Tag Archives: university

Student Projects

This is the first of a two-parter (updated below). Last week my students turned in their final projects for the class “Production Techniques”. It’s a group-based independent study kind of course. They work together, over the course of a semester, to go from song-writing demos all the way to final mixes. They manage everything; budget, timeline, contracting the players, producing the session, engineering (mostly), mix, the whole shebang. We toss them the keys to the ProTools HD room for a few nights, and they go nuts. For most of them, this is the first time they’ve walked through the whole processes, from beginning to end.

So, here are the 3 songs done by the first team (Paul Stephens, Cindy Hayward, Julia Dedmon). Paul is the vocalist, and the primary songwriter on all three.

“All I Want to Know”


“Just Walk Away”

(updated: decided to add the 2nd team to this same post)

Here are the 3 songs done by the second team (Elizabeth Rickman, Jocelyn Danque, Scott Ryan Ingersoll, Mike Rains).

“Buried” by Scott Ryan Ingersoll

“Leaves” by Elizabeth Rickman

“Don’t Leave Me Behind” by Scott Ryan Ingersoll

A Wiki-mencement Address

graduation appleToday is graduation day at ye olde APU, and it represents my first complete cycle of teaching. The graduating class of 2007 were freshmen in the fall of 2002, when I taught my first class of Intro to Music Tech as an adjunct.

From the very beginning, this blog has tried to give a little something back to the childrens. On this hallowed day, as we pause to reflect on the bounty and beauty of a life unfolding, I wonder if you, the wizened readership of this fine blogging institution, might have a few perfunctory words to pass along to the new generation, coming so eagerly to take your gigs away?

My First Time ‘Round (part 1)

With Rod out recovering from surgery for a few weeks, the dean of the school of music asked me to step in and oversee the summer small groups. It’s the first thing I’ve done (like, ever, in my life) that’s more administrative than creative, but I’m happy to do it – it’s my small way of supporting Rod.

But getting up in the mix on this has gotten me thinking often about my own small group experience. Not the spectacular, talent-packed tours of my later years at APU, not the groups that spawned a half-dozen working pros and a group of friends that still hang out and teach each other’s kids dirty words.

No, I’m talking about my first small group experience. My very first. I was a freshman, a week into my college experience, and the School of Music was putting together a few groups to perform during the school year, at local churches on Sunday morning. I auditioned to play piano for one of the groups.

The Audition

The audition was … oh man. It was a hell of a thing. To fully appreciate how awful it was, you have to understand that back in the day, the School of Music was a cult of personality, and the whole program orbited around the gravitational pull of a man we called Doc. He put every small group together by divine fiat, and he did all the auditions himself, in front of a choir of 120, with everyone watching.

He asked me to play Amazing Grace. He asked everyone to play, or sing, Amazing Grace. It was one of his things.

The problem is, with a cult of personality, sometimes a punk kid comes into the orbit of the thing without knowing that you’re supposed to be all awe-struck and weak-kneed in The Presence. The cult sort of relies on everyone knowing that. It’s kinda the point of the cult.

I didn’t know that I was supposed to be in awe of the man – I thought he was a bit of a pompous ass. I decided to show him what a real musician could do.

So, I puffed out my chest and launched into a massive funk piano breakdown on “Amazing Grace”, complete with an intro stolen from a Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto. And in my funktastic version of Amazing Grace, there are 4 beats in every measure. It leaves a little extra room for my awesome piano pyrotechnics.

Imagine a 50-year-old retired Vegas showgirl wearing a bright pink fur coat with dangly plastic flamingo earrings and an orange fake-and-bake tan, still shaking her jiggly bits in a dank nightclub at Primm.

My arrangement of Amazing Grace was kinda like that.

About half-way through the 1st verse, Doc cued the 120 people in the choir to start singing along.

Did I mention my version was in 4/4, not 3/4? Yeah, it was also in minor.

