To Whom Much Is Given, Much is Required

I'm not positive where that phrase came from. Someone with more energy than me should do the research.

To be honest, I've never really given the phrase much consideration. The world, from my view, has always cared only for itself and its own success. That is to say that those who make most of the difference in the world likely care only about their own popularity, their own success, and how well they can do. Maybe instead of "world," I should say, "America." However, my statement above is also to say that we are inherently a self-centered people. So, maybe it is the whole world.

In my constant pursuit of turning the world against itself via Facebook posts I have stirred some controversy over the past week. During the Super Bowl, I posted a criticism of Beyonce's halftime performance and made some pretty bold (and probably unfounded) claims about her reversing the work that had been done for equality in both black and women's rights by forming her artistry in a sexual manner. Of course I posted it at the exact right time, at the exact right place (during the world's most popular time to engage social media--the Super Bowl--and on my Facebook page, which inevitably is the home of unrighteous and righteous dialogue about the wrongs of the world). The post blew up almost immediately and I was told by several people whose opinions I greatly respect that my thoughts were unfounded because of my white maleness. "She is empowering those like her, reclaiming sexuality, I am proud" they essentially said.

Today news broke that a fraternity on the campus in which I live hosted a party on February 1st whose theme and advertising were overtly racist. While more people were in support of my criticism of such a fraternity's action than they were of my critique of Beyonce, the post still engaged a conversation. I knew that friending all those people would pay off. While in class today, I saw a classmate reading about the party on none other than Yahoo News. "Great," I thought, "Duke University once again makes the national news scene because some smart but oh-so-stupid undergrads made some awful decisions."

"What's the impact of the national stage?" I wondered. And then it hit me. This is not too unlike my critique of Beyonce's performance.

My argument over Beyonce's halftime performance was based around her potential as a performer. If she really has the "power," as many have suggested, then she has the "power" to make a significant impact on the way our culture views things. It seems to me that one of the messed up understandings in our current society relates to sex. We live in a world where more high schoolers are pregnant than ever before. Pornography is one of the larger industries in our society. Sex Slavery is a real thing in America. Our daughters, sisters, and friends are literally getting sold to the highest bidding John. Pastors, teachers, policemen, and politicians are arrested more often than we'd like attempting to have sex with underaged minors (males and females) after soliciting it online. Like, really...they actually show up at the house. Our society is in a sexual crisis. The way to fix this, to me, doesn't seem to be being scantily clad (no matter how well you can wear it) on a national stage, dancing in a semi-erotic fashion. Beyonce is an incredible performer, few doubt that. She has a large audience (some might argue, the largest) these days. She, having built much of her career on her strong sense of sexuality (she's gorgeous and sexy and shows it), has the potential to make a change in this culture. My argument is that she didn't.

The same might be true of Duke undergrads (and administration). Duke is an elite university which fluctuates between an 11% to 13% acceptance rate. Students who score a 1400 on their SATs (on a 1600 scale) are the dumbest kids here. Duke students are often the future leaders of our economy, our churches, our political system, etc. Duke University has a huge national stage. And guess what, friends? Greek life, and college partying in general, is in a bit of a crisis in our culture. Duke, whether it be the students or administrators, has the potential to make a huge impact on the surrounding culture. Duke University could have put an end to the "Asian Prime" party. Duke University could have come down hard on these groups and partying years ago. My argument is that they didn't. And, based on the past, they likely won't.

When someone or someones have prestige and popularity, they have the potential to influence a self centered world. When they don't, it becomes harder and harder to have hope for the future of our society. Christians, since Christendom became a thing, have had that worldwide stage. We have miserably failed to affect that change in the culture because of our own self centeredness and brokenness. Societal change often relies on those who have been given much.

I honestly don't expect much of that change from those enslaved to album sales or popularity, or 18-22 year olds who have had much of their life handed to them. Christians can do better. Because we have been given much.


Change. Renewal. Faith.

In May, with any luck at all, I'll go on to graduate from Duke University's Divinity School with a Masters in Divinity.  As if someone could ever get a degree in the Divine.

