Post Graduation Thoughts

May 18, 2013 – my last day at Erskine College as a student…

It’s hard to believe that four years went by so quickly. It’s all so bittersweet. I guess the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” is accurate. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Erskine. Sure it started out a little rough, but over the years I grew quite fond of Erskine and the community there. I left Erskine with tears in my eyes because I realized just how blessed I have been. I received a fully funded college education. I made life-long friendships with students and faculty and staff. I traveled to Europe with the Choraleers. I traveled to China during J-Term with Dr. Grier and Dr. Chaney and students from various departments. I met outstanding alumni who helped me find internships and jobs. I further developed my talents and skills. I was given several opportunities to be a student leader.

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

– Luke 12:48

I was given four years at Erskine to grow academically and spiritually. I gave back to Erskine as much as I could. But all of my accomplishments and accolades aren’t of importance. Over the years, people will eventually forget what I’ve done. My only prayer is that I left a legacy that reflects back on Christ more than it reflects back on me.

As a student, there were times when I complained about Erskine and got tired of the school and church politics. I got caught up in the rumor mill. I talked about things I didn’t fully understand. But I implore current students to realize just how much of a blessing the Erskine community can truly be. It’s not a utopia of higher learning, but it is a fine institution. You will be pushed academically, but that will prepare you for your future endeavors. You will be nurtured spiritually, but that will help you define what you believe and why you believe it. You will be given opportunities to lead, but that will teach you how to deal with people from different backgrounds.

Above all, you will make friendships that will last a lifetime. You may meet your future spouse. If not, you’ll at least meet your future bridesmaids and groomsmen. You will meet professors that actually care about your well-being. They will push you to succeed not only in the classroom, but in life! We have a tight-knit community and many times it’s seen as a curse instead of a blessing.

Choose to see it as a blessing. Choose to focus on excelling academically, growing spiritually, and reaching out socially. Squeeze that Erskine education for all it’s worth! Then, when your day of commencement comes, you will be able to walk underneath the towers (I’m still a little bitter that I had to graduate in the gym…) with a smile on your face, knowing that you grew as a person and are adequately equipped to take on the world and impact the Kingdom.

Sing, Sing, Sing

Out of all the talents God could have given me, I’m so glad He chose singing. As I look back on my life and all the opportunities I’ve had to share my voice through song, I’m thankful but I’m also disappointed.

I’m thankful because each and every opportunity has provided me with a wonderful platform to share my testimony, but I’m disappointed because there have been one too many opportunities that I’ve turned down simply because of fear of rejection or criticism.

It’s hard when you expose yourself to people through a song. The song itself becomes a part of you and you embody the lyrics and the emotions behind it. Then you present it to the audience and after that you just wait for the criticism. Of course, some of it is very constructive so that you can improve and make your craft even better. Some of it is positive which helps give you that extra confidence to keep going. But some of it is negative and it’s hard to get trapped into only focusing on the negative comments.

I say all this because it took me so long to realize that singing isn’t something I just do for fun or even something I do to minister. It’s truly my passion.

I love business. I love journalism. But i truly LOVE singing.

In a way, I don’t even want to imagine myself doing anything else for the rest of my life. Although, I’m not sure how realistic that is. Everyone tries to tell you can’t make it but I say that if that’s what God is preparing me for (through music theory, aural skills, and voice lessons) then so be it. Who am I to doubt God and put Him in a box? If I have a voice and song that needs to be heard, He will surely open the doors for me and allow the people that need to hear it to do just that.

As of late, God has actually opened the door for me at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Belton, SC. I went to choir practice there last night for the first time and I was immediately greeted by every one of the choir members. They prayed for me. They encouraged me. They ministered to me. It was just practice but I LOVED it and cannot wait to become even more involved with their music ministry.

The  music that goes beyond the ears and eyes and straight to the heart…that’s the kind of music I enjoy, that’s the kind of music that I hope to share with people one day, no matter how big the stage. I have a voice and I know God gave it to me to use for His glory.