Now picture yourself trying to ballroom dance with that Vegas showgirl.

(continued in part 2)

Groupthink: Send the Songs, My People!

sheetmusic back bOK, kids … everybody know what time it is? That’s right, it’s time for you to help Mr. Michael Lee do his work! For free!

Settle down, kids. No, there are no snacks. No, Timmy, I will not cut you in for points on the backend … Timmy, where did you learn about that kind of thing anyway? Oh, your last name is Mottola. Well, that explains a lot, Timmy.

For the rest of you, here’s the assignment. I need you to help Mr. Lee think of songs for his little singing group to perform. Think big guitars, drums, a very cool band, and 6-part vocal harmony tight enough to peel the lipstick off a pig. No, Timmy, I wasn’t making a joke about your daddy’s ex-wife.

So, if you had that kind of group, heading out on the road to perform concerts for medium-size churches, and also doing some stints as a high-school camp worship band, what kind of rep would you throw at them?

Anything. Anything at all. It doesn’t have to already be arranged for that kind of band + vocals, it can be a song that you think could be arranged well for the lineup.

The floor is open. Hit me.

Becoming what they already are

I could give you a list, right now, of a dozen students who will make their living in the music industry, and 120 who won’t.

There is a guy who got frustrated trying to explain to people what MP3 compression does to audio files. He took a few hours one evening to record a live string trio, then built an audio file for them to listen to that switches to lower and lower MP3 quality every 2 bars. Everyone who has heard it immediately says “Ah … I get it.” He’s going to be an engineer.

There’s a girl who has spent the last 2 years booking her own gigs as a singer-songwriter, begging and borrowing to record an album, and steadily building a following of fans who will regularly drive an hour to hear her play live. She reached out and got connected with indie promoters, has songs being placed on TV shows, and did a club tour of Singapore. She’s going to be an artist.

There’s a bass player ditching his final exams, in his last semester here, because he’s going to be on tour. He’s kills on electric bass, but for the last 9 months he’s been busting his chops on a series of Bach pieces for acoustic bass. I know because he insists on practicing in the hallway outside my office. He’s going to be a bass player.

There’s the kid who bugged his way into an internship with Lee Rintenour. Lee wasn’t quite sure what to do with an intern, so, as a joke, he gave the kid a recording of himself jamming over a loop for 45 minutes, and told him to transcribe it. Well, the kid transcribed it, the whole thing, then he learned to play it, and brought it back to Lee. He told him he wasn’t an intern anymore, and hired him to do session prep for his next record, charting the songs for the players. He’s going to be a session player.

Most of the music majors at our school, and I would guess that this is true of all music programs everywhere, believe that something magical will happen the moment they walk out the door with a diploma in hand. They will suddenly become self-motivated, practicing 3 hours a day. They’ll take the time to listen to all of those recordings that their teachers keep recommending, and they’ll magically know how to self-promote. In short, they’ll become musicians.

The difference is in how they see themselves. The engineer is already an engineer. The artist is already an artist. They aren’t on their way to becoming anything that they aren’t already.

I hear a lot of students talking about getting “their break”, and it’s the talk of a person who expects somebody else to step into their life, and rescue them from the responsibility of their own decisions. Truthfully, it’s the voice of the prolonged adolescence, wanting the patina of adulthood with none of the attendant obligations.

The students who will make their living as musicians don’t ever talk about getting “their break”. Really. Not ever. They talk about music, about what they’re listening to and learning to play, they get excited when they talk about their craft, and about other people who excel at it. They talk like musicians, not like people who are waiting for someone to turn them into musicians. They’re not waiting for anyone’s permission to become the thing they want to be. To pull a fantastic quote from The Departed, they are not content to be the product of their circumstances – they want their circumstances to be a product of who they are.

Do you want to be a songwriter? Songwriters write songs, and perform them for anyone, anywhere. Do you want to be a painter? Put brush to canvas. Do you want to be a writer? Put ink on the page. If you aren’t already doing those things you say you want to, then my guess is you don’t really want to do them.

