Groupthink: Music Small Groups

APU School of Music is relaunching their summer small groups.

Back in the day (pull up a rocking chair and a glass of lemonade, you youngsters), APU used to put together groups of singers and instrumentalists, pack them into vans, and send them off across this great nation to sing in churches, schools, camps, wherever they could get a concert booked.

As the school of music grew, and started to outgrow some of the constraints of its church-music roots, the budget for summer small groups got redirected to other scholarships, projects, and ensembles that fell more in line with the core disciplines of the school. The small groups eventually faded away into the stuff of legend.

Well, they’re back. With a vengeance. With a President-of-the-University mandate, and the sweaty wad of cash that comes along with it. Seems that somewhere along the line, the administration realized that summer small groups were one of the strongest recruiting tools around, and that it might be in the University’s interest to start funding them.

So, for the first time in about 5 years or so, two summer small groups will be out this year, canvasing the states, playing in churches and schools and camps.

tour van

I’m posting this here because a lot of the old APU gang that hangs out around here spent time in those vans, doing those concerts, and you brought back stories. We used to talk about things we would do differently if we were in charge of small groups, or things we wished that the booking agent, or the faculty adviser, knew about what it was like to be on the road.

Well, I’m on the flip-side now. I’m not in charge of the new small groups (as far as I know – I’m junior faculty, I don’t always know what I’m being volunteered for), but I am going to be involved in the process. And, I want to bring the experience of having been on the road in that van back to inform the way the new small groups are constructed.

So, help me out. Give me memories, regrets, ideas you had that you wish had been implemented, complaints, best-things-ever, worst-things-ever, what you would do if you had the keys to the kingdom, that sort of thing. This isn’t just limited to former small group members, by the way, or even just to APU-ites. If you have $.02 to throw in, throw it in! It would be great to hear from some people who are in church ministry, involved in booking artists or school groups, and to get your perspective on things you wish people knew.

Get your groupthink on!

91 thoughts on “Groupthink: Music Small Groups

  1. Daniel Semsen

    It’s Christy. Hmmmm….I’ll have to think about that one. Of course, having fallen in love with my husband on one of these tours- I am in favor of them.

  2. Daniel Semsen

    Ooh, I’ve got one already. I remember going to a meeting with Gordon Coulter (theology?) as a group before summer, and him talking to us a bit about Pastors and how we could minister to them or something. Okay, I don’t really remember. But speaking as the person that is HOSTING those groups now, I have a completely different perspective, and I think a seminar or two with some local church leaders could help get students heads around WHAT they are going into on that concert night. Ex. Not everyone is waiting excitedly for you to show how awesome you are- it’s not all about you. Something to acclimate the students on how to minister behind the scenes to the Music Pastor- how to assist with their ministry to the church people, and also maybe some talk on effective recruiting etc., like some real game plans- if that’s going to be a big push. A “You’re always on stage even when you’re not onstage” talk might be helpful- it’s not just our performance that will be remembered…

  3. Chad

    How about an orientation covering things like, oh… I dunno… when you walk in on your host’s boyfriend masturbating.

    Ya’know. The regular stuff.

  4. Heidi

    Or when you go snooping in your host homes’ room because they gave you the master and you happen to find a rectal thermometer in one of the nightstands and somehow Karen Long manages to buy a rectal thermometer at a WalMart stop the next day and it ends up on your music stand later that evening in the middle of a very quiet song.

  5. Daniel

    This is actually Daniel (geez Christy, get your own login!)

    dude…I’m laughing so hard I’m crying over here…

    However, I could give you a seminar on evil group members that slowly try and turn the entire rest of the group on you to break up your marriage.
    Thus the the now dubbed “summer we don’t speak of”

    or you could talk to Fausto B and find out what to do when your Host shows you their sex toys and reminds you to put them back when you’re finished…

  6. aly hawkins

    [quote comment="52585"]“Oh, did you get the crabs?”[/quote]

    [quote comment="52595"]… when you walk in on your host’s boyfriend masturbating.

    Ya’know. The regular stuff.[/quote]

    Chad, what have I said about telling other people’s stories? Not that there’s a human alive who hasn’t heard those.

  7. Chad

    Christy / Daniel… or… were you a celebrity couple, perhaps Dansty. Or Chrisiel.


    Was that, by any chance, the summer of ’98? That was our “Summer of which we do not speak.”

  8. aly hawkins

    Definitely having some kind of orientation to spell out WHY they’re even going would be good. Recruitment? I thought I was on tour to hang out with my friends and pretend to be Avalon: The Early Years.

