be like to be a music student on campus. It also allowed prospective students to get to know their future classmates.

Junior piano performance major Rachel Foote, hosted a keyboard academy guest for the third time this year.

“I like to get to talk to the students and see, I guess, what their interest is in piano,” Foote said. “I came to keyboard academy my senior year of high school. And I really enjoyed getting to spend time with students here. The girl I stayed with was a junior and it was really neat to being able to see what it was like being a piano major and then really neat being able be a student with her here the next year. My freshman year I actually hosted someone who ended up becoming one of my best friends. She’s a sophomore this year and we’re really close, so it was really neat to be able to build the relationship before she actually came here.”

Foot said she enjoyed the opportunity to share with the visiting high schoolers.

“It’s just fun to get to take them around and show them what it’s like,” Foote said.

Fall jazz ensemble featured guest artists

Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Oklahoma Baptist University’s Bison Jazz Orchestra performed on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

“It is a seventeen-piece jazz ensemble, featuring saxophones, trumpets, trombones, piano, guitar, bass, and drums,” Justin Pierce, assistant professor of instrumental music, said.

The concert also featured a guest artist, who joined the Bison Jazz Orchestra on several pieces, including an arrangement of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

“We’ll have a guest artist that night who will play a few songs with us, named Paul Stephens,” Pierce said before the concert. “And he’s retired from the US Army jazz ambassadors and also teaches trumpet here at OBU.”

The concert was more formally a concert than the Bison Jazz Orchestra’s performance at Night of Jazz earlier this fall.

“It’s a little different than the night of jazz in that it’s more of a formal concert,” Pierce said. “As people will not be eating food and drink at it, all of the attention will be on the music. And this allows us to play a little bit more repertoire that might be suitable for a concert then as opposed to something that might be for dancing or a more casual event.”

This repertoire included some longer pieces and more pieces of music than Night of Jazz did.

“We’ll do a little bit more repertoire for this and we’ll play songs with a little bit more soloing and the musicians can stretch out a little bit more, cause, I mean, if you think about the length of an average pop song it’s about three to four minutes,” Pierce said. “And we try to keep our arrangements at the night of Jazz a little bit more moderate and while these, you know, some of these songs are maybe five, six, seven minutes. Also, a few more improvised solos.”

The concert was subtitled “It Might As Well Be Swing” and music selections for the concert included: “What About Me,” by Snarky Puppies and “Not in the Mood,” which is a musical parody of the popular jazz tune “In the Mood” by Joe Garland.

The Bison Jazz Orchestra includes Alex Benito, Matthew Anderson and Shianne Wolfe on saxophone; Konnor Robertson, Jonny Dean and Allie Frank on trumpet; Sam Quick, Jarret Corbin, Isaac Reel and Jonathan Deichman on trombone; Demarcus Baysmore and Nathan King on guitar; Graham Griffin on piano; Trevor Schlosser on bass; and Tyler Smothers on drumset.