Those who are waiting for the right circumstances to transform them are, I think, doomed to lead lives of quiet desperation, and will go to the grave with their songs still in them.

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!

The Cardinal Practices of a Humble Teacher

Teaching at a University is a dangerous post.

There is a quiet seduction to it, a worm in the ear that whispers the same thing over and over, and then you begin to believe it, and it changes how you perceive yourself, which is to say it changes how you perceive everything else in the world as it relates to you.

At every turn, the teaching life reinforces this one, singular idea. Your opinion matters more.

I mean, really, in what other line of work do groups of people flock together twice a week to hear you run your mouth for 60 minutes? Your opinion matters more.

Where else in life do people willingly submit to you their creative endeavors, to be critiqued and ranked according to your entirely subjective internal criterion? Your opinion matters more.

Who conceived of this bizarre environment in which people walk into my small broom-closet of an office, and wait expectantly for me to impart to them the secret wisdom of how to organize one set of frequencies next to another? Your opinion matters more.

All day long, in the repeated rituals of academic life, this mantra is enacted a hundred times. It is whispered low, just below the level of hearing, but loud enough to change how you view the entire world. And being told that your opinion matters, this is a dangerous thing to be told, when you are (relatively) young, and your character is not yet sufficiently formed, because it is, of course, exactly the sort of thing that you want to believe. It is entirely corrosive. It erodes the soul, which can only grow when it is humble.

In teaching music, opinion is the currency of the craft. The whittling down and building up of musicians is always done at the hands of someone who went before them into that world. The induction into the craft is always the imparting of perspective, the giving of opinion. To be told that your opinions matters more, in music, is to be crowned a Prince, complete with attendant court and vassals.

I am an addict at heart, to any kind of stimulant, and I don’t want to wait around to see what kind of track marks this mistress leaves.

So, this is my new project: to walk humbly in the midst of a dangerous environment. My plan is to repeat the steps of those teachers whose wisdom and humility I have admired, to imitate the practices that they have demonstrated, but never bothered to write down in a handly little list. So, I’ll just jot it out here:

The Cardinal Practices of a Humble Teacher

  1. I will spend time in the company of those who exceed me
  2. I will continue to learn new things
  3. I will admit my own ignorance, without pretense or excuse
  4. I will take creative risks in my field, sufficient to produce real failures


Demo-lition Derby

I need a little help from my friends. Remember this class that I’m teaching?

It’s the one where the students produce a short album over the course of a semester.

Well, I’m meeting with the students for the first time on Monday night, to talk through the details of the class, and to get them headed in the right direction on the project. I’m going to hand them a sample packet of what a final project should look like, to give them something to shoot for, and I decided to use a song from The Dailies’ record as the model (totally violating the sanctity of Chad and Erica’s intellectual property of course. Suck it up. It’s for the children). I’ll put together a microphone input list, a budget, a timeline, a recording schedule, everything they need to do for the course, around that one song. The cool thing about this is that I have actual demos tracking the progress of all of these songs from The Dailies record, so the students will get to hear everything from first demos all the way through to final masters.

So, here’s what I need from you – which song should I use? Picture yourself as a 21-year-old music student. Then, go here and listen to the 30-second clips (or better yet, buy the album!). Then, tell me which song you think would most capture the interest and creative attention of the students in the class.

history of the byzantine empire

OK, here’s the deal. Ignore the fact that the title of this podcast is “12 Byzantine Rulers: The History of the Byzantine Empire.” Ignore the fact that it’s a history podcast. Ignore the fact that it’s a university lecture course, and that you’ve already finished all your fancy learnin’. Focus on the fact that it will rock your world. Check it out.
Lars Brownworth - 12 Byzantine Rulers: The History of The Byzantine Empire - 12 Byzantine Rulers: The History of The Byzantine Empire

Sophia Rocks Out

So, one of the classes I teach is all done through video podcast. It’s a class on how to produce a studio recording, and so, of course, I thought it would be appropriate to compose and record the crapp-tastic-est theme song ever for the show. Here it is:

It turns out, this is Sophia’s favorite song ever. This is a video of her rocking out to it, again and again and again. This, basically, is how we spent out entire evening tonight. In the middle of this, while the camera is pointed at my chest, you will hear her saying her new favorite word, “More?”.

