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Michael W. Smith Homecoming Concert Photos

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Audiences blend at Homecoming concerts

Contemporary Christian artists Michael W. Smith and Shawn McDonald are making their way to Indiana Wesleyan University Homecoming weekend, and their audiences are overlapping in ways they haven’t before.

“We try to select our artists based on age demographics,” Lance Percy, associate vice president for Advancement and Alumni Relations, said.

Smith’s concert is geared toward the middle-aged and older alumni, he said, but this year, more younger people are interested in attending.

“Michael is unique in that way. He kind of crosses over a lot,” Percy said. “A lot of freshmen parents were planning to come back and go with their student. We don’t always have the benefit of selecting an artist with that broad of an appeal.”

The Student/Young Alumni Concert, on the other hand, is created to appeal more to the students and younger generation of alumni — hence, the performance of Shawn McDonald, who began his career in 2004.

The Shawn McDonald Concert, featuring Jordan Brown and Josh Lavender (alumni ‘12), will occur at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, in the Phillippe Performing Arts Center Auditorium.

The concert order will be Brown, Lavender, then McDonald. Brown said she plans on performing a couple of covers of secular pop songs and then three of her originals, including her single “Grace Unexpected,” then probably end on a worship song.

Having talked to Lavender and hearing that he’d be doing a four-piece band style, and knowing McDonald’s recent music as being more pop-sounding, Brown decided to try and balance out the musical stylings. Though her band is typically more electric drums driven, she opted for more of an acoustic feel.

“Imagine Mumford and Sons meets Adele meets Katy Perry — [that’s] the sound we’re going for,” Brown said.

Her band consists of herself on acoustic guitar, Daniel Rife (alumnus ‘11) on accordion, Anthony Francis (alumnus ’10) on banjo, Alex Krupp (alumnus ’13) on cajon, Adam Butler (sr) on percussion, Chelsea Jensen (sr) on glockenspiel, Stacey Fisher (sr) on piano/keys, and Dan Strope (jr) on bass.

“It’s always an honor to play anything at Indiana Wesleyan,” Brown said.

And with Lavender’s May 2013 EP “The One My Soul Loves” and upcoming EP “Hope in Jesus,” Brown says she is excited to reconnect with him as well.

The Homecoming Concert with Michael W. Smith, who came to Marion once before in 1987, featuring IWU Chorale, will occur the following day at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, in the Chapel Auditorium.

The Chorale, made up of 100 student members and 80 alumni members, will be singing as backups for four songs with Smith, according to Percy.

Percy said IWU might get the chance to hear Smith perform some of his more recently recorded music, such as songs from his worship album, “Sovereign,” released this past May, and his first-ever album of traditional hymns, “Hymns,” released in March.

With Smith attracting various age demographics, students and alumni have a better chance to connect this year.

“Indiana Wesleyan is a fantastic university, but the people are what make it the greatest,” Brown said. “Just seeing the people, seeing old friends, reconnecting that way is probably what I’m looking forward to most.”

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“The Guys” of Grant County honored

Thirteen years ago, journalist Anne Nelson, now teaching at Columbia University, sat down with a New York City fire captain to help him write the eulogies of eight firefighters who died in 9/11, according to an article on the Columbia News webpage.

After hearing their stories, Nelson was extremely moved. Just a few weeks later, on a chance meeting with Jim Simpson, artistic director of the Flea Theatre, Nelson proposed the idea of a play based on her experience with the fire captain.

Eight days later, she’d written her first play, and two days after that, Simpson had scheduled it to be performed. Simpson’s wife, actress Sigourney Weaver, expressed interest in performing it and asked her friend actor Bill Murray (yes, the Bill Murray) to play the other role. Within a week, meetings for rehearsal had begun, according to the Flea Theatre website.

On Sept. 25, the Indiana Wesleyan University Theatre Guild will put on a free performance of Nelson’s play, “The Guys,” for the firemen of Grant County to honor and thank them for their work, some of whom actually went out to New York to help during 9/11.  

The following day, Sept. 26, the play will be open to the public.

Joan, played by Ashley Nossett (sr), interviews fire captain Nick, played by Seth Lawrence (sr), about the men he lost on 9/11. Photo by Hannah Whelchel.

Joan, played by Ashley Nossett (sr), interviews fire captain Nick, played by Seth Lawrence (sr), about the men he lost on 9/11. Photo by Hannah Whelchel.

Director Sharla Ball (sr) chose the play for her senior project as “a chance to share a story that I knew most of the audience had been a part of, … and I knew everybody would remember it.” She described it as less of a historical play and more of “a memory play.”

With an uncle who was a career firefighter and a grandpa who was a volunteer firefighter, Ball is most excited for the performances for the fire station. They will also be touring the play, getting another chance on Oct. 10 to perform for Hendricks County fire departments.

