Music students to welcome Michael W. Smith center
Elijah Chau, a senior worship leadership major at Liberty, said he began listening to Smith's worship music as well as interviews featuring Smith in high school and believes hands-on experience with a veteran musician like Smith will be "life-changing" for students.
"I think learning from him (Smith) is going to be life-changing to some of the students including myself, especially to those who are into songwriting," Chau said.
"Being able to come up with new songs as musicians and write music to share the Gospel, but also to share your life story on how God has changed your life -- it's such a great opportunity and such an eye-opener because it gives students the opportunity to look more in-depth about what going into the music business is like."
Both the new music center, which opens officially Thursday, Aug. 1, and Smith's involvement were announced in a press release on Liberty's website in June. The center will also be accompanied in the future by a recording label at Liberty meant to attract both established musical talent and students looking to get into the music industry.
The announcement was previously teased by Smith in a video shown at Liberty's commencement in May with Smith stating, "I have some big news on taking music (at Liberty) to a whole other level, and it's going to be awesome."
Smith will serve as the executive director of the new center. In addition, Kevin Jonas Sr., father and original band manager of the Jonas Brothers, a recently reunited pop music trio formed in 2005, will help play a role in the center's future recording label.
Vernon Whaley, dean of Liberty's School of Music, said Liberty wanted someone like Smith "that we knew had been in the industry a long time and was an example of biblical and professional integrity, and his name just kept coming back to the top."
The new commercial music center, Whaley noted, will be in addition to the already existing commercial music degree program in the School of Music.
There are six concentrations students can choose from in the commercial music program, and Whaley noted commercial music can include "anything involving making money with music."
Smith will be able to periodically help mentor and coach music students in the program, particularly in the area of songwriting, Whaley said.
Smith's character and musical talent, Whaley said, were a perfect match for the new center.
"We certainly are excited about having Michael W. Smith to be part of this," Whaley said. "We believe that his life experience, his reputation, his integrity and his ability to create and develop new talent will only enhance our goals and objectives that we already had in place."
Liberty is no stranger to developing musical talent, as famous former Liberty students include Michael Tait of dc Talk and now Newsboys, Toby [Mac] McKeehan and Kevin Smith as well as Christian music artist Meredith Andrews.
"We want to equip our musicians to offer the full music experience," Whaley said. "Our mission in the school of music is to train and equip musicians to be champions for Christ. No matter the major … our goal is to teach our young men and women to use the gifts that God has given them for the purpose of taking worship to the nations or to the communities that God has called them to serve in. We see all of our musicians as evangelists."
As one of 900 residential School of Music students at Liberty, Chau said the new center is just another example of what he sees as the school's effort to train Christian musicians well.
"I feel that after I graduate, the School of Music will continue to evolve and continue to draw in more and more students who are really willing to use their musical abilities to honor and glorify the Lord's name," he said.
Liberty University is in partnership with the SBC of Virginia.