On Music and Ethics, and Whatnot

Turns out, nobody has really done any research or writing in music and ethics. There is some work on how music serves as an anthemic tool for social movements with ethical import (civil rights songs). There is some work on the historical views of how different cultures have viewed music as a language with moral overtones. But there’s nothing current being done on ethics as an integrated tool for decision making in the life of a musician.

This is becoming something of a problem the more I dig into the preparation for teaching a course on the subject. I need to use books. They don’t exist. I need my students to trace the thinking of other people in the area. It hasn’t been done.

I went out looking for a course at a major university that tackled music and ethics, either as a “professional ethics” sort of course, or even from a more theoretical “philosophy of music” perspective. Nobody has one. The content just doesn’t exist.

Approaching a blank field in academia carries with it an odd sensation – you don’t know if you’re traipsing through virgin territory, or a nuclear wasteland. Is there nothing here because nobody has been here before, or is there nothing here because everyone who starting walking through it ended up with 3 legs and persistent boils, so nobody comes here anymore.

In other words, is it void because there’s nothing worthwhile to talk about here?

I hope that’s not the case. I don’t think it’s the case. But the other possibility is almost as terrifying. Every mountain gets to kill off a few dozen climbers before someone finds a route that works. Every “first voice in” to a virgin academic area gets to be the punching bag for the dozen or so “second voices in” that come to tango.

So, all that to say, you lucky people are going to be helping me pull this together. Prepare yourselves. Pray. Fast. Listen to music. Learn to write meaningless run-on sentences that are weighted down with redundant clauses, filled with obscure syntax, and imbued with a self-righteous sense of condescension. We’re going to create some Academic Content!

25 Top Professor Ratings

Ever since Phil dug up the post on “Why You’re Not My Favorite Student“, I’ve been poking through the www.ratemyprofessor.com site. They have a section with the top 25 funniest professor ratings, thought I’d share them here:

You can’t cheat in her class because no one knows the answers.

His class was like milk, it was good for 2 weeks.

Houston, we have a problem. Space cadet of a teacher, isn’t quite attached to earth.

I would have been better off using the tuition money to heat my apartment last winter.

Three of my friends got A’s in his class and my friends are dumb.

Emotional scarring may fade away, but that big fat F on your transcript won’t.

Evil computer science teaching robot who crushes humans for pleasure.

Miserable professor – I wish I could sum him up without foul language.

Instant amnesia walking into this class. I swear he breathes sleeping gas.

BORING! But I learned there are 137 tiles on the ceiling.

Not only is the book a better teacher, it also has a better personality.

Teaches well, invites questions and then insults you for 20 minutes.

This teacher was a firecracker in a pond of slithery tadpoles.

I learned how to hate a language I already know.

Very good course, because I only went to one class.

He will destroy you like an academic ninja.

Bring a pillow.

Your pillow will need a pillow.

If I was tested on her family, I would have gotten an A.

She hates you already.

Professor Farty Pants

I’m starting to develop some irrational phobias associated with teaching.

potty time

I’m afraid to be in the bathroom if there are any students in there. My reasoning behind this is very pragmatic. Using the bathroom fequently involves noises. These noises are very natural, and even healthy, but they are generally not appreciated when made in the company of others. One of the reasons why western society has advanced to the point where we have private bathrooms is so that we have a place to go when we need to make such noises without disturbing others.

