Since I was a little boy I’ve felt called to a life of faith and to a life as a musician. At first they sat alongside each other comfortably, like when I was singing at church. Later, they rubbed against each other, creating a friction that spurred me to carefully discern exactly how they could work together. Now, after twenty-five years as a musician, college educator, and music minister I’ve recognized that both callings are gifts from God, and that though they may at times coexist uneasily, both are crucial to my faith.
I’ve worn a lot of hats during my career, so here’s a quick run-down about who I am. (For the long version, see my website.)
I’m a professional musician who works as a composer, conductor, and pianist, equally at home in the worlds of classical and popular music. As a church musician I’ve worked in virtually every context and every genre. I’ve conducted major works like Handel’s Messiah, led an 80-voice gospel choir, played organ at Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, and UCC churches, and played keyboard on praise teams at many Evangelical churches. Along the way, I’ve worshipped in a wide variety of Christian churches, from Catholic to Conservative Baptist to PCUSA to UCC.
As a composer, I’ve written a symphony, an oratorio, an opera about anti-Semitism, and chamber and vocal pieces which have been performed by Grammy-winning artists Richard Stoltzman and the Chestnut Brass Company, among many others. Much of my concert music explores themes from the Christian tradition. (You listen to a lot of it here.) I’ve also written pieces for educational outreach concerts, which have been heard by over 10,000 children across the world. But my most popular piece is my holiday overture Rocket Sleigh, which been performed by over 80 orchestras in the US, UK, and Europe. It’s a fun piece intended for Christmas pops concerts, and it sounds a lot like movie music. My kids love it!
In 2019 I founded Deus Ex Musica, a unique ecumenical organization that promotes the use of sacred music for learning and spiritual growth. Among our projects is the Deus Ex Musica Podcast in which interview Christian musicians working in various genres about how their faith impacts their work.
As an educator, I’ve taught everything from songwriting to conducting to world music at both sacred and secular institutions, including Eastern Nazarene College, Boston College (a Jesuit school), Northeastern University, and the Longy School of Music. I’m now an Associate Professor of Music at Wheaton College in Massachusetts – which, ironically, is a secular school unrelated to the well-known Christian college in Illinois. (God has a sense of humor!)
I have spoken on a wide variety of musical topics, from sacred music to hip-hop to the history of popular music, at places as diverse as homeless shelters, public libraries, international academic conferences, and institutions like Harvard Divinity School and Texas A&M University. My academic bona fides include degrees from Yale College (music) and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D. in Musical Composition).
My writings span the academic and the popular. My chapter “Rock of Ages: Images of Jesus in Popular Songs, 1969-2019”, is forthcoming in the book Christian Music in America from Rowan & Littlefield in 2020. For non-academic essays on popular music and theology, you can check out ThinkChristian.org.