Ideas

Last week, Morgan and I came up with this idea to let students tweet in convo. As a student here, you have to go listen to a speaker. You’re supposed to come out learning something and being academically and mentally challenged. But the truth is, a handful of students could care less.

In this day and age, we have to face the facts:

  1. A lot of students have smart phones.
  2. Students with smart phones are attached to their smart phones.
  3. Separation anxiety is definitely a problem.
  4. Because of this, students’ attention spans are limited…think squirrel if you will.
  5. We expand the attention by doing what? Letting them actually use their phones in convo!!

When we had the THRIVE convo with Dr. Norman, we decided to let the students have at it and boy did they respond.

I think it’s pretty neat that a fellow student and I were able to communicate our idea and get faculty behind us to support that idea. Dr. Parker and the fellow THRIVE members helped spread the word. Student services printed off flyers for us. Communications set us up a Twitter account and ran a story on us in their paper. It was all pretty cool and I’m glad I got to voice my idea and see it come to fruition. It’s a great feeling knowing that you did something to spark the conversation and get students excited about convocation again. It’s a small step in the right direction.

Choraleers

I’m in the process of planning the end of the year banquet for the Choraleers and it’s all kinda bittersweet. I realize I only have one more year with this precious group of people. Sure, from time to time we get on each other’s nerves, but at the end of the day, we are a family that sticks together and encourage each other. We share laughs. We share heartaches. We share triumphs. We share failures. But at the end of the day the greatest thing we get to do as a group is minister to people and in turn get ministered to by the very people we’re singing for. I’m actually going to miss people next year. Let’s be real, sometimes people just get on your nerves. But for what it’s worth, I’ve shared a lot of nice moments with the seniors that are going to be leaving next year. Time goes by so fast and at a time like this I feel compelled to make better use of all the time I’ve been given with the people that God’s placed in my life. You can learn something from people if you just take the time to get to know them. You don’t always have to like the person, but we are called to love each other.

The banquet will be this Friday afternoon and I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got some great gifts prepared for our director and accompanist and the fellow officers. We’ve got a slideshow ready for people and are prepared for lots of laughter and reflection on past memories. It’s going to be a great time of fellowship.

Something New

There’s a new restaurant in town.

It’s name is…

wait for it…

SASSY BUTTS!!!

Yeh, my thoughts exactly. But I’m impressed. As a business major, I find it funny how I’ve begun to see businesses in a completely different light than I did before I really delved into my major and I was just another bright-eyed consumer. They’ve been really spreading the word about their business with word of mouth and having a visual countdown on their door until the Grand Opening, which so happens to be today! It’s neat because I actually have gotten to see this business employ and use the various marketing techniques I’ve been learning in my business classes. This is a good sign cause obviously I’ve actually learned something. ha.

I’ve already heard my friends making comments about the food and the service and people are satisfied! Finally, there is another eating option in the great metropolis of Due West, SC. I’m looking forward to making new memories there with my friends next year.

I plan to go there for dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it goes!

SASSY BUTTS…sorry, I still can’t get over the name…

Highlight of the Year: Spring Fling ’12

Being the editor-in-chief of The Mirror, our campus newspaper, definitely has its perks!

Last month, Erskine’s Entertainment Board announced that Corey Smith would be performing at Erskine for Spring Fling. I decided to hold a contest to get more readers out to The Mirror site and the winner and I got to interview Corey Smith before he went on stage.

This just goes to show you how involved students are in the activities on Erskine’s campus. EEB is run by students who try to bring in bands they know Erskine students are going to love. The Mirror steps in to get student’s questions answered by their favorite artists. Student photographers capture the moments along the way. It truly is a cool process when you just think about it. Yeh, we have faculty advisers but we really do get to make most of the important decisions for our organizations. It’s pretty neat and the product is one that is enjoyable for many students and faculty and staff on campus.

If any of you readers are Corey Smith fans, take time to read the following transcript from the interview.

Corey Smith Interview

Schadell Brooks and Jacob Blakely

S: Who would you consider your biggest musical influence?

My dad. It’s all encompassing. It’s impossible to say one. My dad sort of filtered what music I heard when I was a small kid.