    Someone who reads maps and can measure distances (now with Internet!) should help with booking. 680 miles in a van with broken air conditioning followed by a 90 minute concert in a church with no air conditioning wearing outfits that haven’t been dry-cleaned in 13 days is beyond the pale. Be realistic.

    Learn new music along the way. Those same 20 songs are gonna get old real fast.

  9. Jeremy

    Well, I have no experience with the excursions but my mom does. She went to Masters back when it was LABC and she tells horror stories. Like the time she and her friend were put up in a taxidermist’s home. She said there were animals in various states of taxederm(?) piled in every single room of the house. Some rotting. Couple that with the host being an older single very creepy man and you have a night spent fully clothed on top of the sheets with one hand on your packed suitcase. These trips sound like my own personal version of hell….but that’s just me.

  10. june

    One of my closest friends was in the women’s choir at APU and while on tour, was hosted by her now husband. He told her and her friend that he was a race car driver and they were like “Yeah, right….um, where’s the wife?” He had no wife but he made homemade bread that night and sandwiches out of it the next morning for the bag lunches he packed for them. He kept in touch and later made homemade, heart-shaped bagels. Eventually, he proposed.

    And yes, he was a race car driver. And now you can see him every Sunday as an announcer on ESPN.

    They are our neighbors and they are lovely people.

    I just had to add that amidst all the toilet and sex and taxidermy stories.

  11. Gretchen

    I vote for discovering what kind of camp a “spiritual retreat” camp really is before sending the group there. Somehow praying to the tree gods right after our concert (where we obviously shared yet another God for them to meditate on) was a little, um, different.

    Also, having a purpose for the camp group while they’re visiting summer camps is really important as well. Special music guests, counselors, camp janitors, yeah be ready for it all.

  12. Sharolyn

    Chad, *that* was the very first story I thought of, but never dreamed of telling. My jaw hit the floor to see it in print!

    And, you farted on my pillow during a Summer tour.

    Oh, man. My mind if flooding with stories right now. But they don’t really answer your question.

    The best thing the school did to help me on a tour was provide group counseling/team building before the trip. Do you remember that Chad, Aly, and Mike? We each said what our biggest fear or need was about the tour – and there were 12 of us. At some point during the Summer, those 12 things happened. And the rest of us were much more understanding because of it. I suppose it doesn’t take a therapist to ask that question. It could be someone (a professor) leading more than just music.

  13. Sharolyn

    I have many favorite parts of my video from that Summer. One that I just relived is when we realize well into our day that we’re not at the Sears Tower, we’re at the Hancock Building.

  14. michael lee Post author

    [quote comment="52670"]We each said what our biggest fear or need was about the tour[/quote]

    If I remember correctly, Chad’s biggest need was “I need to control the air conditioning at all times.”

  15. Sharolyn

    Sorry – keep getting interrupted…

    1) Is this the Christy who was Miss Placentia?

    2) Gretchen… the tree gods?! Wow.

    3) I agree with Aly. What is the purpose? Evangelism? Recruitment? Musical practicum?

    4) I don’t know Jonathan, but I vote to send him. :)

  16. michael lee Post author

    Jonathan is a 900-pound cross-dressing banjo-player who constantly mutters racist slurs under his breath while playing badly.

    So, he’ll be leading the camp group.

  17. leoskeo

    I traveled with some groups from LABC a million years ago. My memories were of 26 junior high boys and me as the cabin counselor. Now that was the best wisdom ever used cause every 19 year old knows how to handle that. Maybe it was letting the same 19 year old drive all over the west coast in a 15 passenger van, Those big vans can really go fast and they are surprisingly mobile off road.

    The best part was when we were staying in a young couples home who just had a baby and my 18 year old, never seen a naked picture or heard a bad word roomie found the couples photo album. As the four of us, the young couple my self and the rookie sat talking, eating pie he stumbled across the birthing pictures of this young couple.

    He did not finish his pie that night but his first view of the nether regions of the opposite sex included a baby crowning. Good times.

    Jeremy, what year did you moms travel, maybe I knew her?

  18. Paul

    Chad, you need to recount the story of the weapons under the sofa. (Wasn’t there a tommy gun somewhere?) And what about the bad night in Pittsburgh?

    Aside from a lot of wild stories, I would think after 60 gazillion miles and about upmpteen hundred concerts between all of you, you could compile a list of good and bad ideas for the people planning and executing these trips. Aly’s comment about too many miles in one day sounds like a good start. I would say avoiding taxidermy enthusiasts would be another. A third hot tip, so to speak, would be avoiding rectal thermometers. Seriously, though, I think these groups have done a lot for APU, and I’m glad to hear that they’ll be back on the road.

    I thought that women staying at host homes with single guys (even if they’re race car drivers) was a no-no. Didn’t someone try to pull the “my parents are out of town” trick on a couple of women (who promptly bailed) during one of your tours?

  19. june

    I agree with Paul. Even given my friends’ lovely story, I was shocked and appalled that she and another PYT were allowed to stay overnight with a single man! Suuuuurely that can be avoided?!

    My parents used to host singers from the Continentals when I was a youngin’ and I was completely enamored with them all. The only thing I recall from countless young singers being in our home was a couple of girls who seemed to hardly be able to stand each other. One of the girls was from the south and had a big accent and the other girl kept mocking her…and not in a friendly way. So yes, the thing about being on stage evne when you’re not seems appropriate. (Cuz’ even after all these years, when I think “Continentals” that’s one of the things that comes to mind. When people think “APU” what might spring to their mind after they’ve hosted some small group singers?)

    Mike, I think simply making a big point of “It’s not about YOU!” is always appropriate for college-aged people who are up on stage in any way.

    Please do carry on with the stories…they are oh so entertaining!

  20. Chad


    We’re in Scratch-a-crotch-ee, Alabama, (our universal town name for anywhere in the sticks.) We’re staying with a couple by the name of Joyce and Claude. I actually remember their last names, but for the slim chance they might have an internet connection, I’ll spare you.

    Anyways… Claude liked guns. A lot. It took all of about three minutes in their home before he had us fondling his loaded .44s and whatnot. I’ll never forget the phrase, “Hey there, Chad… just reach under that sofa real gentle like and see what you find.” It was a 9mm. Silver, I think.

    He had handguns stashed under every seating area. I think at one point in our conversation, he actually referred to the wealthy part of town as, “Snob Hill.”

    The following year, we went to the same town, and I remember it was Rosy and Jon Bereza who stayed with them. Upon hearing that Jon had never fired a weapon, Claude took it upon himself to take them shooting.

    By the side of the road.

    Good times.

  21. Chad

    The Pittsburg story is a multi-perspective story which should be led by Sharolyn and Aly. I have only funny memories of that night because while they were stuck where they were, I was stuck in a host home with perhaps the single most disrespectful, evil adolescent child of all time, and I thought Jud was going to pop that vein in his forehead that got really large when he hit high notes.

  22. Daniel

    A quick note from the other side…I actually got to host the summer small group Celebration at my church in the summer of ’03. Everyone had told me how great the group was that year, and being semi-new at the church, I wanted to show off how cool the APU SOM really was.

    Unfortunately, it was horrible. It was one of THOSE tours…you know, the ones we don’t speak of…and it was palpable. I took them all out to dinner after their Sat. night soundcheck, and I’m pretty sure two of the girls were outside for an entire hour having it out.
    Come performance time, it was lackluster. I think the words of the leader (the only words spoken during the 30-min set) were “We’re not gonna talk to you this morning since we only have a little bit of time…”.
    There were loooong pauses between songs while the ac guitar player set down his instrument to change and TUNE his elec. guitar…and during one of the a capella numbers the bass started chewing his fingernails–yes, DURING the song, while he was singing. Thank God it was their 2nd to last concert.

    I pretty much swore off booking small groups after that because of the incredible lack of continuity one year to the next. You never know what you’re going to get. Some years the groups are great, and some they’re not.

    There should definitely be more training for the leaders of the group BEFORE the camps and tours begin. Being thrown in there to just “do your thing” with nary a moment of leadership training is a recipe for disaster.

    Also–the group should understand each other’s strengths. We have that strenghtsquest thing going on now-and there should be some time given to that. It might help interaction down the road.

    I think that was .03 cents…

  23. Chad

    .04 cents, here we go.

    *Someone should be hired to, ahem, assist the musical director with song selections. Daniel’s observations about quality variance between groups is spot on, and I think a lot of it has to do with personal taste in song selection. This is not an underhanded commentary on “The Lord is My Light,” but dear god, did that song suck. It’s been 11 years, Aly, and I still can’t let it go. Sorry. The rest of our rep was awesome. :)

    *Counselling was the best thing that they started when we were doing it. Yes, I still control the air.

    *What are they thinking about paying the kids? Have they considered a $$ bonus or perhaps a discount on tuition for each successful recruit? I always felt like the whole “School Promotion,” aspect of the tours was underplayed, perhaps on purpose. However, it did lead to the self important, “We’re going out to become the Young Avalons” and save the world with our overwrought vocals kind of mentality. Keep it real with the kids. Help them keep their heads on straight. I’m not saying to completely take the focus off of ministry, just keep it real.

    *Booking agents – remember the “Monday off near an interesting place” rule. Some of my favorite memories of those trips was scooting around DC or NYC on a day off with my friends. I remember that gig we did at Lamb’s in Manhattan where we stayed in those apartments above the church on 44th street. Mike and Sharolyn and I went to the Virgin Megastore and I bought my first ever Jazz CD. I fell asleep with the wondow open, listening to the sounds of the city through my jazz-flavored headphones. Heady times for a young man… don’t short change them of memories just so the school can save a few bucks.

    *While the “No Dating on Tour” rule has it’s heart in the right place, some revisions need to be made. People locked in a van for 10 weeks who have chemistry are going to hit it off. End. Of. Story.

    The counselling needs to include some tools for how to deal with that situation. The couple involved needs to be allowed to be friends, to be given appropriate freedoms like any other member of the group. The other group members, sometimes jealous, sometimes annoyed, need to be given tools to deal with them. Isolation and public disdain only drives the couple underground and makes the romance seem more dangerous and appealing, opening the rift wider.

    Why yes, Billy, I did marry that girl I had the summer fling with nine years ago… thanks for asking. :)

  24. Chad

    Oh, alright, Michael, you don’t have to twist my arm.

    I will serve as rep consultant / interpersonal trainer for the school of music.

    My rate is still $300 an hour.

  25. Daniel

    >>>People locked in a van for 10 weeks who have chemistry are going to hit it off. End. Of. Story.

    been married seven years…God bless Innermission ’98…

  26. Daniel

    >>>*Someone should be hired to, ahem, assist the musical director with song selections.

    oh, and word. Too much freedom was given to the student leader to pick songs, etc…due to faculty being extremely busy.

    The year Rod was involved in our rehearsals every day of camp was a great year. More guidance from the faculty would be helpful. Don’t let it be the “leader’s” group, it should be the school’s group, with a student leader…If that makes sense.

  27. Morphea

    Heidi gets the prize for making me scald my nostrils. I’m never drinking hot coffee while reading your comments again, my dear.

    Wow – you guys have pretty much covered it. I do think the counseling (non-existent during MY small-group years, with one exception, which consisted of the following: “There’s a FUNK going on here. Fix it, or no tour!!”) and preparation and whatnot is the best idea I’ve heard.

    This may sound incredibly anal, but it was an issue for my Christian hard-rock cover band, Fortress (I went to Greenville College, btw). The trailer carrying the gear needs to be adequate. Well-sprung, spares included, a hitch apparatus that is no more than ten years old, etc. Ours was owned by the college and a P.O.S. And everybody needs a good course in how to hitch the damned thing and park the van without jacknifing everything all to hell. That’s my $0.02. Perhaps Zack could make himself useful in this.

    And never, NEVER any more than 6 lead singers (by lead singers, I mean people who don’t play anything else but their beautiful voices). You WILL have a knock-down drag-out about whether or not to turn “Angels” into a trio or not. The girl whose solo you just took away will have a meltdown and be consequently thrown out of the band. Then her loyal boyfriend, the awesome lead guitarist, will leave the band for her sake and you’ll have 6 lead singers trying to teach the rhythm guitarist his ass-kicking solos (since none of them play the guitar, they’ll teach him by all singing “bwee, nah-nah-nah, doo-doo doo dit dah” at him at the appropriate space in the song). He’ll suck for the rest of the tour as a result.

    Sorry – got lost in my Chrysalis (my Contemporary Christian Rock Cover Band wherein we mangled many a Dente tune) memories there. Going to my happy place…

    Cerise – who met Ramon in the Greenville College Music Department, where we made up 1/3 of the dickhead lead singers contingent and later married.

  28. Scott

    I couldn’t agree more with Daniel’s recent comment. There needs to be more faculty involvement in every aspect. Student leaders are often leading a group for the first time ever, and song selection/concert programming is very unfamiliar territory. It was for me, and I wish I could do it over again. Also, there needs to be as much faculty involvement in rehearsals as possible, too. Group selection, even, should have more faculty input (if not be the job of the faculty advisor, with some input from the student leadership).

    Sound techs were always hard to find, and GOOD sound techs were even harder. As building manager and recent SG leader (Reflection 2004), I’ve seen our gear disappear and deteriorate. There needs to be an *Exhaustive* inventory and testing of equipment. I’d be happy to help with that.

    PR training would be great. We hardly had any.

    Recruiting the last few years of Small Groups was very tough, because we basically ended up in little old churches with little old people who ask if Mary Hill is still there… not exactly the target audience for recruitment OR music, for that matter. So more intentional booking in youth groups and such.