I've thoroughly enjoyed nearly every moment, nearly every friend (honesty), and nearly every course (only Jesus was perfect) at Duke Divinity.  It has been challenging, downright difficult in fact, and it has even--at times--made me want to quit and go back to playing music for a living.  Music, while a terrible business to be in, can be far more soothing to the soul than attempting to recount every early church heresy for a seemingly silly exam.  I worked hard in undergraduate school to make top-notch grades (in fact, if I had a B at midterms in a course, I withdrew from it if at all possible). At Duke, if I can scrape by with a B, I'm more than happy. 

Duke, as an institution, has changed my world.  At Duke Divinity I learned that worship is so much more than I had ever imagined.  I learned that seminary students drink and cuss just as much, if not more, as any other human being on this planet (they're real people too!).  I learned that basketball is a life changing activity.  At Duke I also learned more about a loving God than I might have ever imagined.  Duke has been a wonderful place for a future minister to grow in their own faith while discerning a call to help others do just that.

Over the next few months I hope to provide anyone who stumbles upon this blog even the smallest insight into what it's like to be changed by an academic environment that teaches about the God who changes us.  It's an odd dynamic to be sure, and one that might take me years to fully comprehend.

One thing is for certain though:  I'm changed.  For better, I hope.  No matter the direction or difficulty of the journey, I'm changed.  

Perhaps I could even say it like this:  I've been made new while studying the God who makes all things new. That's good, right?

Yeah.  It is. If a divinity program, which hopes to form ministers to preach to the world that change and renewal is an essential part of our life of faith, is to be successful then the self-acknowledgment of said minister's own renewal is a necessity of the divinity program. Duke's done a fantastic job of doing that for me.

I'm incredibly grateful. Change. Renewal. Faith.  All large reasons why I will leave Duke acknowledging the importance of my experience there.


On PS22 and Music

[youtube=] If I had one criticism of PS22 and their teacher, it's that he is probably not teaching proper singing or performance techniques to them at a young age. Its common thought that this creates 'bad' habits that will influence the art in a negative way, later.

I was thinking that as I watched this.

And then I thought, "so what?"

There are probably many many children singing in children's choirs around the globe inside of Universities, etc. that don't enjoy the music they sing. I think I'd argue that that fact is more destructive to the art than something like PS22 is.

When musicians come to hate music, it might be one of the saddest days on earth.

If anything, performances like these are creative, unique, and stretching across boundaries. Right? I can see some of these kids rushing over to their friends' house after school and being super jazzed to load up YouTube and show their friends what they did at school that day.

These are kids. And they're excited about what they're doing.

That's the future of America, I think. Creativity is key. Technology (because it is simply an embodiment of creativity) is key. Fine arts (because they are simply embodiments of creativity) are key. The study of maths and sciences (because they are products of creativity) are key.

And so when I cringe to see the kids moving their bodies so much, I have to stop and think..."how proud are these kids of their work?" or "how much will the enjoyment of this experience influence their lives in the future?" You can experience the excitement within the last few seconds of the video. Sheer joy.

Because in the end it doesn't matter if they're singing Mozart or Lady Gaga (though it might be nice for them to understand both forms of the art); they're singing. They're practicing. They're performing. And they're enjoying it.

And, better yet, they're doing what they do...well. We don't have enough of that in today's world.

It's cool stuff. It really is.


I really don't like the song that much, despite its catchiness. Gaga wrote the song with her dad taking shots on the piano after her grandfather died. I just don't, quite...get it. It doesn't speak any sort of message that I would consider life changing, and I don't think the lyrics are very poetic at all. Also, the music video was ridiculous.

Regardless, though, the act of singing it is moving something inside of these two groups. It's weird to think that something's moving inside of these groups when the lyrics to the song suck. But, you know, perhaps that speaks to the power of music within the soul. It probably does.

On Florida Southern College's Beauty

I spent five years (four as a student, one as a staff member) at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL.  Yesterday, it was announced that the Princeton Review named Florida Southern College as the "Most Beautiful College Campus" in the United States. Good ol' FSC announced it on Facebook  and Twitter yesterday and this morning, it showed up on the Today Show (despite Ann's questioning look and incorrect graphic):

[vodpod id=Video.14362285&w=425&h=350&fv=launch%3D43985296%5E200874%5E225578%26amp%3Bwidth%3D420%26amp%3Bheight%3D245]

Of course, I posted this all over the Twitter and Facebook. Many friends of mine felt as if this was an appropriate time to throw out the, "Hey, looks aren't everything" lines.  I'd like to share below (names blurred to spare the guilty):










All of the above participants are friends of mine, a few of whom I'm very close to. They miss the point, however.

