Meet an Outstanding Graduate

Recent graduate and Lynnwood, Washington, resident Derek Sellers talks about his love for music, his “practical” career as a computer analyst, and his advice for prospective students.

Tell us about your recent role in the local Gilbert and Sullivan production of HMS Pinafore.

The Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society is one of the largest fine arts organizations in the area, and certainly the biggest one dedicated to Gilbert and Sullivan. In HMS Pinafore, I was the understudy for the role of Ralph Rackstraw, a British sailor who falls in love with the Captain’s daughter. The challenging part about being an understudy is that you have to memorize and be able to perform two roles: (1) The part you are understudying for, and (2) the chorus/ensemble role which you fill when you are not singing the principle role. You also have to be able to go on stage in the principle role with much less (if any) rehearsal time with the rest of the cast, set, etc.

During the run, I performed the principle role of Ralph during the July 10 matinee. A reviewer from the Seattle Weekly happened to be at the performance, and was kind enough to mention me in his review. It was a very exciting and nerve wracking experience for me because I had only rehearsed the role all the way through about two times beforehand!

How did you combine your interest in music and computer science?

Simple Answer. Computer science is my job, music is my life! Both are areas that I am blessed in. Music is the thing I am the most passionate about, but unfortunately, as I am starting out, it doesn’t pay well if at all. Working with computers gives me the financial security I need to pursue my musical career.

Favorite memories from your years at SPU?

My favorite moments always revolved around music making. At one point I was in three choirs at once: Gospel Choir, Concert Choir, and Chamber Singers. I also participated in SPU’s Opera Workshop program for the past three years as we struggled to keep it afloat. One year, only two people were enrolled, so I really had to do some heavy recruiting to get the numbers we needed to keep the class going before registration closed. That program is where I really began to find my interest in performing on stage, and it has a bright future ahead of it under the direction of adjunct music faculty member Bernard Kwiram.

They were all wonderful memories, though, even when it was rough. Whether it was going on Choir tour, going up to the “Pie Church” with the Chamber Singers, learning about sonata form from Professor Eric Hanson, or dressing up like a big tube of hand cream and singing P.D.Q. Bach in front of a captive audience, I was always in my element as long as I was making music!

Your plans for future?

I was hired by SPU. As a student worker, I assisted electrical engineering staff member Brad Gjerding in managing the computers in the science labs in Otto Miller Hall and the Science Building. My current plan for the future is to stay at SPU for a while as I take care of my loans and earn my staff education benefit so I can take the music and worship master’s degree SPU is planning on implementing in the next couple of years. After that, I hope to pursue further musical education on the East Coast. I will, of course, continue to perform around the area as much as possible since it’s something I love very much.

Advice for new students?

I would just like to encourage prospective students to live faithfully to the Lord, and trust in his faithfulness to them. Sometimes our lives change directions; I am on a very different path than I had set my heart on when I first came to SPU. Through my time as a student here, I learned a lot about who God is, who I am in the Christian community, and where we stand in the world. I am not certain that my life will turn out the way I planned, but I am confident as I look into my future that God has a plan for me that will shape me into a person that can serve him to the best of my gifts and abilities. I look forward to seeing how that will all play out in his timing.

Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2010