    We always felt that we would show up just in time for a concert, say hi, ignore them while we frantically set up (not because we were lazy getting up, but because of the LONG drives), do the concert, be exhausted after teardown, go to homes, cut short the conversations to sleep, and get up early the next morning to go. I don’t see musical one-night stands as quite the right message. There needs to be some time built into the schedule for meeting with the people- even just for fellowship and to show that it’s not all about us- before we get thrown out onstage and are expected to know how to reach them. Oh, and we always wanted to have service projects. There’s something about an honest day’s work that makes being a musical diva okay.

    In 2004, we DID in fact talk about strengths and whatnot, though most of that was student organized, since the one magical person that had always done it before (Mark Sanford) couldn’t be there. So we were left to our own defenses. And social dynamics and team building are my weak points. The leaders did meet with Rod and Mark as soon as we were chosen on a sort-of-weekly basis to go through some leadership book. It was pretty good, but the “homework” of reading through this thing was such a strain when added to the workload of my final undergrad (and recital) semester. It would be more realistic and easier to grab ahold of if it were condensed a bit more by the mentors, rather than the “read these two chapters and come back and we’ll talk about them… so we don’t really have to prepare for you” kind of thing.

    Speaking of leadership and weaknesses, co-leadership is almost a must, provided they are chosen carefully to complement each other. There’s just something about having another person to keep your feet on the ground and being able to share the myriad responsibilities. I never was on a team with two leaders, but some of the other teams had it, and it worked great.

    There should debriefing forms. There could be a lot more “constructive criticism” and emotional vomit to help reshape these lovely groups.

    I’ll keep thinking. I have a lot more to say that I forgot to put on MY debriefing forms… I’m sure of it.

  29. Sharolyn

    I didn’t know if I could go back to Pittsburgh in my mind, but I think it’s so funny that Paul Reisser brought it up that I’m all good! :)

    It was me and Rebecca. Mike rescued us in the night. He may as well have been wearing a cape. It did involve a single man hosting two college girls. And his hairy-backed brother wearing tighty-whiteys. And a stormy night on dark roads with one windshield wiper. And having no clue where your self is. And a rotary phone that could only connect to local calls. Once we got to Mike and Mark’s host home, that woman looked horrified that we would even be grouped with him. She was a nice host, and let me call my mommy in the middle of the night.

    I think the lesson learned there for future groups is not to book churches that meet in the corner of a hotel.

  30. Chad

    [quote comment="52847"]I didn’t know if I could go back to Pittsburgh in my mind, but I think it’s so funny that Paul Reisser brought it up that I’m all good! :)

    It was me and Rebecca. Mike rescued us in the night. He may as well have been wearing a cape. It did involve a single man hosting two college girls. And his hairy-backed brother wearing tighty-whiteys. And a stormy night on dark roads with one windshield wiper. And having no clue where your self is. And a rotary phone that could only connect to local calls. Once we got to Mike and Mark’s host home, that woman looked horrified that we would even be grouped with him. She was a nice host, and let me call my mommy in the middle of the night.

    I think the lesson learned there for future groups is not to book churches that meet in the corner of a hotel.[/quote]

    And then whilst all that was happening…

    Aly. Go!

  31. aly hawkins

    [quote comment="52851"]And then whilst all that was happening…

    Aly. Go![/quote]

    Meanwhile, Jess and Kelli and I were dropped off at the Fort Pitt Motel. (Please click the link, and fall in love with how their best stab at marketing copy is “Fort Pitt Motel is a bit different.”) Now, the FPM may have changed in 10 years, but back then, you could rent rooms by the hour. We were not given this option, but the many subsequent occupants of the rooms on either side of us took advantage. The three little 20 year old girls in Room 15 huddled in one double bed, feeding quarters into the bed vibrator to muffle the disturbing noises. We didn’t sleep a wink.

  32. Sharolyn

    June, thanks for the green light. I don’t want to bore the world with out stories. My brothers both did “Continentals” a couple of times.

    I have video of us in the van the next day in Pittsburgh. I might have to get it out soon, since we’re all strolling down memory lane! Jud does a lovely impression of the kid he stayed with.

    On a TOTALLY different note, and another vote for pre-tour counseling: Our quietest member’s request was to see a college that interested her, that she would otherwise not be able to visit. As a result, once we were in that state, it was ALL of our priority to get to that school.

    Leoskeo, did your son ever recover?!

  33. Ryan

    As one of the co-leaders of InnerMission 2005, I definitely agree with Scott’s comment about doing service together. That should definitely be built into the schedule for the tours on some level. We felt like we had so much more of an impact with the people we spent an entire week with then those that we sang to for a night. Plus, it gave us a common purpose and vision which really brought us together. Also, for recruitment purposes, send these groups to Jr High/High School camps, not camps for 11-year olds! Not only did it make our repertoire selection difficult (we basically had to have two full sets of music…”kid friendly” and “adult friendly”), but the whole PR element was kind of lost.

