Electronic Info Page – Church Music Direction

My Background

I hold a BM in Commercial Music (Basically “commercial music” means I studied everything except classical music at school), and an MM in classical music composition (so, after I avoided studying classical music, I went ahead and did that too), both from Belmont University in Nashville TN.

I have worked as a music teacher for the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media, Vanderbilt University, and the Art Institute of Atlanta.

I have worked as a musician and singer at a number of churches in Atlanta and Nashville, but most recently I served as the Music Director at Mount Pisgah UMC in Johns Creek GA. I worked at Mount Pisgah from 2002 – present. I left Geogia in 2015 to follow my wife’s career, but I still work for Pisgah doing production work from afar.

Church Music

As a church musician my strongest point is building success for the people I work with rather than focusing on me.

The Relevant Skills I Bring To The Table

  • Strong vision/leadership tempered by a desire to help others achieve their goals
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Excellent computer/technology skills
  • Excellent musicianship
  • Excellent musical and artistic instruction
  • Patience
  • Love for a wide variety of music and art
  • A lot of experience building community through music and art

Videos of me working at a church

This is a link to a video of me conducting the choir and orchestra at Mount Pisgah.

This is a link to a video of me singing special music at Christmas.

This is a video of me singing.

This link contains a video of me singing.  I’m playing the mandocello while singing (lest you believe that is a guitar, though I do also play guitar).

In these videos know that I rehearsed the choir and musicians, and directed either by “arm waving” or by pre-recorded audio track in headphones (more on this subject later). I also arranged the last 2.pieces.

Here are some examples of music I did at my last job that show diversity (click the links):

A video that demonstrates Funk

A video that demonstrates Latin

A video that demonstrates Bluegrass

A video that demonstrates Irish

I also programmed jazz, classical, handbells and all kinds of other stuff.

In those last 4 videos, know that I programmed the music, wrote and arranged the charts (except for the funk piece, that was arranged by a guy named “Bradley Knight”), rehearsed the soloists (all the front singers with hand-held microphones) and the musicians (the choir was rehearsed by Tim Johnson). On stage I’m playing bass in the first 2 videos, and mandocello in the second 2…we had a wonderful volunteer mandolinist, so when we did acoustic music I had my friend, Michael Kurth of the Atlanta Symphony play bass, had our guitarist play banjo, and I played mandocello as a guitar substitute. We had some trouble with that latin piece because there was a lot of snow that preceded the date and very few of my musicians rehearsed it…but I wanted you to see the idea: multi-cultural worship.


Alternative Choral Music

Here (click this link) is a MIDI demo of a piece we played for Good Friday 2015-2016. It is a choral version of “Nearer My God to Thee” originally by the BYU singers (this is my simplified arrangement for mixed choir…the original is for an all male ensemble…hey! there is an example of my obscure choral repertoire knowledge…) to which I added a rhythm section in the style of Sting.

The cool stuff kicks in at about 1 minute into this track. The first minute is a violin solo played to a video production introducing the Tenebre service to those who may not be familiar. We called the service “Seven Shadows” and it was built on a theater and music production.

I came up with the concept for the event, arranged all the music (8 songs in total, 1 for each “shadow” and one for the hope of the resurrection), rehearsed the choir and orchestra, but I did not conduct the actual event as I was needed to play instruments.

I love choral music. I have been involved in choirs and vocal groups all my life. At my last job it was very difficult to convince the Pastor that we should program great choral works. He was focused on the idea that we had a “worship choir” as opposed to a “chamber choir” (what he called it). I hope that you can see with the rest of the work on this page that I am both a serious musician and capable of producing whatever style we need to produce.

It’s just music, whether classical or commercial. Basically the same stuff has to work for the music to work, it’s just a matter of having the experience to understand the differences in minutia.


This is an example of my Music Direction/Contemporary Music

It is a service I organized when visiting worship leader, Regi Stone, was at the piano. It may not look like I’m doing much other than playing bass, but one of the ways I get this strong of a performance from such a large ensemble of youth and volunteers is by committing to a high degree of pre-production. As you can see in the video, many of the key musicians are wearing headphones. They are actually listening to me direct them. You’ll notice that there is no conductor.

There is a computer percussion track and synth pad that covers up the count off. The musicians hear me in their ear say “You Are Stronger” (the title of the tune), then “1, 2, ready, go”. Also, any member of the choir who wanted to could listen to this “pre-production track”. We broadcast it with an FM transmitter, so they could just use a very inexpensive radio receiver. This helped in another way. Many choir members had a difficult time hearing the sermon from the choir loft, so we would also transmit the sermon to them using the same FM transmitter.

That pre-production track included pre-recorded synths, loops, vocals, and guitars that help them stay with the track. In addition to this I “call” the sections as they arrive, as in “Verse, 2, ready, go”.

You can watch the service to which I refer in this youtube video:

(Also, of the recordings on this page, this is the only one I personally mixed after the fact…I think you can hear how much better this sounds than the previous “board recordings”)

Click this link to hear a recording of what the musicians hear in their ear.

When I was in college I did this in order to achieve wonderful results from the grad musicians, even when they were playing very complex music. I wrote a concerto for Violin, marimba, bass guitar, and tabla accompanied by computer. The first movement was in 21/4. Because the computer guided the musicians, we were able to execute it flawlessly from the first rehearsal.

That piece is called “A Millenia in Alexandria” and you can hear it on my soundcloud page.

I’ve also done this kind of pre-production for a handful of larger touring acts.

Another reason for this pre-production track is that it makes post production infinitely easier for video production. Happy to explain more in person.


