Embracing the Creator Through Creativity

by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio

Whether it’s the initial triumphant tones of Handel’s Messiah or your first glimpse of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, it’s hard to miss the hand of God dancing across the creativity of mankind. And as we celebrate God’s greatest gift to us, those who desire to pursue their creative side can find particular inspiration during the holiday season.

The Cedarville University Department of Music, Art and Worship is acutely aware of what God has done for the world and its inextricable connection to the arts. This combination of the Creator and our creativity make Cedarville the ideal university for musicians and artists.

Sing Unto the Lord
“You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe, a harmonic connection between all living beings everywhere … even the stars.”
— August Rush

Beth Porter, chair of the music, art, and worship department, loves to talk about the importance of music. “Studying music, period, is a great endeavor for anybody,” she says. “It is critical for a lot of reasons — and basic to humanity.”

From the moment the stars sang together during God’s creation of the world, music has been intrinsic to the human experience. Cedarville’s music department is quick to recognize this and considers the integration of musical and biblical studies a vital part of its success. This attitude led to the addition of a worship major this year.

So far, the new program has had a remarkable response. With little publicity, the first semester saw an initial enrollment of 23 students. And, of course, they fully expect it to grow. A unique disciplinary degree, the worship program was designed to prepare students for careers in worship ministry and related fields. According to Dr. Roger O’Neel, associate professor of music, a group of current worship leaders joined together to create the program, hoping to give students the skills necessary to succeed as worship leaders in churches today.

In fact, O’Neel proposed the major. “The field of worship is gaining attention by many churches,” he says. “Those who are now called on to lead worship must be prepared to serve as ‘producers’ of sound, media and drama. Theological training is also very important. The degree embraces contemporary music study, theology, and other academic areas that will assist students’ future ministry.”

Anthony Hubin ’08 is now serving as pastor of worship arts at First Baptist Church in Downers Grove, Illinois. “I didn’t always know this was the career path I was interested in,” he says, “but through my studies and the opportunities I had at Cedarville, I realized this was the profession God was calling me to for this season of life. I cannot believe how much I have benefited from the classroom projects and discussions during my time at Cedarville.”

Porter believes every student, in fact, should attempt to avail themselves of the many options open to them through the University’s music department. “It will enlarge your perspective of humanity and teach you about life, way beyond notes and rhythms,” she says. “And when you study it from a Christian perspective, your whole focus is on the Creator, rather than the creation, which is the goal.”

What Are You Drawn To?
Incoming artistic students can pursue a degree in studio art or graphic design. Though still relatively new, the graphic design program has experienced rapid growth, with well over 80 students this year. As a result, the department has added two full-time faculty members and will hire a third next year.

“We’re getting very strong reports about our graduates’ success,” says Terry Chamberlain, associate professor of art. “Up until this year, we had a 90 percent job placement. And despite today’s tougher economy, our graduates are still getting the jobs they want. We’re also hearing good reports from internships. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

From the beginning, the department has filled the graphic design program with degree-specific classes. According to Chamberlain, the depth of coursework Cedarville provides equals that of any school or college of art and design.

The studio art program also has an impressive faculty and a strong block of traditional courses. Thanks to the smaller classes, students are given more personal attention and allowed to pursue interests in various upper-level courses. Future department hopes include a minor in photography and a major in production design.

“Our students are desirable because of their background in biblical teaching and ethics,” Chamberlain says. “It affects how we work and our understanding of how God looks at us. Our work and approach are impacted by that kind of stewardship.”