    Other than that, our tour was great. I agree that more leader training beforehand would have been appreciated, but I think our group was really an example of a positive co-leadership. And I credit the fact that we did so much service together as part of the reason our group bonded so well. We all came off tour really feeling a strong sense of family…and in two months one of them is going to become my wife! I guess you can chalk another marriage up to APU small groups…

  34. june

    So let me get this straight… Aly, instead of staying in a home, your “hosts” dropped you off at a seedy hotel?! I’m completely gobsmacked!

    Sharolyn, I just…I just…don’t even have words. I’m glad you called your mommy.

    This all makes me want to host some kids.

    I went to an APU concert last year with my aforementioned friend at some medium-sized church in Sacramento. I was shocked at the average age of the audience members…at age 36, I felt like a fetus.

    At one point in the concert, the director asked if any of the choir members wanted to share anything about how God was working in their lives. A girl in the top row burst into tears and told us all about her dad who was having surgery that day for a cancerous tumor. Another girl who was a few people away from the talking girl, somehow (?!) squeezed past the boys between her and crying girl in order to give her friend a hug. I was so worried that she and the boys she was muscling past were going to fall off the back of the risers that I completely lost focus on what crying girl was actually saying.

    Oh, and RIGHT after a smiling young APU gal came out and gave us the sales pitch, a dear man who had to be pushing 100 raised his hand (yes, yes he did) and asked if there were “records or anything for sale.” It was all rather charming and a bit, oh, I don’t know, like Merchant Ivory goes to Bible camp or something.

    Lastly, (as if I’m actually saying anything anyone is interested in) my race-car driver marrying friend leaned over to me during the concert and told me that she went to such a concert as a child and, being thrilled with all she saw and heard, said to her mother, “Do you think I could ever do that?!” Her dear mother said “Why of course you can sweetie!” And now she’s happily married and raising great kids, making the world a better place, etc. So yeah…carry on APU singers, carry on!

  35. Paul

    Great stuff from everyone…

    If you didn’t click on Aly’s link, you can’t top this description: “Fort Pitt Motel is a bit different. At first glance, just a roadside motel with nineteen rooms, then a pleasant surprise. We invite you to come and see for yourself.” Oh baby, oh baby… On second thought, it sounds a little like the Bates Motel.

    By the way, Rex the plastic dinosaur, who served as mascot for one of the summer tours and thus traveled about 12,000 miles a decade ago, still sits on our front porch. He wears seasonal costumes, such as a Santa suit for yuletide or a baseball uniform for April. Go figure. Maybe we should put him on E-Bay.

  36. Daniel

    on the service note (thanks Scott and Ryan):

    There was one week we got booked at a non-Christian camp in No. CA named Celio. I’m not sure if Innermission had been there before, or not. But we were not counselors, or even camp staff that week, we just served. We spent the entire week dreaming up ways to clean or serve in whatever ways we could (in conjunction with the camp boss dude) and it was extremely gratifying for our group. It definitely brought us closer together, and created a deep, eye-opening experience for us all.
    And yes, Andy Balch and I chopped about 1 1/2 cords of wood by hand that week. It was awesome.

  37. Morphea

    Aly, I didn’t know you knew Klingon. This puts you in a whole new light for me.

    Daniel, did you feel super-manly as a result?


  38. lorijo

    My 2 cents…I loved small groups, although I didn’t get to be in any of them, I loved going to the send off concerts and the home again concerts(from 2001-2005)

    Music selection is super important. I’m learning this in planning worship and stuff, you can’t just pick your favorite songs. I think there were too many ballads, avalon-esque. A little goes a long way.

    I also felt that in the competition to join, everyone knew if they got picked for small group they would be in UCO…*shrugs* Oh, and watch out for the ones with the egos…

    Maybe in addition to the audition there should be a brief interview, to look for the heart for serving and ministry, not just another chance to perform. Sure there are essay questions…but are they answering honest, or just giving the right spiritual answers etc.

    PS. Scott, I think you did a great job despite lack of ___ or whatever. =) Most of the small group concert’s I went to were always full of worship and . Music is powerful, it really touches people. Remember that. Music speaks, music heals, it encourages, and it lifts you up.