When I came to Florida Southern, I remember moving into Hollis Hall, the dreaded first year male dorm (although I'd be slaughtered for mentioning the D-word, they are residence halls or community living centers, not dorms). The day we moved in, they were conveniently replacing major portions of the flooring in the lobby. Hollis's rooms were small, brick rooms, with non-moveable furniture. I remember thinking, "Welp, welcome to college." My girlfriend (now wife) though, moved into one of the gorgeous brick buildings in the center of campus, where the first year women live. She had a large room, with a giant window to the outside, her own bathroom, etc. I remember thinking, "Welp, I guess I'll hang out here."

That year, though, was the second year of the current President's residency at Florida Southern, Dr. Anne Kerr. Florida Southern's previous President had done phenomenal things for the college's relationship with students and Dr. Kerr came in to take care of some of the finances and build needed buildings.

What most people don't know about Florida Southern is that it is the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. Those people weren't in Annie Pfeiffer Chapel setting up for Praise Band Practice when tourists came waltzing through gazing up at the large glass ceiling overhead. Like him or not (I could take him or leave him), Frank Lloyd Wright is probably one of the best known, and most skilled, American architects of all time. While Florida Southern's buildings are not his most famous pieces, they are fine work and are working examples of quality artistry by FLW. They speak highly of our President Ludd Spivey, when he convinced FLW to come design a campus.

Throughout Dr. Kerr's tenure at Florida Southern, she has made it her goal (through her skills as a fund raiser) to beautify the building at a time. She's torn down the buildings that made no sense, didn't fit the FLW theme, and worked to build buildings that made the campus stand out.  She's raised money to support the United Methodist Church (and our relations with the school), and she (along with a hard working maintenance staff and generous givers) has turned the college into a gorgeous campus over the past six years or so. As she's built buildings, she didn't just hire any random architect to come and build new buildings, she hired Robert A.M. Stern of Yale University's School of Architecture.  His mission was to design brand new, functional buildings, that attempted to emulate Frank Lloyd Wright's artistic vision, while bringing Florida Southern into the 21st century. He has, and continues to do, a phenomenal job.

Because when you visit a place, what it looks like says a lot about it.

Dr. Kerr knows that.  She gets it.

In all honesty, what Dr. Kerr has done with Florida Southern mimics, I think, what Steve Jobs has done with Apple during his tenure there. She got rid of unnecessary, nonsensical pieces and replaced them with new, beautiful, architecturally-fitting buildings and landscapes that say quite a bit about where Florida Southern is, and where it is going. Because while the outside does not always give us a clear image of the inside, it says a lot about attitudes and forward thinking ideas. I think Duke University's campus reflects the same mindset.

So, does it matter what Florida Southern looks like on the outside? Yes, yes it does. It's not about attracting more students, although that certainly is a byproduct. It's not about "fooling" the outside world. It's not even about getting Florida Southern's name on the map. Florida Southern's beauty is about creating a gorgeous environment where young minds can come to be molded, shaped, and changed. Florida Southern's environment says a lot about the future of the college and where the leadership behind the school is taking the school. Ludd Spivey is regarded around campus as a brilliant mind who brought the school back from devastation in a tough economic time and changed the campus to be the "temple of education" that he thought it needed to be. Dr. Kerr's transformation of the campus is perhaps not as dramatic, but I think she's done for the school what few Presidents would have dreamed possible.

Florida Southern's tagline is: On the move!

And it is a very, very appropriate tagline. I think the Princeton Review's choice of Florida Southern as the most beautiful campus is complete affirmation of that fact.

Dr. Kerr ought to be congratulated, not criticized, as she has done an extraordinary job.


See below when Florida Southern was featured on the Travel Channel (and my Grandmother in law talking about how she helped to build the Buckner Building).


Did you catch the Travel Channel's quality videography at 3:22?

Inkling Textbooks

I remember hearing about these guys a few months ago. Inkling is the first company to work with all the major textbook companies to redefine what a textbook is, and how it can be used (and paid for) more efficiently on a tablet device. Take a look at the video below to get a feel for what a textbook looks like in this environment.


The head guy of Inkling presented the product at The Wall Street Journal's D9 conference last week. If you have the time and this sort of stuff interests you, it'd be worth your effort to check out his presentation and explanation. You can do so at the bottom of the page here.

