Sunday Summary – Music: May 17, 2008

It’s amazing how your physical body can affect your experience of, well, anything!

Between pulling something in my lower back on Thursday, then totally overexerting myself Friday and Saturday, I was a wreck come Sunday morning. Literally – like a Mack truck hit me. I felt 90 years old. At one point that morning I didn’t even think I’d be able to put my socks on. Lame, I know…

So playing in East ended up being more of a chore than a pleasure. Which stinks, because it was an absolutely amazing band doing fantastic songs.

So there I was, doing one of my absolute favorite things to do in the whole world, with some of my favorite people to do worship and music with, in one of the most desirable situations and locations to do it – and all I could think of was how much I couldn’t wait to get back to the Green Room and lie on the floor!

So that brings up a thought…

No matter how perfect a scenario we create for those on stage or in the audience – sound, music, monitors, gear, lights, quality, content, professionalism, etc. – there will almost always be something in each person’s life that acts as an obstacle for enjoying their experience and ultimately connecting with God on a deeper level.

I’d say that it’s up to us to address those obstacles – give them a name. Then we can carefully enhance a scenario when possible or eliminate as many of those obstacles as we humanly can.

But obviously we, in our human strength and flawed minds, can’t do it all, or even always do what we do properly, so we always need to pray hard that God blesses our efforts, that they would be honoring to Him, and that He would take care of the rest.

– – – – –


How Great Thou Art

Glorious (new Todd Fields tune)

It Is Well (new Todd Fields arrangement)

The second two tunes are on Todd’s new CD!


– – – – –

East Band – Todd Fields, Brad Avery, Jason Hoard, Ashley Appling, Pat Malone, Rosie Pinkerman, Me

West Band – Ryan Stuart, Jen Carrozza, Mike Bielenberg, Mike Hines, Ben Snider, Scott Meeder, Earl South


Sunday Summary – Music: March 29, 2008

First, a big shout out to our Long Island guests! (You know who you are… 😉 )

Sunday was a fun day. Sometimes the mood on stage and off is just a little brighter and perkier than others – this was one of those days.

No real reason why, other than the fact that everyone was glad that 5 straight days of rain was over.

That, and the fact that we did some fun tunes…

Sunday was our “Strategic Service” day – the day we honor our existing volunteers, and push for new ones.

So we opened with a highlight video – a montage of photos from every area that volunteers serve, underscored by each side’s live band doing Jack Johnson’s “Better Together“.

It’s a happy little tune, just like most of Jack’s repertoire. Danny Dukes sang it on East and Eddie Kirkland did it on West.

And I got to use a vibraphone patch, so that alone made my day… :).

Worship was, at least for me, more fun than usual. I played on East with Chrystina Fincher leading. If you don’t know Chrys, she’s a firecracker rock-chick. I mean, this is the mother of 3 that sang Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” at DRIVE and Catalyst conferences!

So a win for Chrys is a set of “up” tunes that have a lot of energy and really allow her to show off her dynamic personalty and lead a crowd in worship.

Plus, Eddie was leading on the West, and he can sing the phone book, so no worries!

We started with Chris Tomlin’s “Let God Arise“. Now if you don’t dig this tune for worship, chances are you’ve not heard the right person lead it.

Tomlin’s recorded version lacks something, and you don’t realize what that is until you hear someone with a stronger, more aggressive voice sing it. It’s a great tune, but a smooth, tender voice like Tomlin’s doesn’t do the song justice. But when you put someone on it that has some grit, the song takes on a whole new persona!

Next was Marvelous Light, a fave by Charlie Hall, but one that is nearing it’s last days and will soon be put out to pasture. So enjoy it while it’s still around!

We concluded worship with a new song by Todd Fields that he co-wrote with Eddie called “Jesus Reigns“. It’s got a great mid-tempo groove ad is a blast to play. The verse is a little wordy and with some odd syncopation, but it certainly learnable over time. The chorus, however, is fantastic – a great hook that’s super easy to pick up and repeats a bunch.

We’ll be singing this one for a while! It’ll be on Todd’s new project due in May.

There you go!

– – – – –

East Band – Chrystina Fincher, Danny Dukes, Ryan Stuart, Steve Thomason, Ben Snider, Ashley Appling, Richard Meeder, Me

West Band – Eddie Kirkland, Danny Grady, Brad Avery, Jennifer Young, Mike Bielenberg, Pat Malone, Wayne Viar

– – – – –

Sunday Summary – Music: February 22, 2009

OK, we’ve recovered from last week…

We learned a lesson about song selection from last Sunday, and had an incredible Night of Worship on Thursday night.

FYI – in case you weren’t able to attend Thursday night, here was our set list…

Night of Worship – Feb 19.pdf

(50 points if you can spot my typo on the set list…)


On Sunday morning we had some cool stuff, as well as an interesting scenario.