  39. Jon

    Here’s my $.02…I was on the tour referred to by some as “the summer of which we do not speak” I have my own opinion, don’t we all? But I will say in regards to camps that I think the greatest benefit for the school of music is when Innermission ended up being counselors and serving the camps instead of being “special music guests.” Serving enabled you to actually build a bond with the people there before you give them your APU sales pitch. There are people I met at camps because of Innermission 7 years ago that I still keep in touch with and are invited to my wedding in June. On another note, I got a chance to see APU small groups in action as I led Worship at one of the camps for 4 years after I first came. Song selection is so important. Some leaders didn’t realize that. You need to know your audience and have a repertoire that is relevant for whatever groups you may come into contact with. If you think that 7th graders are craving “Adonai” today, you might a wee bit too into CCM. I’m just saying…

  40. Christy Semsen

    I actually think that the Innermission before the one I led DID go to the non-Christian camp Celio- and came home with their horror stories of being in a non-Christian place and being asked to do things other than sing! Gasp. I intentionally and prayerfully trained up my group with the foreknowledge that we were going to go in and serve, and not demand respect, or to sing, and show these non-Christians a kind of Christ they wouldn’t imagine. It was amazing to see God use us through humble service- and unimaginable ministry happened. (I was counseling a girl that was Wiccan etc.) The last day the director asked us if we would sing for him, (since he said we were the most unique Christians he had ever met- he was intrigued by us, I guess.) Anyways, the only way that summer worked (aside from lots and lots of prayer), was that the group was prepared alot before hand that it was going to be not all about us. Interpersonally, the one counseling session before hand DID really help us when it came down to every day conflict. And all that testosterone (6 boys and 2 other girls besides myself…hey- y’all know I wasn’t stupid)

  41. Sharolyn

    Christy, that’s awesome. It’s the lesson I still need to learn from time to time: “It’s not about YOU.”

    My two cents: I can’t tell you one Avalon song.

  42. Morphea

    I’m not trying to be controversial, promise, but I am confused. Why would a Christian music group go to a secular camp or other function? Evangelization? And – even more confusing – why would a secular camp or function book a Christian group in the first place?

    Can someone humor me? I don’t recall this ever coming up even when I was in a Christian college in Christian music bands. I’d be grateful…


  43. Sharolyn

    I don’t know the answer to the first question.

    As for the second, I’ve been involved with a fifth grade outdoor ed. camp that would welcome anyone who breathes if they wanted to improve the camp in some way.

  44. aly hawkins

    I’ll take a stab at the first question — for the same reason not-Christians would go to not-Christian camps: to hang out with kids, listen to them, clean up after them, give advice about boys (or girls).

    I think for the same reasons Christians would go anywhere not-Christians are: because, why not? God’s already there.

  45. Morphea

    OK, sorry, I was talking about the performance end of things. Perhaps I misunderstood. Was there any kind of musical performance, or was it just service?

    I’m asking (again) because if I were a Wicca (or whatever) at a secular camp I don’t think I’d be interested in hearing a Christian concert. That’s all I’m saying.


  46. Morphea

    Well, that’s actually a splendid idea, then. I’m really sorry for the confusion – I was picturing Wicca listening to an “Avalon – The Early Years” concert. My imagination ran away with me.

    Thanks, Daniel.


  47. corey

    [quote comment="53098"]

    My two cents: I can’t tell you one Avalon song.[/quote]

    Oh no, you can. They get buried next to bad movies from the early 90s that you see late night on TNT and spend five minutes what this is because… “I KNOW I saw this!!!”

    Then, once you figure it out, you’re remembering all sorts of things from not only THAT movie, but from what was happening around you during that time.

    They’re in there. It doens’t even matter that you weren’t a singer first and foremost. Dig deep.

  48. Ramon

    Corey, you couldn’t be more right. Why, just the other night I dreamed I was in a recording studio singing the chorus of “My Father’s Eyes” with a bunch of other hopefuls (shepherded around, in the meantime, by cranky studio veterans). I woke up and could remember EVERY WORD of that song, which I though long committed to the trash heap of my mind and forgotten.

    I had it in my head for days, until I realized that me humming it incessantly (which did me no good, either) was immediate grounds for divorce in Ramon’s mind.


  49. Chad

    Ironic, considering the comment was from me, and not Corey. I’m on the Mac in our sanctuary at church, and apparantly the last person to check addy was Corey.

  50. corey

    okay. that freaked me out. thanks for clarifying, chad. I seriously sat here thinking, “yeah, I guess I could’ve written it. It’s been a pretyy stressful day… but do I even know any Avalon songs?”


  51. corey

    And by the way, the date I logged on in your church was the record release- so, what, October 30th? You’re telling me you don’t hang out in back cruising AddRd during services/choir practices/ voters meetings?

  52. Paul

    Back to Rex… Whaddya mean he was named Sve’en? Is that Swedish for “he who smiles with big teeth”? Not even Google can match that word.

  53. grammy

    1969…my one small group tour experience ended with the leader getting one of the girls pregnant.