They have an interesting business approach and seem to have the right strategic partners. But, it takes them 12 weeks to produce one huge textbook. They need a bigger staff.

You can count me in for being the first to forego carrying giant books to school. I wonder, though, how this might work in the public schools where the textbooks are provided by the school free of charge to the students. I can't see the public school system handing each child an iPad and allowing them to take it home with them, but when prices drop, the world may be open. I suppose someone once said that about the current textbooks, "we are going to let kids take these $300 books home?!?!"

I do, though, think it'd be great to buy my child an iPad instead of forcing them to carry these books. I swear my back still hurts some days from those days in school.

My favorite part of the guy's presentation though was his attention toward the iPad. He said something like, "We think Android and web development is very interesting, but as long as the iPad has 90% of the market, I think we are going to focus our efforts there."

A they say in NBA jam, BOOMshakalaka.


How Hard Is It To Get Into PS22?

PS22 choir singing at the Lincoln Center for an Eric Whitacre event. Singing the arrangement of "Daniel" from one of the last videos I posted. Personally, I think this soloist is much better.

Interesting to see their teacher playing on what looks like at least a 9 foot Steinway grand piano standing up trying to play/direct.

If you get to the end of the song, you'll see Eric Whitacre's visit to the green room. Seems like a cool guy.

If you didn't already know, Whitacre is a big fan of YouTube and different ways for choirs to interact with each other. I think it is particularly interesting that PS22, who have a different approach to choral singing (specifically in younger children), and Eric Whitacre, who has a different approach to choral arranging and is becoming fairly progressive with the use of technology to move the art form forward, are together here. I'd love to see Eric work with these kids and the fruits that would come from this work. As far as I'm concerned, there are big talents here.

Still love the arrangement.


And oh yeah, how hard is it to get into PS22? Evidently...pretty hard.


Stop The Bullying

When P!nk's song "Perfect" released, I knew it'd be huge. In P!nk's music video, she tells the story of a cutter, someone who is depressed about who they are and where they are. The idea of the song is that whoever you are, you are beautiful and perfect. The video tells the story in a graphical way. I really enjoy following Ahmir on YouTube. They are an R&B group that does a lot of covers and posts them on YouTube. Phenomenal singers.

This video, a cover of "Perfect" uses the words of the songs to speak out not about a woman who isn't good enough, but rather about children who are being bullied in our communities. It stretches out and includes racial and ethnic backgrounds.

It's well done and pleads with the emotions of the viewer.

What I love so much is the phrase that came up at the credits, "Bullying is a learned behavior." Because of that, I believe bullying to be entirely preventable.


Those bullied must be taught to speak up. Both for themselves or others. Those who bully must be taught that their self worth does not come from their humiliation of a classmate.

Once our culture learns to treat each other with respect, dignity, and love, we will find that our true sense of self worth comes from a higher source and not from any comparison here on earth.

People deserve to be treated like people.

That's true in oppressive countries. That's true in countries without basic amenities. That's true in areas with hate crimes. That's true in our churches.

And it is definitely true in our nation's schools.

If our children learn this behavior, they might never unlearn it.

I've been bullied. And I've bullied. If one thing is true, it's that this isn't just a problem with our children. It's a problem with our culture. And it's our problem. And we've got to own that. Immediately.

Stop the bullying. Now.


The New Music Business


Mashable posted the above graph earlier today outlining what would have happened if peer-to-peer file sharing services such as Napster, Morpheus, LimeWire, Vuze, etc had never existed. Given the above chart, the support seems to be in the music industry's favor.

They claim a loss of $55 billion since the inception of Napster. They are suing LimeWire right now for a loss of income (and thus a decline of the business model) and if guilty, LimeWire is going to owe Sony and Warner in the billions of dollars. Billions, with a "B" as Kevin O'Leary says.

This story reminds me of when Bon Jovi blamed Steve Jobs as having single-handedly killed the music industry. If anything (given the chart above), Steve Jobs helped give the industry a fighting chance.

To me, this brings up several questions regarding the role of technological innovation in the production of content.

Are the file sharing companies responsible for the dying business model? Or is the music industry's refusal to move forward, with thoughts and progression technologically, to blame?

