Q: Introduce yourself!Where are you from and what are you studying?
A: I’m a Junior Music and Worship Major from Nashville Tennessee. My primary instrument is voice but I’m very involved on campus playing piano as well.
Q: What brought you to Lee?
A: My brother came to Lee so it was always in my mind. The Lee Singers came to my church when I was in high school and I was impressed with their level of musical excellence. I really decided to come to Lee when I auditioned for the School of Music. I was shocked at how friendly the professors are and how much they care about their students well-being.
Q: What ensembles are you involved in?
A: The musical ensembles I’m involved in are Campus Choir and Chorale. I am the music director of Campus Choir and also a member of the Greek Club, Pi Kappa Pi.
Q: What are your career goals for the future?
A: I aspire to become a worship leader that challenges the church to deeper and more meaningful encounters with God. I also want to get my master in Music and Worship following my undergrad. Looking toward the future, I would love to get my doctorate in music and worship studies and eventually become a teacher.
Q: How do you feel the Music & Worship Program at Lee is preparing you for your future as a worship leader?
A: I feel the Music & Worship program is giving the correct tools to become the best worship leader I can be. The school is giving me great resources to excel in the best way possible. My teachers also challenge me to apply every lesson I learn so I can be successful.
Q: Any advice to your freshman self?
A: If I could go back in time and tell my freshman-self anything, it would be to always ask when you need help. The professors are great resources for student development as long as you ask.
Many of Lee’s traveling ensembles have been focusing on recording music this semester and Campus Choir is making great progress on this massive project! Their choral arrangement of O Come, All Ye Faithful has been featured on PraiseCharts.com and the audio is available to listen online. Christmas is right around the corner, so please enjoy their wonderful sound and stay tuned for more from Lee Campus Choir!
Our student spotlight for October is music business, senior, Sydney DeVoe!
Q: Introduce yourself! What are you studying? Where are you from? How did you choose Lee?
A: I am a senior studying Music Business and Jazz Studies with a vocal emphasis from Birmingham, Alabama. I was introduced to Lee by my vocal coaches who are all Lee alum, and they brought me to visit campus for the first time when I was sixteen. I remember feeling an instant peace that I was where I was supposed to be.
Q: What ensembles are you involved in?
A: Since coming to Lee, I jumped right into different ensembles to diversify my musical portfolio. I have spent the past five semesters traveling with the Ladies of Lee and singing with our Small Jazz Ensemble. In the past year I joined Handbells to push myself outside of my comfort zone, and I’m so glad I did! I instantly loved the community and atmosphere within the group to work together to create excellent music.
Q: What was the recording project you worked on?
A: I recently worked on a demo with songwriter Mike Bridges and producer Randy Miller. When I first heard about the project, I coordinated with Mike to learn about his vision for the song, and after I felt confident with the material, I met with Randy in the studio. We ran the song a few times and patched different places to create the best sound possible. I’ve worked in the studio recording background vocals in the past, but it was a completely new experience recording as the solo vocalist. Randy was excellent to work with and even though I walked in fairly nervous, he encouraged and motivated me right from the beginning. We both walked away very proud of the final product.
Q: Are there any specific ways the music business program at Lee has prepared you for this experience?
A: The music business professors here have helped prepare me for opportunities like this by having high accountability and expectations for their students. After graduating, I aspire to create a company invested in writing and producing music to uplift and impact people.I’m so thankful for this experience in my musical and academic journey at Lee!
It’s October and we’re back with another Faculty Spotlight! Dr. Nathaniel Olson is the newest member of our voice faculty, along with his beautiful wife Dr. Jules Olson.
Q: Alright so starting off with some background info! Could you share some of your previous experience and your life before Lee?
My primary instrument is the voice and secondarily the trumpet. The educational journey began with a B.M. from the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music in Illinois, then a M.M. from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and finally a D.M.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with additional studies at the Franz Schubert Institute, Ravinia Festival Steans Music Institute, and the Army School of Music. I have previously taught as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Indiana University Bloomington and UNC Greensboro, as adjunct faculty at Radford University and Elon University, as a Lecturer of Music and Coordinator of Choir and Classical Voice at the Universitas Pelita Harapan in Indonesia, and as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Voice at Wingate University. I’ve been very fortunate to have performed in many countries and concert halls across the world especially alongside my beloved wife and brilliant soprano, Dr. Jules Olson.
