Campus Choir Recording

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 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!

Listen to O Come, All Ye Faithful here!

Student Spotlight: Sydney DeVoe

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!

Click here to listen to Sydney DeVoe sing “Raisin’ Cain” or visit!

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Nathaniel Olson

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!

Alumni Spotlight October 2020

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!”

Called to Lead: Convocation Interview with Carlos & Caroline

A few weeks ago, Lee Music alumni, Carlos Rising and Caroline Ward led the student body in a Convocation worship service. We asked them a few questions about their experience and their advice for future music ministers.

Q: So tell us a little about yourself? What year did you graduate and what have you been up to lately?

CARLOS: I graduated from Lee in December 2017. While at Lee I was in Campus Choir, Small Jazz Ensemble, Chamber Music and LeeU Worship. I am currently a full-time singer/songwriter and musician. I just released a project called Burned Out E.P on all streaming platforms.

CAROLINE: I graduated from Lee with a B.M. in Music and Worship. Two weeks after graduating, my husband and I got married and I took a job at Two Rivers Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, where I served on their Worship Arts Staff for two years. Just this past August, my husband and I felt called to move to Phoenix, Arizona, where he now me heads a non-profit; I am currently at Arizona State University, where I am working towards getting my Master’s in Speech Pathology. During my time at Lee, I was in Small Jazz Ensemble, Chorale, and LeeU Worship!

Q: What was it like to lead Convocation again?

CARLOS: I’ve always hoped to be welcomed back to Lee in some capacity, but to be invited to lead an entire chapel service was very humbling and surreal. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Conn Center stage as a student, but as an alumni it holds a different weight and responsibility which was challenging but also rewarding. The students and the faculty were great and the band we brought were made up of some of my best friends in the world and also were Lee Alumni. It was an amazing experience.

CAROLINE: It was SUCH a sweet and surreal moment—during my time at Lee, I always dreamed of coming back to campus for some sort of chapel service, and to be able to do that just a few years after graduating was nothing short of an honor. Lee’s culture and DNA had a huge role in my spiritual journey—not to mention the campus itself holds a lot of memories—so it was just a sweet, sweet time.

Q: Describe the process of choosing songs/planning a worship service for future worship leaders.

CARLOS: We were asked by the administration to play some original songs but to also pick current worship songs that the Lee student body could sing along too. We knew that the originals we picked had to be easy to sing long too and have a style that is conducive to congregational worship. We also chose to feature songs we have written for Lee University while in LeeU Worship. Since we wrote them as students at Lee, we thought it would be nice to pay homage to our University while also singing songs the students know. For the popular worship songs we wanted to pick songs that fit our style musically but also pick songs that were worshipful and meditative, that way if you didn’t know the song, you could listen to the lyrics and still be in that worshipful atmosphere.

CAROLINE: When planning a worship service, you have to start with prayer! Ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to communicate to His people, and do your best to be a facilitator of that. If I don’t have any obvious, clear direction, I trust that the Lord is guiding my process—from there, I think about a few things: What message is this song conveying? Do I have a healthy balance between vertical worship, personal reflection, and congregational declaration? Have I made room for the Spirit’s leading, amidst my structure? Are the songs familiar/singable? Does this arrangement fit the band that I’m leading? There is A LOT to consider when planning a set—I could go on and on!

Q: Did you have a favorite moment leading worship?

CARLOS: It’s always special when you hear/see others sing a song you wrote in a worship setting. We did 2 originals that basically not a lot of people have heard, but from the beginning on both songs, the room was singing like they’ve been singing these songs for months. It reminded me God can use anybody for his glory, and I’m grateful he chose to give me and Caroline, my music partner in Re.Created, a platform where we can bring attention to him.

CAROLINE: One of the most memorable experiences that I have had leading worship was definitely the Evening of Worship of the Fall of my Senior year, when we released the LeeU worship album. Songwriting has always been a huge passion of mine, and it was so special to be able to work with such an amazing group of students, write songs for our campus, and then be able to sing them over people. That entire process was definitely the highlight of my Lee experience!

Q: How did you realize that God’s plan for you involved music ministry?

CARLOS: There was a time in my life where I wanted to give up music. I graduated high school and decided I wanted to go on the road for the summer and play wherever I could. Churches, coffee shops, birthday parties, anything. After that summer I realized how hard the music business was and I was basically just doing it for myself. I decided to just pursue an associates degree in business and get a regular 9-5 because it was the safe option. After 2 years I was almost depressed with how outside I was from my calling. I wasn’t inspired, motivated and had no real passion. I then decided to go on a limb and audition for the music program at Lee. I had no experience playing classical music, I didn’t play piano, never been in a choir and couldn’t read music at all. In my audition I know I failed miserably. But the University called and said they wanted to put me in the Pre-Music program to help better define my skills and have me re-audition after my first semester. I felt God say “you make your plans, but I order your steps. Trust in me and I’ll lead you where you want to go” 
So I decided to give it a shot and after a semester I had grown so much musically, had a new passion for learning, playing music and worship, and I believed in myself. After my re-audition I was in the program and from there I knew, this was gonna be the rest of my life. Dedicating my life to Jesus who gave this gift, and will continue to use it for his glory alone.

CAROLINE: To be honest, there was never an “ah-ha!” moment, but just steady, continued affirmation from The Lord that this was what I was made to do. When I came to Lee, I chose my major without really having any concept of what I was called to do and how my major would fit into that. But as I’m sure you know, Lee has some INCREDIBLE professors who truly care about you and your heart—and I had some amazing mentors who prayed for me, encouraged me, and walked me through what it looked like to be called to something. One influential book that I read in one of my Music Ministry class was “Is God Really Calling Me?” which was super helpful in me trying to discern God’s call on my life.

Q: Alright last question, any advice for current music majors? 

CARLOS: Don’t quit. I know theory is hard. I know ensembles are stressful and time consuming. I know music history is the hardest class in the world. Don’t quit. If I learned anything at Lee it’s that the school of music is a program of refinement. Growth in education, spirituality and relationships are essential and there is no finer program where you can get all of these things at the highest level. You can do it!

CAROLINE: Enjoy the journey—you’ll never get your college years back, so soak in every moment! Take advantage of all of the resources and incredible mentors around you; they are in your corner! And, most importantly, get plugged into a local church! These are very formative years for you and your future ministry; don’t lose sight of the importance of filling your cup before pouring out.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! We wish you all the best as you continue to follow God’s calling in your life!