I'm not quite sure of the answer here. There is no doubt in my mind that the file sharing services have hurt the industry, but digital music was becoming more relevant with the iPod and all of a sudden carrying your entire CD collection around with you (having to switch cds in and out) seemed impractical. The music companies were against this entire process because it placed music files into places where they could not only be shared (no one has ever borrowed someone else's cd right?) but edited, morphed, and uploaded to sites like YouTube.

It made the music...interactive.

Napster (and those like it) created a sense in America that you didn't have to pay for content. iTunes has successfully changed that. But, they neglected the idea of an album to do it.

So, in a sense, Steve Jobs did ruin the music business (because the entire industry was based upon selling $15 cds that people bought to hear 2 or three songs).

Or, if you are me, you see it as progress of technology blowing open a lucrative business model that was based off selling things to people that they didn't want, and then jacking up the price.

It would be as if the grocery store told you you could only buy the good bananas if you bought a group of them (of which only two were really enticing) and they charged you $15 for the group. If people could find a way to get the bananas one at a time, they would (even if it meant stealing). Either that or the banana business would go downhill.

And, that, is why bananas are sold by what you choose, by the weight. You only pay for what you like.

If the music industry would wake up to this reality, their business model would change and again be able to afford to stay in business and grow. I love the music industry, so I hope they do.

Sometimes things change. You must change with it or it will redefine you. And then you die.


What Every Student Needs...Dropbox

In light of my previous post, it occurred to me how much of an evangelist I have become for Dropbox and how many other students risk too many of their valuable files to one hard drive.

Let's review one thing: your computer has a hard drive and that hard drive will fail.

I don't care if you have a Mac or a PC, most computers run off of a hard drive and those are made of moving parts and moving parts break. With the move to Solid State Drives (think of how the iPod touch has memory, it's all internal flash memory--like your USB drive) imminent, this may be less of a problem, but one thing will always HAVE to back your stuff up.

If you aren't backing up regularly, shame on you. You'll get what you deserve in time.

However, if you are a student (or any human with important files) you need Dropbox.


For real, you need Dropbox. Its syncing capabilities are unreal.

Think of this, if you put your files on it, you can access them from wherever there is Internet, from any device. And...if your computer dies, your iPad dies, your android phone dies, your iPhone dies, and you've obviously had the worst day of your STILL have your files, because they are stored in the cloud.

I remember telling a friend at FSC that she needed to have a folder on her computer of every class she'd ever taken and every note and paper from each class in each respective folder.

You need to do that. Then, you need to keep that folder as your Dropbox folder. Copy and paste it once and always save your stuff there from here on out.

Do it. Now. It is free for 2GB. Do it.

I like it so much, I've considered trying to pay for enough space for my entire iTunes library.

If you don't back up your computer, at least do this. To lose your stuff is to lose your life and memories.


My Proposition for the Future of Higher Education

Ok, not really. To say that I might have something that would significantly change the outlook of higher education is a strong statement.

But, I think I'm on to...something.

Here is my situation: I, as most people know, own an iPad. I didn't know how I would use it at first, but Allison and I are already figuring out how we are going to buy the next iPad as well so that both of us can have one.

Here's why:

In grad school (definitely in divinity school and higher education, probably in most others as well) you do a lot of reading and writing. Most of this reading is not done from traditional books, but rather from online PDF documents that have been scanned in by someone who works in the copy room. The typical practice is this: a few days before you are to have read an article, you go to your computer, download the PDF onto your computer, send it to print and print it out. Then you can read it, highlight it, etc. The process is great, students are responsible for the printing instead of teachers carrying loads of paper into class, and everything is online for easy access should someone lose a document etc. It also keeps the cost of physical books that a student might have to buy to a minimum. Most of these articles are from random sources or reference materials that cost way too much to ask a poor grad student to have to buy.

However, I see three fundamental issues: 1) Copyright. 2) Significant waste of paper(this has been a reality of the world for a long time). 3) The digital world only benefits us to access it, not to actually interact with it.

But, the iPad has changed all (except for the Copyright idea, that still seems to be an issue) that for me. (To prove my point, the Divinity School changed the main printer in the library and it took me three weeks--literally--to notice the change)

Here's what I do now:
1) Check the syllabus for the next assignment.
2) Log onto Blackboard from my iPad and find the revenant PDFs.
3) Click the files.
4) Tell the files to open in "Goodreader" (a fantastic PDFs reader app $.99)
5) Read the files, draw on them, write, mark, etc.*
6) Sync your folder of PDFs with Dropbox or MobileMe.
7) Take the iPad to class.