We’re supposed to make these noises in the bathroom – the bathroom is built for exactly these kinds of situations.

I refuse to use the bathroom when there are students in there because I know, the instant I do, I will make some sort of bathroom noise, and for the rest of my life at APU, I will be known as Professor Farty Pants.

A Single Note of Praise

A former student of mine wrote a symphonic piece, and today was the first full rehearsal of the piece with the APU Orchestra.

I ducked my head in for a second to listen to the piece, and caught the beginning of the rehearsal. The first thing that happens when an orchestra rehearses is the tuning. A single note is passed from player to player, until everyone is in tune with each other.

As the note began, and players started to join in, I couldn’t keep a smile off my face. If you weren’t a student at APU, it’s probably hard for you to understand this, but the school of music used to be, basically, a one-group affair. We had a huge choir, and it went all over the world singing, but that was about it. We recruited string players mainly to play schmaltzy string parts written by mediocre orchestrators to accompany disney-esque pop choir arrangments. We recruited woodswinds and brass players so that we had enough to cover every part in the choir arrangments, but that was about it.

The orchestra began to tune. The oboe passed the note to the Concert Mistress, who tuned the string. 24 Violins. 8 violas. I know the guy who is sitting 4th chair in that section – he spent the summer on the Normandy Coast as part of a chamber music workshop, auditioning against students from all over the world. He’s amazing. His tone and technique are superb. He’s the 4th best violist – there are 3 better than him. A full cello section – the lead cellist put off an invitation to join a professional ensemble in Washington for a year to come finish his master’s degree here.

The woodwinds tune up. The bassoonist has been invited to audition for the Colburn School for Performing Arts this spring. He missed the first week of classes because he was up at Skywalker Sound playing on a film score. The brass. The percussion. The harpist. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

As that note started to swell, I couldn’t keep a smile off my face. This is a real orchestra. Made up of real musicians, who have the talent to really do something special. Not only that, but there is a mindset, a determination present in this room that matters maybe even more than the talent – these students are here to do music, and to do it well. They know the stakes, but they also know that they are swinging some heat, and it’s electrifying to see.

Every day that I’m here, some new thing happens to remind me that I am part of something unique. This little music program, built on the strength of one choir, is becoming something special. It’s becoming a school of musicians.

I can’t believe I get to do this.

So, this is pretty much my dream class

One of the cool things you get to do as a professor (DISCLAIMER: outside of the ivory walls of academia, saying “professor” pretty much means, “person who is on the teaching faculty at a University”. Within those walls though, the title is a specific rank that’s part of this whole secret-handshake, feudal-like system where Professors are the Lords and lowly “Instructors” (my actual rank) are the vassals. When I call myself a professor around these parts (my intra-net blog), it’s in the common, vernacular sense of the word. If I were to call myself a professor at the lunch table on campus though, I’m pretty sure veins would start popping out of the necks on those around me as they race to be the first to remind me that I am, in fact, not a Professor, not ever an Associate Professor of Assistant Professor, that I am in fact a lowly Instructor, which is just one step above dried cat vomit on the academic ranking scale. So, we’re cool?) ….

As I was saying, one of the coolest things you get to do as a prof is say, “I think I would like to teach a course about such and such”, and then you write up a course plan, and if it gets approved, and students sign up for it, you get to teach it. I just finished, on Friday, the first stage in designing and submitting a new course called “Music and Ethics”.

So, I thought I would post the lecture outline here, for your perusal. It’s pretty much my dream course – it has little pieces from everything I love reading and thinking about, and all tied together by the common thread of how we should, as people of faith and as musicians, think about making ethical decisions.

