New album highlights talent of Worship Arts program

“Heads, Hearts, & Hands,” a new album released by the John Brown University Worship Arts program, highlights talent and changing dynamics of student worship leaders.

The album was released on March 5 and features 13 songs written by students in JBU’s songwriting class offered every two years, including “Christ over All” by Jake Smith, which celebrates God’s faithfulness during the university’s centennial celebration. The album also features work from previous students.

Liz Pace, senior intercultural studies major, took part in the project as a member of the chapel band leadership team. “Each student picks their favorite songs they’ve written and we record it with the help of Cameron James who is on AVL staff and runs the recording studio on campus,” Pace said. “Each assignment challenged us to try and do something specific. One week we had to pick old lyrics and write a new melody to it. This was where my song “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” came from.

The Worship Arts major at John Brown University has shifted from a sole focus on leading contemporary worship to include more liturgical music influences.  The degree program is designed to prepare students to be worship leaders in various church settings, while training them to be proficient musicians. These concepts are still the heart of the major, but the application of the degree is changing. Jennifer Edwards, the professor of Worship Arts at JBU, said, “the popularity of the rock star worship style is fading and value of liturgical music in the church is making a comeback.”

Hannah Schroeder, senior worship arts major, said, “Overall, it’s switched from an all contemporary worship leader major into people doing a lot of liturgical and classically based programs.”  Schroeder completed her Senior Worship Arts Presentation (SWAP) last Sunday that showcased her skill and artistry that she’s gained over the last three years. 

“I’ve seen more students come in this year as Worship Arts majors then I have in the last several years.  It’s been really cool to see the program grow,” Schroeder said. 

Schroeder said it’s not something that parents get excited about when their kids tell them they want to get a Worship Arts degree, but still more people are interested in the degree as they see the impact it can have.

Schroeder said students in the past few years have gone into several different fields, from worship leaders to choir directors.  “People are leaning into musical excellence in all spheres, not just singer/song writer,” she said.  “It’s becoming more diverse as people realize that there’s more than one option for the major going out.”

Schroeder said Edwards does a good job of giving the students opportunities to explore what areas of worship they plan to pursue through chapel band experience and internships. 

“People are generally realizing the power of music in worship in the church culture,” Schroeder said.  “They’re seeing that worship is a real and necessary vocation for the life of the church to keep surviving, as music is one of the things that keeps us together.”

“Not only do Worship Arts students learn what it means to plan sets and lead a worship service, but they are also given opportunities to have their voice be a part of the conversations that are happening in the church and our culture,” Pace said. “I hope this album is able to show this to JBU’s campus as well as function as an advertisement for the phenomenal Worship Arts program.”