*Thanks to Goodreader's ability to markup PDFs AND save them to the PDFs files, I can highlight (if it recognizes text), underline by drawing with my finger, draw shapes around text, leave comments in text boxes that minimize and maximize as I tell them to. When this file syncs with my Dropbox account, I have an annotated PDF file wherever I go on whatever device I am using at the time. How cool is that?

Reading the files is much preferable for me on the iPad, because I can zoom in on text and actually read the files ALMOST as if they were a book. I can't tell you how many times I have seen student print out the files really small because the library computers' default printing was screwed up or because they were trying to save paper. I, on the other hand, don't have to remember to print and can zoom in on text that is hard to read.

It's not a perfect experience, yet. Depending on how large the scanned file was, each page takes a second to render each page. This isn't the end of the world, but can be annoying when someone is quickly referencing a page number.

So here is my proposition: Add $500 to the bill for each student (in higher education pricing, it doesn't hold a candle to other costs and seems to be a worthwhile investment) and deliver all reading assignments via an iPad. Duke has a history of doing this with its undergrads with iPods (and the use of iTunes U) and later MacBooks. Obviously, the additional fee might be optional, but I would imagine it would be easier to sway people.

Just a thought, but I think...a good one.


PS- Yes, I did type this whole thing on my iPad and despite a few typographical errors, it was an enjoyable experience.

People That Impress Me

We are not who we are until we discover who it was that made us who we are. Then, and only then, can we live into the reality of who we are and where we are going. To deny influences in our lives is just silly. For me, I have a lot of respect for the brilliant. I have a lot of respect for the movers and shakers in our world. These people have helped define our culture and because of my obsession with the impact that culture makes on our lives, I cannot help but be incredibly impressed with them and their work. Many of these below are not "righteous" people and did not stand for a purpose that we consider right. It is impossible however to deny their gifts and talents.

Whether or not I agree with them, these are people who impress me. In no particular order, off the top of my head, and I am sure the list it largely incomplete. I haven't even googled the names, so my apologies for misspellings.

Those that impress me:

Jesus Christ Howard Stern Leo Laporte Steve Wozniak Julia Roberts Bill Gates JS Bach Nolan Ryan Adolf Hitler Eminem Meryl Streep Steve Jobs Rob Bell David Crowder Joe Torre Andy Crouch Keith Olbermann Rush Limbaugh Paul Michael Jordan Louie Giglio Michael Jackson Tim Russert Eugene Peterson Jonny Ive Ellen Degeneres Kobe Bryant Franklin Delano Roosevelt Constantine Moses Chris Tomlin Mark Zuckerberg Larry Page Babe Ruth Asa Candler Mother Teresa Barack Obama Bill O'Reilly George Washington Job Thomas Jefferson Aaron Sorkin Leonardo DaVinci William Shakespeare Darlene Zschech TobyMac Matt Lauer Shane Claiborne John Wesley Warren W. Willis Diane Sawyer Beethoven Kevin James Norman Rockwell Benjamin Franklin Ruth Rick Warren Ray Romano Francis Chan Moses Hogan B.o.B Ricky Gervais Anne Frank Bruno Mars Michael W. Smith Billy Graham Ted Williams Steven Curtis Chapman Joel Houston George W. Bush Dan Marino Henry Ford Thomas Edison Dan Brown JK Rowling Stephanie Meyers Taylor Swift Kanye West Mark Driscoll John Gruber Charles Wesley Albert Einstein King Tut Peyton Manning Napoleon George Lucas Tom Hanks Ann Curry Jack Mason Peter Sean Parker Sergei Brin Jackie Robinson Martin Luther Martin Luther King Jr. JFK Abraham Lincoln My family


Andre Rieu, "Classical" Music, Entertainment, and Art

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]The image represents André Rieu in Atlantic City[/caption]

If you've ever been bored in front of the TV and have stumbled upon PBS, you've probably seen Andre Rieu perform with his 5o-or-so member orchestra. The Today Show did a special on him last week an replayed it this morning. I couldn't find it online, but plenty of his performances are on YouTube.

In short, the sequence talked about how Andre was raised in a musical family and his father was a classical conductor. I assume that they were referring to the genre, not necessarily the actual Classical period.

