Recently I’ve been thinking about how our surroundings affect our faith. Who you interact with and what you spend your time on can have a huge impact on how or even if you connect with God. I took this idea to some friends and asked them about their faith within their campus community. The following is the first post in this series.

Out of all of the various communities on campus, it seems as if the music community would be the most open to faith. Afterall, many of the greatest musical pieces in human history were written as praise to God. I am obviously making a huge assumption here, so I set out to see if I was right. I asked some questions to my suitemate to see what she thought about how faith plays out within the music department at Pepperdine.

What is your faith background?

I was raised in an evangelical Protestant home in southern California.  I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 4 and I was baptized when I was 7 (I think), but making my walk with Jesus a personal one is a long, ongoing process.

Do you participate in music, drama, or theater?  How much time per week do you dedicate to this?

I’m currently a music major at Pepperdine with an emphasis in vocal performance.  I practice independently for about an hour each day, and I am in choir for about 5 hours a week.  I’m also in a vocal studio class and a performance class every Wednesday.

What is your favorite piece that you’ve worked on recently?

Do you feel that music participation has affected your faith in any way?

I had a voice teacher tell me once that musicians can show other people heaven when they create and perform.  I see God in the performing arts – people love art because it reveals truth, and I see the arts as a medium to convey the truth about our Creator (even if that truth is conveyed through secular works).  I’m pursuing music not just because I love it, but because I think it’s a way to turn people’s attention to the God who made it in the first place.

Do you feel that your ensemble/group is accepting of your faith?

Actually, yes – in high school, my choir teacher was also a follower of Christ, and I met a lot of my closest friends in choir through talking about important faith topics while sharing music with them.  At Pepperdine, the atmosphere is very different (perhaps less friendly? Maybe not that, I’m just less comfortable here), but it is still fairly faith-friendly, I think. It is a Christian university, after all, and I know that many people in my choir belong to some denomination of Christianity.

Do you ever find it difficult to uphold your faith within the music community?

Not really, no.

Do you ever discuss faith at music events or with the people you do music with?

Yes!  I have trouble not being the awkward string bean that I am and actually TALKING to people, but I’ve found that the people I’m closest to in the music department are people I can talk to about real issues.  My faith is such an integrated part of who I am and how I see the world, so I get along best with people I can share that with.

Do you think that faith should be more integrated or less integrated with your group?

This is an interesting question.  As a whole, I think that the music department is a lot more concerned about music than about God, which is understandable.  I know, though, that by putting music first, we place God in the backseat, which is not His rightful place in our lives. What people do as individuals is up to them, and I think that choir isn’t always the place to be spitting spiritual truth at people.  However, if God is at the center of our lives, He will naturally become a part of the group dynamic, both inside and outside the classroom. By integrating faith more into our personal lives, we Christians can be the lights of Christ all the time.

Do you have any ideas to implement your answer to the last question?

I think cultivating my own walk with Christ will help me be the person I need to be in the music department.

What advice do you have for current or potential music students who want to maintain their faith while involved in music in college?

I feel like I’m the wrong person to ask!! I suppose…

let God be the center of your life.  Don’t be afraid to talk about Him. If He is the center of your life, He will be the center of your art (albeit not always directly).  Love people as He loves people, and show them the truth that you can while you are able to.

From this perspective, at least, it seems that there aren’t many challenges to faith in the music department. My interviewee has difficulties expressing her faith sometimes, as we all do, but it doesn’t seem as if other students in the music community are unaccepting or would like her to change in any way. I’m curious to see if that will be the attitude within some of the other communities we will explore!

There are a few amazing things I would like to highlight from this interview:

  • Faith walks are long and ongoing. In truth, they are never over.
  • Artists of all kinds can show other people a glimpse of heaven when they create and perform. How cool is it that God made our ears to hear certain sounds as beautiful, and see certain combinations of color and pattern as interesting?
  • When God is the center of your life you can love people more effectively AND have more effective art. Win-Win in my book.