Chad Clark is the new assistant professor of music, joining forces with the growing Communication and Fine Arts department at John Brown University. Clark directs the choirs and teaches a choral technique class to music education majors on campus.
Clark obtained his undergraduate degree at George Fox University, a small Christian university in Oregon. After finishing his undergrad, Clark took a break and moved to Lithuania where he worked as a resident director at Lithuania Christian College. After two years out of the country, he decided to come back to the United States and get his master’s degree from Arizona State University. Clark began his journey in the education field in a high school in Colorado, where he taught for five years. Before coming to JBU, Clark was at the University of Iowa for three years, obtaining a doctorate and working as a professor in the music education department. He is now preparing to present his dissertation at the University of Iowa.
Clark is from Seattle and he said moving to Arkansas has been a big transition for him. He said that Siloam Springs is the smallest town he has lived in. “It has been an adjustment. I was not used to going into the coffee shop and only having one or two options and seeing everybody that you know or recognize. You see everybody all the time,” he said. “Also, there is no traffic at all. I live like three minutes away, so I can go home in three minutes, which seems crazy.”
Clark also pointed out the cultural difference between the West Coast and the West South Central of the country. He says that on the West Coast people are more individualistic, less involved and mostly focused on their own lives. This is different from Arkansas, where people are more warm and friendly and very open to creating relationships.
Clark admitted that he did know not much about JBU before he came. Still, he saw JBU as a great opportunity to expand his experience as a professional. “The job had all the things that I love in the sense of working with choir and music education students, and the spiritual aspect which is a big part too,” Clark said.
Clark expressed that working at JBU has been a new experience because when working in public education he did not have the opportunity to directly integrate faith in his classes. “Sometimes in my classes, I forget that I can pray and talk about God and that that is fine, and in fact, it is encouraged,” Clark said. “The experience is challenging in its own way. It is not something that for those of us who have not taught in a Christian world have practiced so openly. Being able to talk about my relationship with Christ and having the opportunity to hear where students are in their faith is really encouraging.”
He said that music has been always a big part of his life. “I wanted to join the band when I was in sixth grade, but I had a falling out with my teacher because I wanted to add a trumpet to the band and [the teacher] said no. So, I quit and joined choir which is great because I did not know that that decision would change my life forever.”
Clark comes from a musical family. Since his childhood, Clark was surrounded by musicians and singers. His father plays the guitar and most of his relatives sing. Clark learned how to play piano and sing at an early age. “Music is life for me,” he said. Clark highlighted the diversity and transcendence of music and how songs and rhythms look in different cultural contexts. He said, “Music knows no bounds and there is not a line that defines it.”
He said that his passion for music was mostly fostered by his family’s love for music.
While gifted with a talent for music, Clark believes that anyone, regardless of skill level or natural talent, can learn how to sing.
“I love singing. I think everyone can sing and this is something that I would love for everyone to recognize, that, if you love to sing and you think you are not great at it, you can and you can get better at it,” Clark said. “You can learn to be better. Just as in anything else, you will not get any better unless you practice. Singing is a skill and yes, maybe there is people who are born with a more natural ability and it comes easier for them, but you can improve, you can gain skills and still be a good singer and it just will take more work and practice.”
He encourages JBU students to join the choir and give themselves the opportunity to try a new adventure. “Choir is a place for everyone. If you have a voice, you can sing, and even if you think you cannot, you can. And if you never try, how would you expect to get better? There is a place for you at JBU if you want to sing,” Clark said.
Clark is now working with more than 85 students in preparation for one of JBU’s most revered events of the year, the Candlelight Christmas service. The event will take place on Dec. 6-8.