Supposedly, Andre didn't like the "stuffy" atmosphere that was present in the Classical music world and sought to fix that because "music is an emotion" and served a higher purpose. I suppose you could say that Andre felt as if the uppity sense of the Classical world and the fans of it ("that pop music is just too...catchy")was destroying the culture of the art and he desired to make it a fun experience. If you watch any of his performances on PBS, you'll know that there are all kinds of parts added to the "show" to make it entertaining.

That's the word I was hung up on.  Entertaining.

When I studied music, I came to understand it as a form of art; it was sometimes in attractive forms, sometimes not...but still art.  Often, because it is a form of art that many people are not as skilled at, musical performances of any degree bear a sense of entertainment.  I enjoy going to recitals of singers who are better than me because I am not as good as them-I can learn from their performance and interpretations.  At face value, that logic would hold for a non singer...because someone who doesn't sing well is by definition not as good as the performer meaning that they would find a degree of entertainment inside of the performance.

However, if you have been to a "Classical" performance (recital or otherwise) in recent years and you observe the audience, you'll do well to glean a few details that might lead to a better understanding:

  1. If it is not an incredibly popular artist or series, most of the crowd will be at least in their 60's.
  2. Those who are musicians will be there with eyes wide open and critiques flowing.
  3. Those who aren't either a)Seniors or b)Musicians will be a few winks away from sleep.

Obviously these are generalized statements and will in no way hold true across every performance, but do have a ring of truth to them.

The logic from above just doesn't work. I've noticed it in the declining ticket sales of the Fine Arts Series in Branscomb Auditorium at Florida Southern. I've noticed it in conversations with others.  I've noticed it in observing performances and the audiences of them. Perhaps you have too.

I think the key is that a musician (or one who sympathizes...I know the broad statements seem a bit utopian-don't be offended) has a bit of a higher understanding about the composition, about the technique, and about the practice of performance.  This knowledge stimulates some sort of intellect that seeks to learn more. That learning is entertainment. It is enjoyable and will keep one who is intrigued by those thoughts on the edge of their seat at every phrase and breath.

But that's not the typical world. Most people don't understand. And because their idea of "good music" hinges around the backbeat and clever rhyming of words...this type of art is no longer as "entertaining" as it once was.

In the Baroque and Classical eras, music wasn't the "stuffy" thing we think about as now. It was meant for dancing.  It was meant as background music. It was meant for parties. It was an art form, but entertained as well. It was all they knew. Gradually, over time, this shifted. What would have been considered "catchy" melodies in Bach's time were replaced by "catchy" melodies in Beatles' music. Sure, people went to Beatles concerts, but as recordings were easier and easier to come by, people played that music at parties. Even now, you cannot walk into a club or bar where music isn't playing.

The interesting thing about Andre Rieu is that he appears to have caught it.  He seems to understand this disconnect between the art of years ago and the culture of today. In making it funny and adding showmanship he has made it "entertaining". He is incredibly popular.

What was funny about the Today show piece this morning is that they spoke about how the "Classical" world has turned their nose at Andre Rieu's efforts. They say it cheapens the art.

I try to be a little more positive. I think it brings an awareness back to a culture that forgot.

It probably only "cheapens" the art because our culture has been..."cheapened". The music on the radio today is much more simplistic than even Beatles songs. And The Beatles were known for having A LOT of catchy music (I mean, just compare their stuff to Dylan and you'll understand). But Andre Rieu is taking a form of art and entertainment that he enjoys and bringing it back to the masses in a way that will get everyone's attention. I don't think it can be considered "cheap" if it is referring back to the art of old.

Better yet: his main crowd...Seniors.

I guess I'm saying this: Artists tend to want to bring attention to the art that they view as "sacred". That's fine. But in the end it was just a creation by a human. Talented, brilliant, genius humans are born everyday.  Let's celebrate the past and the thoughts and art forms of old.  But let's also recognize innovation.  Let's call what is good good and what is bad bad.

And finally, let's all get over ourselves just a little bit.



Reflections on Duke Divinity Fall 2010

Well, The first semester is over.  EVERYONE has been asking what my thoughts are/experiences were and so I thought I'd aggregate everything here to help out with the explanation.