Week 1: “The Case for the Ethical Life”
- Plato and the Ring of Gyges
- Reason and Ethics: The possibility of moral expertise (in what I’m sure will be a very controversial move, I’m relying on the writing of Peter Singer, who has written several books that I think brilliant but misguided, and also a few journal articles arguing fantastically well for the idea that there can exist a learned skill of moral expertise. It’s a defense for the idea that not everyone’s opinion carries equal weight in a moral conversation, that there can be those who have special training, and significant thoughtful consideration, that leads to better moral conclusions.)
- Faith, Knowledge, and Virtue: ethics and the Christian life.

Week 2: “Introduction to Ethical Systems of Thought”
- Standards for evaluating ethical systems
- Normative vs. Descriptive Systems
- Reason, Intuition, and Faith: Are ethical systems a necessary component of Christian thought? (Basially, why do we need to study this stuff? Shouldn’t we just pray and read our bible, and the right decision will be revealed to us?)

Week 3: “Ethical Systems, Part 1″
- 3 kinds of moral skepticism: Nihilism, Moral Subjectivism, Moral Relativism

Week 4: “Ethical Systems, Part 2”
- Natural Law Theory
- Divine Command Ethics
- Classic and Contemporary Utilitarianism

Week 5: “Ethical Systems, Part 3”
- Kantian Ethics
- Virtue Ethics
- Moral Pluralism

Week 6: “Instructor Bias Week!”
- The case for Divine Virtue Ethics. So, I’m not one of those profs who thinks that the way to teach philosophy and ethics is to be the totally neutral fount of knowledge, personally removed from the subject matter. I have strong, and considered, views on the right and wrong way to sort through this stuff, and I think it cheats the students for me to stand on the sidelines. So, I’m going to tell them what I think, and make my best case for why I think it.

Week 7: “The Ethics of Participation, Part 1”
- “In the world, not of the world”: a Christian perspective on holiness and participation
- Moral outcomes
- The transitive property of participation

Week 8: “The Ethics of Participation, Part 2”
- Dual Morality, Agency, and Law: three false exits to the question of participation
- The “Nazi Prison Guard” dilemma

Week 9: “Intellectual Property, Part 1”
- A biblical perspective on property
- Property and creativity
- 3 alternatives to a property system: patronage, service model, gift economy

Week 10: “Intellectual Property, Part 2”
- Ethics within a property system
- Law, Justice, and Integrity: systematic vs. personal ethics

Week 11: “Issues in Professionalism”
- Selling the goods: ethics and personal representation in the music industry
- Invested participation: aesthetics, credits, preparation, commitment

Week 12: “Aesthetics and Creativity”
- Imago Dei, and the theology of creativity
- The Dualism of Human Nature: integration and the musical experience

Weeks 13-15, the remainder of the course, are just the students turning in their thesis papers, doing peer review, and doing oral defense.

So, this is pretty much my dream course to teach. And that makes me …

King Nerd, signing out.

Class Intro

So, this was kind of fun. I started classes on Thursday, and I opened up my first lecture for “Intro to Music Tech” by playing this video. Picture 20 kids in a room, with the speakers turned on full blast, and this rolling. It was very fun.

I apologize for the compression of the video – it looks awful on the upload.

Also, for any of you interested in following along with the class lectures (nerd!), the whole semester is being podcast.

A Totally Unbiased Blog Retrofit By A Guy Who Just Finished 7 Days of New Faculty Indoctrination

Last Thursday was my final day of New Faculty Indocrination at (University Name Withheld, in the interest of continued employment), and I realized that many of the new educational theories that were being promoted during that time can be applied, with great effect, to how we run this blog. My hope is that you will find the following new guidelines an aid to you as you attempt to carry forward this blog’s mission of Actualizing Reader Experience.

1) Post Summaries

Prior to submitting a post, please submit a brief summary of your intended post. This will generally be 8 or 9 pages, and must include the following: when you intend to publish the post, the primary points of your post, a detailed correlation of how each of those points relates to the mission of the blog (Actualizing Reader Experience), and a catalog of “objective and measurable reader outcomes”. Please also include the blog mission statement, the blog integrity policy, and your own policy for reader assessment.