Q: What courses are you teaching?
As a member of the voice faculty here at Lee, I teach Vocal Literature, Opera Literature, Voice Seminar, and Applied Voice Lessons. It’s a real gift to have so much quality time with students as they each develop their own voice.
Q: How did you hear about Lee? What are you most excited about/looking forward to while working at Lee?
During 2018-2020, Dr. Jules Olson and I applied to many universities across the world as we sought a place to both teach and base ourselves professionally. We accepted the positions at Lee in February 2020 and moved to Tennessee from North Carolina where we were based the last 4 years. One of the things I looked forward to coming to Lee was the ability to teach at one university instead of juggling responsibilities at two or more universities while maintaining a busy schedule with the Army and freelancing. It’s a welcomed change to be able to pour into students and have quality over quantity. The students here are very respectful, kind, and eager to learn. As avid outdoor people, Dr. Jules and I enjoy kayaking and hiking throughout this beautiful part of the country. Get outside students and enjoy this beautiful area!
Q: I know you’re an instrumentalist as well as a vocalist, how do you feel having experience in both fields has prepared you or impacted your life/career in music?
Making a living in music performance is a real challenge. To make ends meet you have to think outside of the box. Personally, this has included being a trumpeter/vocalist at many different types of churches, performing music in many contexts, working all sorts of odd jobs, joining the Army, and finding a niche in baroque performance and higher education. Over the years, I’ve kept up my trumpet chops as I really love brass playing. During our joint doctoral studies, we needed a way to receive health insurance and benefits. I auditioned for the 208th Army Reserve Band based near Charlotte, NC and enlisted in early 2017. During the summers between academic years of doctoral studies and adjunct teaching, I completed Basic Combat Training and Army School of Music training. Being an Army reserve musician has been such a great gift to our joint lives as music professors and performers. It’s a rare part-time gig that comes with great benefits and a musical outlet that reaches every walk of life and part of society.
Q: Lastly, any advice for music students?
During my music studies at Wheaton and Indiana, I was hyper-focused on becoming an opera singer. Some exciting professional opportunities arrived in 2010-2015, and Jules and I performed together in a premiere at the Lyric Opera of Chicago along with tours in South Korea, the Netherlands, and at many opera/orchestra companies across the USA. We were both singing professionally and pursuing that path full-bore. Yet, God had other plans. Seemingly out of nowhere, we interviewed via Skype for two full-time voice professorships at Universitas Pelita Harapan in Indonesia. Sight unseen, we moved from downtown Chicago to Karawaci near Jakarta, Indonesia on the other side of the world in the summer of 2015. The three semesters of teaching in Indonesia changed our lives and catapulted us into higher education. There are many times as musicians that we simply have to get out of our comfort zones and “go for it.” You will fail and you may also succeed, but it is in taking risks that we find rewards. You have to try in order to fail, and it is in falling flat on your face before the Throne of Grace that you find the still small voice of God. I would have never thought that Jules and I would go on to teach at 5 universities together when we got married in 2014 and the precious souls we have encountered along the way. Dear music students, I encourage each of you to pour yourselves into your talents and work hard, be willing to have a career outside of your own pre-conceived ideas, and get out of your comfort zone. Remember to be kind and respectful to each person you come across, you never know who you will cross paths with again this side of eternity.
Thank you so much for interviewing with us Dr. Olson! Welcome to the Lee family!
Sophie graduated with a degree in Music & Worship and is now serving as the Minister of Music at First Church in Butler, Pennsylvania. She is also a talented songwriter and performed many of her original songs during her time at Lee. “Come Around,” “Heart on Display,” “All Along,” & “Here to Stay” EP are available everywhere!
Watch the video below to hear one of her singles, “Come Around!”