S: Tell us about your educational background.

I went to Gainville College, transferred to West Georgia College and then I transferred to UGA. I was a social studies secondary education major.

S: How many years did you teach?

4 years. Mostly world history, some geography, philosophy, guitar.

J: What kind of musical background did you have? Did you take lessons or anything?

I sang for as long as I can remember. I sang in church choirs. My dad was in bands so they were always having band practice around the house. There were always guitars sitting around. He would show me a few little things here and there but I never took interest in guitar until I was about 15. Then I just picked up a bunch of books and sort of applied. You know its little things like how to hold the guitar, fretting the chord that can take you a while to learn but because I’d been around it a lot of that just sort of came to me pretty quick and I picked up a lot of these books like Bob Seger, George Strait, or Garth Brooks. And I could already sing so I would start out singing and playing the chord. I had a youth pastor at a church that I went to when I was in high school that played guitar and he showed me some stuff and when I went to college I took formal lessons for a year.

J: How do you actually write your music? Does your music dictate your lyrics or vice versa?

It varies. It happens both ways. Sometimes the lyrics and the melody hit at the same time. More often it’s the music first and the music sort of dictates the vibe. But there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I think it’s important to experiment with a lot of different approaches.

S: Who are some of your favorite mainstream artists right now?

I like Kings of Leon, John Mayer, Adele, that’s good. Those are just a few. You might notice the glaring absence of country artists.

J: Do you record most of the guitar parts on your CD’s or do you let someone else do it?

I play guitar on every CD, on every track. It varies from record to record. Certain records I play all the guitar, electric and acoustic on. I don’t have a session player that I just go to. Now I have a great guitar player on tour with me.

S: Tell us about touring with Florida-Georgia Line.

I’ve been doing shows with them for about 6 months. I met them through my agent and had them on a few shows. It was a good fit. Fans seemed to like them. They’re younger so it’s nice to have the youth and the energy out here.

S: Any advice for them?

Take it slow. Enjoy it but don’t be in a hurry.

S: For those who saw your tweets before you got here, tell us about going to your boys’ recital and their musical background.

They’ve only been taking piano lessons for maybe 6 months. I want them to come to enjoy it on their own. I’m trying to be careful about forcing it on them, pushing it on them but they have drum sets and guitars and stuff already. They don’t listen to me when it comes to instruction though.

S: You’ve come such a long way in your career. What has motivated that? What’s the driving force?

God. Some people would call it God. It’s my calling you know. It’s kinda like I’m believing that I’m doing things for a reason and then certain opportunities come up and I weigh the options. I had a friend of mine explain life like a fork. At some points its like things just make sense and you have these tuning fork moments where you’re like aw, this is what I’m supposed to do. You don’t have those a lot but as you get older and you look back it all starts making sense and you realize that’s kinda your path. I feel like music has been that way. There was a time that where it was purely just what I did for enjoyment. I would play for friends at a party. I started playing in bars for crowds of 50 people. I played for my students at school. It felt right. My goal was just to be able to make a living doing it so I expected to be touring about three hours from home and playing for a few hundred people every night and the next thing I knew I was playing for thousands of people and now I’m touring all over the country.

J: Do you have any classical musical influences?

When I was in college I took pick style classical so that was the training there.  It’s only recently that I started listening to classical music. I think classical music influences everybody whether they realize it or not cause it’s such a part of popular culture underneath the surface. Now, I listen to a lot of Gershwin and Eric Copeland.  But that’s just kinda stuff to relax to. The Gershwin stuff though is really helpful as a writer cause he’s really hooky and has great melodies.

S: How do you deal with people who have negative things to say about your music?

I try to ignore it but sometimes it’s hard to. I just quit going to the places where I know I’m going to find that stuff. I think there a lot of negative people out there who just use [the internet] as an outlet. I don’t mind criticism especially when it’s fair. I think all different types of people are guilty of it. I have a hard time fitting in anywhere. I don’t fit in well in country because I’m too progressive or too untraditional. I don’t fit in well with rock because when they hear me all they here is country. So I just get in my own little group.