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Autumn 2004 | Volume 27, Number 4 | Campus

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.”

By 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.

A Detroit, 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.”

In November, 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 perform “Montage 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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From the President
In 2000, Seattle Pacific intensified its commitment to racial reconciliation. Is it possible, asks Philip Eaton, for SPU to discover ways to tear down walls that divide?

In Trust for the Future
Charitable trusts are benefiting students and donors. One couple, in fact, has seen their trust provide income for them, while supporting student scholarships. [Campaign]

A Fabulous Time to Be Alive
Astronomy is revealing never-before-seen wonders. “We are in the process of discovering a God far greater than we’ve ever imagined,” says Professor Emeritus Karl Krienke. [Faculty]

Putting a Face on Homelessness
Two young alums are at Seattle’s Bread of Life Mission, helping to restore lives — by replacing hopelessness with hope. [Alumni]

Life Stories
A filmmaker talks about his visits with SPU students and his project to share the internment stories of Japanese Americans during World War II. [Books & Film]

Mutual Inspiration
Falcon men’s and women’s soccer teams cheered each other on to success in 2004, as both teams continued the University’s tradition of being a national force in soccer. [Athletics]

My Response
For Sharon Hartnett, assistant professor of education, diversity reflects a piece of heaven on earth. “After all, heaven is a multicultural place,” she says.