The show was cast in May, with Ashley Nossett (sr) portraying Joan, based off Nelson herself, and Seth Lawrence (sr), portraying Nick, the fire captain. They also met with Fire Chief Paul David and Captain Paul Thompson in May in order to start communicating about the performance for the fire station.

To begin their research for the play, Ball and Nossett got the chance to go to New York City during May term and tour a fire department that was just a block away from Ground Zero, right across the street from the towers, and hear one of the fireman’s stories. They saw the plaques on the wall of the station for the men that died in 9/11. They also saw the 9/11 Memorial. They also got to see a show at the Flea Theatre, where “The Guys” was originally performed.

To prepare for the role as fire captain, Lawrence shadowed the firemen of Grant County for a day. Getting up at six in the morning to be at the fire station for roll call, he got to hang out with the firemen, hear their stories, see how the fire truck worked and understand what their daily routine was like. 

“After time, things become diluted,” Ball said. She hopes that the play will be a good way “to remember what it was like back when it happened.” 

“Most of our generation has been living in a society where we’ve been in war since then,” Ball said. “People don’t realize that we’re still living in this era where we’re not at peace.”

Ball said the play is a chance to see what the world was like before 2001, before 9/11 changed everything.

Doing the Tango. Photo by Hannah Whelchel.

Nick teaches Joan how to dance. Photo by Hannah Whelchel.

Thirteen years after 9/11, “The Guys” has touched people in multiple ways.

Nelson referred to a Cambodian student who once spoke to her of the performance. The student said, “I just lost my best friend to cancer. This play is about me.”

“Some take it very literally,” Nelson said, “as a piece of history; some take it as a piece about mourning; some about finding friendship. I think where a person is at in life affects how they hear it.”

At the beginning of the play, Joan delivers a monologue about how different people have different degrees of distance from an event, like the ripples of being affected. 

“Everyone’s trying to find their own relationship to the event,” Nelson said.

The play will run Sept. 26-27 and Oct. 3-4 at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays will also have a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are $7 for students, $10 for IWU employees and $12 for adults, according to the IWU Theatre Guild website.

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Switchfoot comes to IWU for second time

switchfoot_img01_hiresFive California surfers turned musicians will travel to Marion, Ind. April 4 to share songs about experiencing the world.

Switchfoot last came to Indiana Wesleyan University in spring 2010 when the Chapel-Auditorium opened for the first time. Now four years later, they’ve released their ninth studio album, “Fading West.”

The band will headline the 8 p.m. concert for Fusion, a youth event hosted by IWU, alongside music by the Brandon Grissom Band, Jordan Brown (alumna ‘12) and a dance performance by Momentum.

This concert is in the midst of Switchfoot’s Fading West tour that began in September 2013. Chad Butler, Switchfoot’s drummer, says some of the band’s best shows have happened in small towns on the tour.

“In those big cities, they get concerts every night,” Butler says. “And then sometimes in the smaller towns, the music is more appreciated.”

Butler is one of the original three Switchfoot members, alongside brothers Jon and Tim Foreman. Even after spending 17 years together and the additions of Jerome Fontamillis and Drew Shirley, Butler says it’s still fun.

“It’s such a gift,” Butler says. “Every morning I wake up and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to play music that I believe in with people I love.”

And now, the band has done something completely different than ever before — starred in a documentary.

“We picked our favorite places around the planet that had good surfing and went to look for new musical inspiration and chase waves around the world,” Butler says.

The documentary is called “Fading West,” just like the album, and follows the band through their 2012 World Tour. Butler says this it’s the biggest project Switchfoot has ever done in their almost two decades of music. All of the songs on their newest album are based off places they visited.

“It’s a documentary about music and surfing, but it’s also a look behind the scenes to the humanity and the brotherhood that we have in the band,” Butler says. “It has a real heart beat and I think it’s a human story that anybody can relate to.”

Since the documentary focused on one year of the band’s life, they were able to travel throughout the world and wherever they wanted. Butler says Indonesia and South Africa were his two favorite places.

In Capetown, South Africa, the band visited a children’s choir called the Kuyasa Kids. These children became orphans because of AIDS. It was Switchfoot’s second time visiting them and on the “Fading West” album, they’re featured in the song “The World You Want.”

“So these kids, they have a really difficult circumstance, and yet they have so much hope in their eyes,” Butler says. “And we were really inspired working with them … We have a lot to learn from them.”

According to Butler, the band has always had a heart for kids. For the past 10 years, Switchfoot has hosted a concert and surf contest called Switchfoot Bro-Am during the summer. All funds raised at the event through vendors, sponsorships and an auction benefit San Diego children’s charities.

“Kids are really important to us,” Butler says. “I feel like we’ve been given so much and music has given us such an opportunity. We look for opportunities to give back to shine the spotlight on kids who need help, who need a hand.”

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