First off, Andy was speaking here live, which meant that the content before the message needed to be shorter in order to broadcast the message feed to the other campuses.

Sooo, we did something we haven’t done before: We cut one of the worship tunes, but only for the first service! Meaning 2 worship tunes at the 9:00 AM service and 3 tunes at the 11:00 and 12:45.

This is because in the second service (11:00 AM) we use the recorded video of Andy from the first service. So everyone – East, West, Browns Bridge and Buckhead – are all watching the recorded 9:00 message while Andy rests his voice (and body and mind) off stage.

He’s then back live for the 12:45 service when he’s speaking at North Point, even though it’s not being broadcast to another campus. Browns Bridge uses the recorded video for their 12:45 service and Buckhead uses it for their 6:00 service.

Confused yet? Hold on…

This also means that we didn’t have to cut the top-of-the-service content for our 11:00 (video) and 12:45 (live but not broadcast) services, meaning we could add in that 3rd worship tune for those 2 services.

Now try getting that through to a group of Pavlovian Worship Leaders, musicians and production personnel who have already rehearsed and done one whole worship set and service a different way!

But they did it, and did it great!

Here’s the worship set:

God Is Alive (this was the one we cut for the first service)

Wonderful The Love

Lift High

After the worship set (in all 3 services) we did something we have hardly ever done here at North Point – an Offertory song!

Now if you grew up anything like I did, nary a week went by without an offertory song. Whether it was the choir or a soloist, or what – there was always an offertory! And, on a few occasions when I was a teenager, the offertory was me playing a newly learned classical piece.

One time, at the church back in Canada I grew up in, Jennie (my then girlfriend, now wife) and I did Great is Thy Faithfulness, with her on violin. That’s when our pastor said to my mom, “She’s the one, isn’t she?” 😉 That was a fond memory.

A not-so-fond memory was when I was about 15 and massacred a piano solo of “El Shaddai”. Butchered it. I put chords in there that don’t even exist.

That was the day I learned (the hard way) that I must practice something past the point of nausea, all the way to a healthy hatred for the song. True internalization. Muscle memory. Ability to play the song with your hands while having a conversation with your mouth and brain.

Otherwise, you’ll look like a fool. Trust me.

Alrighty then…

Nowadays, we only do an offertory if it’s a song that sets up the message, usually with tension or a question that the message will then address and possibly answer. They are a songs that might describe an imperfect scenario or situation. Basically not a song that would fit as a closer that would leave an audience with an answer, or basic sense or closure or hope. Now that’s not set in stone, but it’s a good rule of thumb…

So we did a tune called “Storm” by Lifehouse. A neat, moody song that is really quite haunting. Ryan Stuart‘s incredible vocal matched with the East band’s ability to master the song’s subtlety (plus some cool ethereal programming I did 🙂 ) made for a really unique, cool experience.

Give the song a listen and you’ll see just how polar it is to our usual Sunday AM content…

The song set up Andy’s first message in the series “He’s Still Got The Whole World In His Hands“. And it was a GOOOOD one!

– – – – –

East Band – Eddie Kirkland, Ryan Stuart, Danny Grady, Ben Snider, Scott Meeder, Earl South, Mike Bielenberg

West Band – Mike Gleason, Steve Thomason, Matt Melton, Pat Malone, Joe Lee, John Carrozza, Karen Bitzer

– – – –


Ohh, a little Digidesign Venue console action…


What song made you learn how to practice the hard way?

The Artist’s Way Group

Hey Fun Seekers, have I got a challenge for you…

There’s a book by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way.

Some of you may have heard of, although most of you haven’t – but it has sold over 2,000,000 copies. So it’s got some serious legs to stand on…

The tag is “A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self

And it’s available at your local bookstore or online.


I heard about this book last year from Eddie Kirkland, Mike Bielenberg and Danny Grady – all of whom read the book, did the book’s exercises, and couldn’t stop raving about how it had changed their creative lives.

And I was so excited about it from what they were telling me, that we decided o tackle it as a Music Department Staff. The 5 of us dove into it, in hopes that it might prove to be something to do as a large group with our body of musicians.

Sure enough, it was.

And after just one simple email invitation, 40 of our musicians (instrumentalists, singers, Worship Leaders, songwriters, etc.) told us they wanted to be a part.


And not 40 wannabe’s or hackers or 2nd or 3rd-tier people trying to butter us up for more gigs – I’m talking about the core of our musicians, singers and Worship Leaders. And at 2:00 on a Wednesday afternoon!

So we’ve divided up into 4 groups of 10 (far more manageable, especially since not everyone can make it every single week) and will meet for 14 weeks. The book takes 12 weeks to do, along with an introductory meeting and a summary meeting.