Here is a list with some annotations as well:

  • Everyone here is smarter than me.
    • I remember well the first few weeks when I just wrote down terms that others were using in class that I had NO IDEA what they were saying. It's that type of situation where someone uses a word and you feel like you ought to know it, so you don't readily admit that you have no idea what it means.
  • Not everyone here is a Methodist.
    • For some reason, I had this preconceived notion that all the students (or at least, almost all) would be United Methodists in the process for ordination. I now know that that presumption is just silly. There are quite a bit of Calvinists as well. Didn't expect that. ;-)
  • Not everyone here wants to be a Pastor
    • As someone who has been quite confused at times about his "call" (I hate that word), I totally expected to be the odd one out who wasn't willing to just jump on the "I want to be a pastor because they give me a job and a house" train. There are tons of students here that want to be musicians and deacons and other things. If you are a potential student reading this and desire to be a pastor, NO FEAR- Duke has LOTS of students who are pursuing pastoral ministry. And Duke puts out a ton of phenomenal Pastors.'s not the end all be all.
  • The Undergrads here are ridiculous.
    • Duke is one the best schools in the nation. End of story.  The students here are smart and dumb people simply don't get in.  Your test scores and grades have to be high, there is no question about that. But my God, they are ridiculous. Seems like maybe even more so than other schools. I think it is all set up as a test for Divinity students so that we may remember that they are all children of God too (thanks to Emily Sterling for that reminder).
  • Duke Basketball rules all.
    • Go to a game in Cameron.  You'll understand why.
  • Classes are hard.
    • I came in as a music major in Undergrad with little attention having been given to graduate work (in any field) and had pretty much figured that I would get a job in a church somewhere preparing worship, leading worship, etc. I didn't read Augustine.  I didn't study Anselm.  I took Greek for fun in Undergrad and NEVER envisioned that I would take it again. Wrong. I was good in music classes. It all made sense.  I could see why things were the way they were.  Not so here.  I often got Church fathers confused with other ones. I often couldn't remember how to articulate an argument. It's a struggle that I've had to deal with, and I think that I am progressing nicely.
  • United Methodist Floridians are lucky.
    • There is no doubt about it.  At Duke Divinity this year, Florida represents. Not only do we have a lot of students, we have a lot of good students. Students that are passionate about the Church.  Students that are influential in conversations.  Students that are sponsored by scholarships. Florida has done really well. If this hold true for all the other seminaries, the future of the UMC in Florida is looking up.
  • Worship is important.
    • Three days a week, every single week, a worship service is held in the middle of the day in Goodson Chapel. They are all well attended.  They have different styles of music.  They have different styles of preaching.  They have different contents.  You never know what you are going to get, but you always get what you need.  There are no classes during this time.  It is as if the school stops to worship as a community.  Professors, students, staff, everyone. Pretty cool.
  • Above all else, it is a community.
    • Middlers (second years) know what Juniors (first years) go through. Same is true of the seniors to Middlers.  They help out, they offer advice, they offer study guides, they cheer you on (quite literally). You don't feel as if the PhD students don't like you. They chat with you in the hallway.  They stop and grab cake before the OT11 exam. They friend you on Facebook.


I've thoroughly enjoyed the first semester.

Were there days I thought about dropping out and going to get a job in a church? Yes.

Were there days that I was frustrated? Yes.

Was I exhausted? Yes.

Were there times that I was unprepared? Yes.

Were there times when I thought I had nailed a concept and had gotten it all wrong? Yes.

Were there times when I was embarrassed? Yes.

But, it is still worth it.

Fight the good fight.

If our God is for us, who could ever stop us? If our God is with us, what could stand against?



Apple in Education

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]The iPod family with, from the left to the rig...[/caption]

Brilliant, just brilliant.

Propaganda for sure, but still pretty great. Make sure to watch the videos.

I can speak, from experience, that GarageBand and iMovie has helped my father in school announcements, etc.  Yes, this technology was very possible before, but I think it is fair to say that Apple's implementation of iLife has brought the art of recording and editing audio and video to life for...children. How powerful.

It occurs to me that the integration, ease of use, consistency of not only the products alone, but the User Interface of them makes this an enjoyable experience for all.

My only question: What's the cost? Who pays for this? Seems to me that private schools might be the first to be able to implement this because of financial constraints.  They could most easily work it into the price of tuition.  I know of many schools (including Duke University) that have given an iPod or MacBook to each of their students when they enter college in hopes that they will use them for school activities (like iTunes U).

Here comes the future my friends.