This post summary must be received at least 6 months prior to posting, and will be reviewed by both the Blog Posting Committee (Paul T. Reisser, Chair) and the Blog Posting Summary Committee (Aly Hawkins, Chair). Any errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or content will result in the summary being rejected. If your summary is rejected, you will receive notification with 3 months, detailing the reasons for that rejection, so that you can make changes and resubmit.

2) Emerging Church Worldview Integration

This blog began as an exploration of the Emerging Church Movement. Recently, we’re expanded to cover a multitude of other topics, including Music, Apple Computers, Art Review, Nostalgia, and Blasphemy. While we recognize that these are all signs of a healthy, growing blog, we want to make sure that we stay true to our original mission. Therefore, 30% of the content in every post must consist of “Emerging Church Worldview”. One of the distinctives of this blog is our unique Emerging Church Worldview, and we firmly believe that every topic we post on should be overtly saturated with this distinctive.

For example, say you have decided to post on the fact that Apple has released three new commercials in their humorous “PC vs. Mac” series. After giving the link, you might include the following statement:

“One of the reasons why Apple is embraced by the Emerging Church Movement is because of its strong identification of design (form) with function (content). Both Andrew Jones and Ryan Bolger have examined the premise that the ECM constructs worshipping communities that follow that same value.”

Or, say you’re posting a movie review for Snakes on a Plane (Review? How about just one word: Samuel L. Awesome!). You might include the following in your post:

“Snakes on a Plane might be the first movie to have a cult following prior to its actual release. This is due in no small part to its immediate embrace by the blog-o-sphere, and subsequent use as a meme. The Emerging Church Movement also uses blogs. Samuel L. Jackson decided to take the role when he …. “

See how easy, and non-forced, that is? We hope this new standard for Emerging Church Worldview Integration will be a positive and uplifting guide for you as you prepare your posts.

3) Strengths Based Posting

One of the challenges of this blog is our desire to embrace a readership with a wide range of personal strengths and non-strengths (formerly called “weaknesses”). We recognize that each person is unique in their mix of personal attributes, and we want to make sure that the content we are presenting is accessible to all people.

In order to maximize the accessibility of the content, each post will be submitted three times: once as an analytical, fact based piece; once as an emotive, relational piece; and once as a pictograph. For example, the news that Pluto is no longer a planet would need to be blogged about in all of the following ways:

(Analytical) “Pluto does not meet the orbital standards established by IAU for a planetary class object, and is therefore now a member of the class ‘Dwarf Planet’.”

(Emotive) “A group of scientists didn’t feel like Pluto should be a planet, so they all decided to start calling it a ‘Dwarf Planet’. How do you feel about this?”



This way, the content is accessible to people with a wide range of comprehension strengths!

4) Comprehensive Posting Assessment

A significant portion of the Google AdSense income from this blog will be diverted to fund a new “Comprehensive Posting Assessment” team. In order to fully implement these new guidelines and strategies, we need a method for assigning numbers to the effectiveness of blog posts in each of the areas mentioned.

We’ve rounded up the finest statisticians, software engineers, PHP programmers, and graphic designers, and asked them to design a system of assessment for determining how effective each blog post is at achieving the “reader outcomes” listed in the post summary.

We’ll have more details later on what this assessment looks like. Since most of the people on the assessment team have never really seen a blog before, the first few months will be spent orienting them to the language and culture of the new media. We’re confident, though, that their comprehensive understanding of both math (including prime numbers!), and of the technology that hosts the blog (php, apache, etc.), will make them very effective at developing an assessment strategy.

In Conclusion …

Thank you for taking the time to review the new blog policies. I know we’re all on the same page when I say that Actualizing Reader Experience is our number one priority here at Addison Road, and I’m confident that the best way to improve reader experience is through detailed micromanagement of every aspect of the posting process.

Either that, or I would somehow have to just recruit good writers, and then let them write.