Now here’s the disclaimer: The book is NOT written by a Christian, but there is constant reference to The Creator and, and a Christian, it is extremely easy to view the book and its contents through the lens of the Gospel. You’ve just got to know that going in.

If anything, we who have done it would all say that it has in fact strengthened our relationship with God, especially after seeing His creativity is us, His creations.

On page 3, the author lists 10 basic principles. Three of my favorite are:

#3 – When we open ourselves to creativity, we open ourselves to the Creator’s creativity within us and our lives.

#4 – We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.

#5 – Creativity is (one of) God’s gift(s) to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

So here’s my challenge to you: Read and do The Artist’s Way with us over the next 12 weeks, wherever you happen to be. While you might not be a part of our meeting, your thoughts, insights and personal stories are welcome, and I’d love to share them with our group (with you permission).

Whether your creative outlet – whatever that might be – has been bruised in the past, or you’ve had a creative dream that you’ve always been afraid of pursuing, this book is for you.

If you feel you’re not creative – well, you’re wrong. 🙂 Everyone is in some way, and this may be the key to unlock some serious self discovery.

And creativity is not just music. It’s art, sculpture, photography, graphics, writing, stories, novels, poems, scripts, plays, film, teaching, parenting, marketing, stage design, lighting, etc. Even creating routines for Kick Boxing class…

And you’re not too old, either. Or too busy.

And all those other excuses you came up with while reading this? Nope, no good. Sorry…

– – – – –

Oh, and as an added bonus, here’s the letter that Eddie sent out to our folks, just to get you inspired…

I wanted to invite you to be part of a weekly group we’re about to start on January 28th. We’ll be going through a book/program called the Artist’s Way, which is an amazing 12 week experience that discusses and encourages creativity and writing.
About a year and a half ago, I picked up this book for the first time, and I talked to many of you about it as I walked through the process. It drastically changed my relationship with God, challenged some very deeply held beliefs I had about myself and my writing, and inspired me to begin writing as a way of expressing the creativity that God had placed inside of me. The whole music staff as well as some of the musicians that play here at North Point have already been through this book and have experienced a similar journey, so we really wanted to open it up to you as an opportunity for us to walk through it together as a group. (Talk to Reid, Karyn, Todd, Jared, Mike Bielenberg, or Danny Grady if you want a second opinion)
Basically, the group will meet once a week for 2 hours, and you should know up front that it will involve a pretty good commitment of time over the 3 months. There are readings for each week, as well as homework to do each day, which sounds like a lot, but please trust me… you will get out exponentially more than you put into this process. I really believe that we will walk away from this experience with a much greater understanding of why God has given us all creativity (even people who have never written or created anything before!), and how we can relate to Him through our expressions of that creativity in us.
For those of you that tuned me out because you don’t see yourself as a “writer”: This is totally for you, as well. This group is not, in any way, a “songwriting workshop.” We won’t be bringing our guitars and showcasing music. You won’t have to sing in front of judges while they critique your work. In fact, through the process, you may find a passion for one of a thousand different creative expressions other than music. It’s not just about writing songs (the book is actually written by a novelist/playwright) so please don’t shy away from it. I think you will get a ton out of the experience if you give it a shot.
And please, please, PLEASE don’t think that you need to be a part of this group to be considered a “good musician” and if you don’t join we will never call you again. That’s a lie… so don’t even begin to believe it! This is completely optional and fun, we just wanted to see if anybody would be interested in trying it out together. I know you are all extremely busy people, and this may not fit well in your life right now, we would just love to have you there because we love getting to see you. Period, no strings attached.
Thanks for reading this long email, hope I didn’t totally bore you. Our first meeting will be Wednesday, January 28th from 2pm to 4pm. If you are interested in being a part of the group, please let me know via email before January 19th, so that we can order the right number of books. Looking forward to it, and I hope you can be a part!

– – – – –

If you do the book, either alone or with a group of your own, let me know! I’d be really cool to take this journey together.

Sunday Summary – Music: January 25, 2009

Hold On Loosely…

It’s probably happened to most of us at some point. Something we had planned for a while, or had worked really hard on, or were at least really looking forward to got yanked at the last minute.

When I first started working at North Point over 5 years ago, I had something I had worked real hard on get pulled at the last minute. It was probably some music for a title package or programming for a song, or at least something I had put time, effort and care into. Needless to say, I was frustrated. REALLY frustrated.

My boss at the time, Bill DeLoach, calmed me down and let me know something real important about “Creative Survival”. He talked about how, even though the Service programming we do is a big ship, we still need to be able to turn on a dime. That means being flexible and seeing the big picture, right up to the last moment. He taught me about having thick skin and an open mind to critique and other’s opinions. And that there will often be times when we have to give up our work for the better good.