    …there are supposed to be RULES for these tours???

  54. Paul

    Just for clarification: Grammy’s small group tour didn’t involve APU.

    On an unrelated note, I thought that Scratchacrothcee was in Mississippi. I’m sure Faulkner must have written about it.

  55. Heidi

    Oh I just remebered a story, I think coming from dear Melody Phillips (now Holz). They got back for debriefing, were sat down in the conference room, and as soon as Rod left, walked across the street to the 99 cent store, bought some huge underwear, left them on the table of the conference room with a note that said “we debriefed”, and went home.

  56. Dan Hawkins

    Ok, didn’t have enough time to read everyone’s replies, so sorry if this is repetitive…

    I did a Summer ’98 tour (not with THAT group…) and have done numerous Continental tours (glad to see they popped up on here!).

    I think that at least equal if not MORE time should be spent on determining a person’s character and heart when selecting members of a group. As scripture points out (loosley quoting) what is in a person’s heart will eventually come out. Especially under the pressures of tour. If you don’t have a great group of people who all have genuine servant hearts, your ministry will suffer. It’s not always easy to dig this deep into a person, but I’d say it is almost more crucial than musicianship. We have enough non-genuine, unauthentic Christian artists out there if that is what a church or camp is looking for.

    So… reference letters and checks, personal interviews, comments from professors, and the like should be incorporated in the selection process.

    Lastly, I second the comment on learning more songs during the tour. We did this, and it was a great experience of learning and keeping things fresh. Perhaps giving a tour two days off in the middle of the tour to have a “mini-camp” might be smart as a time of spiritual and musical refreshment.

  57. michael lee Post author

    great thoughts, everyone.

    Dan, the tour break idea is a good one, for a lot of reasons. Probably they should schedule it near someplace cool, like Vegas, and fly out one of the junior faculty to hang with the group, on the school’s dime.

    Just a thought.

  58. Melody

    After 72 comments I don’t know what I could add. Except that having traveled in the 2nd small group in the early ’70s (yes, some of us are still living) I observe that not much changed over the years. We had some small level of counseling, though not enough. Al Clift chose most of our repertiore until Doug Sheets came in and was a great songwriter. (I will say this; we were well dressed and taught to “sell” the music in contrast to many Maranatha type groups out there who never once looked at the audience. We often shared the stage with these kinds of groups. When one of their singers would say, “The Lord gave me this song”, we knew it would be awful.)

    We had vans that were built before the age of airconditioning and I burned a hole in my arm on the oil filter which stuck up through the floor (Bless those transportation maintenance guys) during one of our all-night drives home from Arizona or someplace.

    We sang in a coffeehouse once where after the service the guy in charge expressed his great disappointment that none of us had a “God delivered me from drugs” testimony.

    Over the years I’ve thought about the experience and wondered why APU would put six college students in a van and send them on the road.

    Were we ministers? Sometimes.
    Were we school recruiters? Often.
    Were we mature. Once, I think.
    Were we conceited? Yeah.
    Did we have fun? Most of the time.
    Were we spiritual? Not as much as we should have
    been, but sometimes God really used us.
    Was it worth it? YES!
    Would I let my child go? Heck, NO!

  59. Chad


    You wouldn’t let your kid go? I leared a lot about what it meant to belong to The Body on those trips…

  60. Morphea

    I don’t know, Melody. I always figured that once your kid graduates from high school you really don’t get a say. I sure didn’t obey orders after that shiny day…


  61. Melody

    Chad, did you read the rest of my post or just the last comment? Think, ‘tongue-in-cheek’. If my parents let me go, why wouldn’t I let my kid go? Hindsight and maturity give one a different perspective. Maturity doesn’t often come to the college-age kid and this kind of experience had a maturing influence on me though I didn’t see it at the time. Though I wouldn’t have understood it then, I think that the purpose of these groups IS for the learning experience of the students involved more than any other purpose (except recruiting: “Hi, remember me? I was at – insert camp name here – last summer!”). . . see above post from Melody.

  62. Chad

    Ah, gotcha!

    I think I take you too literally. Thanks for making me look like an old fart!

    “What’s this I hear about Russian Jewrey…”

    I was just taken aback, as I have mostly pure memories from those trips… all of course except the fourth and final one… but she’s my wife now so no harm no fowl.

  63. Paul

    By the way, speaking of poultry, did you hear about the newspaperman who couldn’t believe that he had won a prestigious journalism award for his story about the terrible conditions in chicken coops?

    It was a pullet surprise!!

  64. Morphea

    Chad, I don’t see how Michael’s punning was any better than yours, at least when it comes to chickens. That is to say, neither of you sucked eggs.


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