Professor Lee

Today is a big day. A very big day. Huge.

I had an hour-long meeting with Duane Funderburk, Dean of the School of Music at APU. It turns out that the Michael Lee brand of “Amuse and Abuse” teaching is in high demand there.

I’ve been offered a full-time contract. For those of you outside of the academic world, it might be hard to appreciate just how momentous this is. For the school of music to get administrative permission to add new full-time faculty is roughly as difficult as, say, growing a third arm. There are people with graduate degrees from heavy duty schools who having been waiting 10 years for full-time positions to open up. The Dean had to do some pretty deft political maneuvering to get this one; he actually borrowed a contract that belongs to a different position, and is using it for me for this year, while they work on getting final approval for the new expanded position.

We spent most of the hour talking about what my new faculty responsibilities will be. I’m going to continue teaching the Introduction to Music Technology courses, going to expand my teaching in the Master’s of Worship Leadership program, and am going to develop and teach a new Senior level course in Music, Ethics and Spirituality, something I’ve been spending a lot of time on.

About a year and a half ago, Gretchen and I started looking at full-time church positions. I flew out to candidate as some places, and talked with a dozen or so search committees from mega-churches all over the US. Nothing felt right. There were some positions that we felt we could be successful in, but they would fall through, or we would get through a month of conversations, and the church would suddenly decide that I wasn’t the right fit. It was tiring, frustrating, and I emerged from the experience feeling like I had a valuable skill set that nobody seemed interested in making use of.

A few months after the final interview, after we decided that we weren’t going to look at any more church positions, I had my first meeting with Duane, where he proposed the possibility of this full-time position. I remember sitting in that meeting, thinking, “This is it. This is what was waiting for me, why everything I tried to force into place fell through.” I marveled at the providence of God in the midst of my own stubbornness and short-sightedness. I also remember thinking that I could do this for the rest of my life, and be very satisfied.

Here are some of the things that are very cool about this:

I get to go back to school, to get a Doctorate in Music, and they’ll pick up 75% of the tab.

I get to stop writing a $650 check every month to pay for medical insurance for our family.

That thing I do where I dork around in the studio, create music, that whole thing? It’s now officially called “Research”. And releasing the CD is called “Publishing”.

I get an office. With administrative support. And a ficus.

Sophia gets to go to APU for free. Also, Gretchen and I have worked out this thing where we’ll charge you 1/2 of what APU does, then we’ll adopt your kid for 4 years while they go to school. It’s called a “win-win”.

We can buy a house, because for the first time in a long time, we know where we’ll be in 5 years.

I get a free MacBook Pro. The big one.

I get to do music. Everyday. With students who want to learn to do music. With peers who love to teach. In a place that recognizes and values the spiritual dynamic of creative work.

Today is a big day. A very big day. Huge.

Student Projects (or, Why I Love Teaching)

So, today is the end of the Spring semester at APU, and I’m in the midst of grading final projects for my students. Today is one of those days where I realize that I could do this for the rest of my life.

I teach Music Technology, which is ostensibly about teaching students how to be mini-geeks, but in reality, it’s a clever ruse for me to get to teach them about composition, orchestration, physics, philosophy, production, collaboration, asthetics, and how to use their brain in sticky ways.

Here’s why I love today. I get to see how they take everything I’ve taught them, and put it all together in one project. They write original music (or do take-downs of existing pop songs), and create full demos of them, with audio tracking, editing, mixdown, the whole deal. I was blown away by the maturity that these 19-year-old students are already showing in their creative work, and so, like a proud teacher, I’m going to brag on them a bit.

You should head on over to this post on my course site, and listen to the Hall of Fame, the best projects from each class as voted on by the students. Remember that, for most of them, the first time they touched Logic Pro was 4 months ago.

I think they would be thrilled if some of you wanted to stop by and listen, and maybe leave some feedback in the comments section.