Is that tough to do for a creative person? You betcha.

But here’s what I’ve learned, and continue to learn, day after day, project after project, service after service… Having thick skin is NOT to be calloused and jaded, but rather to understand that an other’s opinion of your work relates to how appropriate your creation is to their overall vision. Their opinion of your work is NOT their opinion of your personality or of you as a person.

It’s tough though, isn’t it, to separate who you are and what you create?

Just look at it this way – people who write bad songs can still be great spouses and parents. And people who write great songs can be horrible spouses and parents.

The greatest band director I ever had was the (Grammy nominated) Jeff Kirk, who directed the Jazz Stage Band and Jazz Combo 1 at Belmont University, both of which I had the privilege of being in for 3 of my 4 years at Belmont. (Man, there’s nothing more inspiring than being the worst member of an incredible band to get you to the practice room!!)

At the beginning of each semester, Jeff would tell the group that when (yeah, not ifwhen…) you played something wrong or bad, that he would call you on it. And when he did, that it was not a slam on your character or personality, or his dislike of you as a person, but rather a poor choice of notes on your part, and to choose better next time. But if you kept playing those poor choices over and over, then we’d have to talk privately about your character and personality…

And what about an open mind to critique and opinion? Well, first off, an open mind usually means having a closed mouth. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about… It’s having a filter on all the stuff that runs through your head…

Then it means listening. Listening to why that creation of yours isn’t right or the project, or why that song needs to be cut. Perhaps you just didn’t interpret their request properly, or (worse yet) spend too much time investing in something without demoing a rough cut to see if it’s headed in the right direction. Perhaps you need to take a bigger look at a service as a whole, and realize that after revisiting the plan, some things simply don’t fit.

And then, after time, you learn to anticipate what works and what doesn’t.

– How much time and effort is appropriate on a creative project before a trusted opinion is needed to see if it’s heading in the right direction?

– Who offers valued, useful critique that you can build on versus who is naive on the subject? No offense to parents, spouses or co-workers in another Division, but who is knowledgeable enough to tell you if something is actually good or not?

– “See if this is working” goes a long way compared to “I’m done – here you go…”

– Anticipate the level of quality expected. Someone worth their weight will not accept sub-level creative work from you. When you keep refining and reach a level they’re happy with, you’ll know what to deliver first the next time…

These apply whether you’re playing an instrument, singing a song, composing a score, writing a script, acting in a play, painting a picture, or pretty much anything!

Except your taxes. You want to do those right the first time. Trust me, I know from experience….

(OK, long story short, one year my wife and I had 19 different 1099’s and I didn’t know anything about Schedule C or Form SC at the time when I filed. And yes, it is scary when the IRS contacts you.)

So there you go.

Go forth, create with all your heart and soul, but hold on loosely….

– – – – –


I dove into all that to set up what we did – and didn’t do – this past Sunday.

The plan was to have Andy at Browns Bridge and we at North Point would get the buffered feed. Meaning we had time to do more content at the top of the service.

But we already had an opener, announcements, 2 worship songs and baptism planned – so it was full!

And the opener was a doozy, at least for the electric guitars. One they had to wood shed for hours. Literally hours! Steve Thomason told me he stayed home to practice while his family went to Longhorn Steakhouse and he missed out on a “Flo’s Fillet”. Trust me – for Steve, that’s sacrifice!

But mid-day Wednesday, we got word that Andy wanted to be live at North Point on Sunday to share his Presidential Inauguration experiences, specifically his involvement with the Inaugural Prayer Service. Once we found that out, we all pushed for the video of the prayer to be shown, and he agreed, which was cool.

BUT!!!! That meant something had to go. And in the big picture of things, it was the opener that got the axe.

So you can imagine me texting all the East band guys (especially the guitarists) 2 hours before rehearsal and telling them that the opener got cut.

Were they bummed? Oh yeah. Big time.

But, in the long run, it was obviously the right thing to do.

Oh, and here’s the kicker: The opener was moved to this upcoming week, with a whole different set of musicians having to learn it!


Different singers, different band, you name it. Everyone except the bass player. I just think that’s kinda funny….

And no – I’m not going to tell you what it is. You’ll just have to wait and see…


Let God Arise

This is a new(er) Tomlin tune, and we were able to rock it, big time. Actually turned out really good!!

Hands of the Healer

OK, thar she blows…

– – – – –

East Band – Eddie Kirkland, Steve Thomason, Ben Snider, Earl South, Scott Meeder, John Carrozza, Jennifer Young

West Band – Ryan Stuart, Brad Long, Danny Howes, Wayne Viar, Richard Meeder, Mike Bielenberg, Rebecca Iraheta

– – – – –