Worship Arts Students Record Original Songs in Nashville
On a December evening, in the heart of Nashville, Tenn., a group of Bethel College students gathered in a recording studio and sang Chris Tomlin’s song, “Good, Good Father” into a microphone. The unified, choral ending wrapped the week of recording students’ original songs. What began as a simple conversation between a five-time Grammy-nominated Bethel alumnus and the college, led to this opportunity for worship arts majors to spend a week in the music capital of the world.
Billy Smiley ’75-’76, a songwriter, musician and producer who has co-written 27 No. 1 songs, visited campus to discuss potential opportunities in relation to music performance, studio engineering and the music business. Then, when Terry Linhart, Ph.D., professor of Christian Ministries, and Smiley were presented with inspiring original works that students wrote on their own time, dreams turned into plans.
“It took a lot of collaboration to pull this off,” say Linhart, who explained that multiple departments and donated funds supported the event.
Eight students accompanied Linhart to Nashville where they charted, edited and recorded their songs in three studios, including Dark Horse, a studio that has recorded the voices of Taylor Swift, Amy Grant, and Mercy Me.
Junior Chandler Walters was one of the students who benefited from the experience.
“It was my first time walking into an official recording studio,” Walters says. “It has always been a goal of mine.”
Walters, a worship arts major, was able to record his track, “In All of My Ways,” for the album, a song he wrote over a year-and-a-half. Though the students were able to contribute their vocals for the tracks, it was the studio’s team that made the tunes sing.
“On Saturday, the studio musicians came in and brought them [the songs] to life. It was stunning to watch,” says Linhart, who oversaw the event.
“We just sat and watched them [the musicians and Smiley],” says Walters. “Smiley would pick a song and they would chart it out and put their own flavor and mix to it. We did a lot of gawking.”
Though the week was filled with fun and excitement, Linhart explained that the trip was much more than a fun time.
“I think all the students who went now understand what it means to be professional,” says Linhart, who also noted that they took advantage of any opportunity to be in the studio. “They were listening,” Linhart says. “They were taking notes.”
For Walters, the sense of community that was built between students was every bit as impactful as his time in the studio.
“I vaguely knew these people [the other students] on the way down there, but we all like and do the same stuff. We became fast friends.”
Linhart said worship arts is about more than the music. This unique combination of professional experience and relationship-building is a major piece of what the degree is all about.
“We want to facilitate singers, creative-types, and songwriters to become leaders in local churches, and to continue to grow after they graduate,” he says. “This major is about the people-development business.”
An album featuring the songs the students recorded in Nashville will be available this spring.
For more information about the Worship Arts major, visit http://www.bethelcollege.edu/academics/academic-programs/religionphilosophy/programs-relig-phil/worship-arts.html