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!

Faculty Spotlight – Dr. Luke Gambill

Introducing Lee’s newest Assistant Professor of Music Business, Dr. Luke Gambill!

Q: So tell us a bit about yourself! Your primary instrument, educational background, previous experience teaching or in the industry, you know, all of those hard hitting questions.

A: My primary instrument as an undergraduate church music major was voice, but most people today know me as a producer and keyboardist (though, the drum kit was my first love).
I have a unique blend of an academic background. I completed a B.A. in Church Music from Southeastern University (a historically Pentecostal institution). My M.A. in Worship Studies was completed at Liberty University (a historically fundamental Baptist intuition). Then, to top it off, I completed a Doctorate in Worship Studies at the Robert E. Webber Insititute for Worship Studies (a historically ecumenical/Anglican institution). And, somewhere between all of that, I completed a Specialist Certificate in Music Business from Berklee College of Music, as well as several courses at the Disney Institute (focus on excellence and leadership).
After 7 years working full-time on the local church level as a worship pastor, God swiftly and surprisingly opened the door to the music industry. For close to 20 years I was honored to work for Integrity Music (Creative Manager) and Capitol Christian Music Group (Creative Director) as an executive producer, as well as a hands-on studio producer. That time allowed me to work with individuals such as Michael W. Smith, Laura Story, Travis Cottrell, Don Moen, Paul Baloche, and many other wonderful artists. Realizing God began calling me toward academia, the last two years I was honored to serve at William Carey University as their Coordinator for Worship Studies (preparing future worship pastors for ministry). While at Carey, I remained well engaged in with the music business in Nashville, which began my journey to accepting the position at Lee University as Assistant Professor of Music Business.

Q: What classes do you teach here at Lee?

A: The beauty in my eclectic academic, church, and career experiences is I’m grateful for the many sides to music business and church music that I was able to bring to Lee. Thus, as more of a “hybrid” professor, I’ve been tasked to teach classes across both disciplines. This year, along with some additional responsibilities, I am scheduled to teach these classes:

  1. Rehearsal Techniques for Ministry
  2. History of Commercial Music
  3. Philosophy and Worldview
  4. Music Technology
  5. Aspects of Leading Worship
  6. Intro to Music Business
  7. Music Business Internship
  8. Campus Choir

Q: What are you most excited about/looking forward to while working at Lee?

A: As a 3rd generation Church of God “PK,” I am grateful to have known several of the Lee faculty members for many, many years. So, for me, I have been excited about working alongside many of my denominational musical heroes, colleagues, and friends, while getting to know so many other new individuals, as well.

Q: Any advice for music students?

A: My daughters have heard this from me a thousand times… If at all possible, never burn a bridge. Not only is this a scriptural concept, but I have seen positive fruit from this approach over and over again. You never know who you’re going to need and you never know when you’re going to be needed. Always be ready!

Q: How do you feel your Christian faith has impacted your life in the music industry?

A: Like any other type of career path, there are some areas of the music industry that can be tough to journey through as a believer. However, I was encouraged very early in my move to Nashville to connect with those outside of the music industry. Not only did this bring friendships that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise but helped bring a healthy perspective in lieu of a society that has unfortunate cynicism toward Christianity.

Q: Finally, any favorite memories of a moment in your musical career?

A: No doubt working on project releases with both Michael W. Smith and The Robertson Family (Duck Dynasty) in the same year. What a fun year that was!

Thanks for being our September Spotlight, Dr. Gambill! We wish you all the best and we’re so glad you’ve joined the Lee family!

Student Spotlight – Logan Henson

Logan Henson is a freshman music education major from Ootlewah, TN who’s primary instrument is French horn.

So how did he choose Lee?

“Initially, I had never thought about Lee until I participated in Lee Honor Band in my Sophomore year of high school. After that experience, I felt like Lee was the place I was meant to spend the next 4 years. I love that music is embedded into the schools roots.”

His career goals include sharing his love of music with others. “I hope to one day educate the next generation of musicians, whether it be at a college campus or high school band room.”

Since coming to campus, Logan has been keeping busy playing in Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Symphonic Band and getting to know the students in his Gateway. “Some of my favorite memories of Lee so far have been with my Gateway group. I love Lee!”

We’re so glad to have you in the School of Music, Logan! Welcome home!

Virtual Collab Music Experience: Making Music Together

Join us for the inaugural event of Lee’s Collaborative Music Series!

Dr. ChoEun Lee, a variety of distinguished SOM faculty, and guest speakers will be hosting this unique workshop opportunity! On Saturday, September 19 learn how to effectively communicate and collaborate with other musicians to give your best possible performance every time.

Registration is open now until September 5th and registration is free for current Lee students with a valid ID.

For more information and the official registration, visit: