Renowned Composer Hired as Minister of Worship and Director of Gospel Choir
“JOIN THE SPU GOSPEL CHOIR!” invited Brittany
Nordtvedt’s homemade flyers last fall. But a Seattle Pacific
University Gospel Choir didn’t exist. Yet.
For nearly a year,
though, the SPU junior had been talking to students in the
multi- ethnic Mosaic cadre, to Director of Campus Ministries
Tami Anderson Englehorn, to Assistant Director of Student Programs
and Director of Intercultural Affairs Joe Snell, and to Stephen
Newby, an internationally celebrated composer and performer.
Like her, they wanted a gospel choir at Seattle Pacific. So,
with their input and a lot of prayer, Nordtvedt invited students
to the first rehearsal.
“Over 30 people came!” says Nordtvedt,
herself the daughter of a gospel singer. “I was shocked, and
I knew God was going to do some awesome things with this choir.”
February 2004, those “awesome things” were happening. Newby was
invited to campus to work with the new Gospel Choir for two weeks
during the annual Lawrence and Ruth Schoenhals Fine Arts Symposium,
culminating in an Evening of Gospel performance
with other gospel choirs in First
Free Methodist Church. Throughout the spring, the Gospel Choir performed at campus
events such as Group, the Wednesday night student worship service; Chapel; and
the Church Leaders Forum.
This fall, the Gospel Choir’s momentum
showed no signs of slowing when Newby was hired as its faculty
director. In fact, the group is now 75 members strong. “I told
the students that I want the Gospel Choir to continue to be student-driven,” he
says. “But as the professor, I will lead it.” As the new minister
of worship at Seattle Pacific, he is also working with student
musicians to lead worship for Chapel-Forums and Group.
Michigan, native, and longtime pastor of worship arts at
Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Washington, Newby’s compositions
have earned numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant;
a fellowship in ethnomusicological research in Senegal, West Africa; and the
Distinguished Dissertation of the Year award at the University
of Michigan for his symphony tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.
Not only a pastor
and composer, but also a performer and recording artist,
Newby says SPU lets him combine his many talents. “I really feel this
huge synergy,” he says. “SPU is someplace I can put all of these
things together — and then pass them along to students.”
he led the Seattle Pacific Gospel Choir in several performances
for the National Christian Multicultural Student Leaders
Conference (NCMSLC) held on campus. On January 9, he’ll take the choir to
Benaroya Hall, where they’ll join forces with the Total Experience
Gospel Choir, the Maranatha Praise Band, and other choirs to
for Martin,” a musical
oratorio composed by Newby and Ja Jahannes
in tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.
Says Newby about the newest SPU performing
group: “We’re trying to build a foundation, so this year we’re digging deep.”
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