Folk Music

While I love all forms of music, right now I am deeply invested in “New Acoustic Music”. I am a big fan of Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile. My last recording of church music was a nod to them using the lyrics of Charles Wesley (co-founder of the Methodist church). I recorded it in 2014 when I had been playing mandolin for about a year.

You can hear the record on my band camp page by clicking this link, and you can read positive press for the recording at jazzmando.com by following this link.

Here is a super rough mix from my current acoustic project, focusing on Irish material.

At the moment I’m very interested in creating new music that has a connection to the past. As it relates to church music this style is typically called “Ancient Future”. However, I believe that several misguided musicians have used that label for acoustic pop music. While I love contemporary music, I think the idea of “Ancient Future” should be laced with elements of the past. Structurally based on ancient modes of worship, musically derived from folk and art music forms of the last few centuries. I believe that this connection to the past is what speaks to us today in “worship”. It is this sense of ritual that aides in meditation on the spiritual.


Jazz

I also love jazz. As a bassist, it was my passion for decades, until I recently started moving in the new acoustic direction.

You can hear me and the boys play some Pat Metheny as we warm up for a church service here.

You can hear one of my original jazz big band charts here. This tune was recorded on my Jazz record “Gestures”. Gestures includes examples of techno, latin, and many other styles. The second track is a reggae blues. When I put the record out one reviewer/interviewer asked me if I had something against “4/4 time”.

I also love more “straight ahead” and vocal jazz. Here is live recording of me playing “My Romance” with my jazz trio at a restaurant (click this link).

Last note about jazz: I have had an idea for arranging hymn lyrics in the style of “Snarky Puppy” (jazz band) for quite a while. Would enjoy an opportunity to execute that plan.


Classical Music

I LOVE classical music. My first album is called “Revisionist History”. The first piece on that recording (I mentioned earlier on this page) is a 20-minute programatic concerto for violin, marimba, tabla, bass guitar, and computer. It is an example of contemporary classical, which is of course, my specialty. But for those of you who love the music of the “dead Germans”, this will not sound like classical music.

Here’s a quick video I shot of the first little bit of Bach’s partita 2 just to let you know how much I love and respect the music most people associate as “classical” (or in this case: “Baroque”)

I know how more legit classical music works. I played upright bass in orchestra in college. I played percussion through high school. I have conducted a lot of legit music (“legit” music is musician slang for “art” music, as opposed to “pop” music) in college, but I have not had a great deal of opportunity to direct legit music at my last job as they did not feel it was very important.

In my journey with art music I identify a great deal with Hector Berlioz for a number of reasons. One of my many ambitions is to eventually create live performances of music accompanied by drawn images that tell a story. Berlioz was a pioneer of “program” music (music that tells a sonic story). He was also a guitarist. He played an instrument that had no voice in the orchestra, much like the bass guitar feels to me.

To make up for this lack of playing an orchestral instrument I have been taking classical mandolin lessons from Carlo Aonzo over Skype. I was inspired to do so when I saw him play a mandolin concerto with the Dekalb Symphony in 2014.

I should add that my wife is an amazing classical violinist and Irish fiddler. We met when I went back to Belmont for grad school in my early 30s. She was the adjunct instructor of celtic fiddle for Belmont at that time (yes, I was dating a teacher…very scandalous. I’m 7 years older than she is). She also taught many of the classical performance majors at Belmont, Vanderbilt, and Bowling Green University.

 


Summary

So that is me in a nutshell. Please feel free to browse my website. I have other videos of me playing as I film score, or time lapse drawing that may interest you.

I must seem like I’m all over the map to people who don’t know me. I do so many things I worry about seeming like a “jack of all trades, master of none.” Well, I feel that I am actually a jack of all trades, master of 2: music composition and sequential art. Interestingly, I have the masters degrees in those subjects, though I also feel I have so much to learn. We only get so many years to learn, and when it comes to creativity I sometimes think I want it all. What is neat about these “mastered” skills is that they allow for the diversity. In order to compose well, one must play at least moderately well. In order to tell visual stories, one must draw and design at least moderately well. The two focuses are what have allowed me to diversify my skills so thoroughly.

I am very excited about finding a community where I can express all these qualities and encourage others to express themselves through music and art.

Alan, Keira, and Kim as we are about to leave for Hong Kong. 8/31/2015

What People Say About Me

This is an essay written by my friend and colleague, Tom Knight. Tom is simply the finest drummer with whom I have ever had the fortune of working.

He posted this on Facebook, totally unprompted. I was deeply flattered. More than that, I put it here because as a leader one of the things I really want is for people to feel my support for them. When people sense this support it always results in a desire to support me.

Supporting people in one’s community creates synergistic relationship where everyone wins.

I am copying Tom’s essay here in it’s entirety.

Under the right lighting conditions, one could easily mistake him for Ben Affleck. Hair, features, build, stature. Standing six foot four, he’s even the same height as Ben—which, incidentally, provides a certain amount of comedy for anyone watching as he shoehorns himself into his Yaris (only to crowbar himself out of it a moment later, usually at the nearest Starbucks). Despite occasionally donning an Irish linen shirt which always appears to have been torn out from under his passenger seat, he is exceptionally well dressed. To boot, the man is frightfully intelligent—always has been. It’s a trait enhanced only by his memory which works almost like a search engine. A gift, really. Like one of those savants who, when you throw out a random date from the past, can instantly tell you what day of the week it was. Everyone likes him, too. I’ve yet to meet a soul who didn’t enjoy his presence, and I tread cautiously around those who would disagree. Handsome, fashionable, well liked, smart, and sophisticated, he carries with him at all times the requisite components necessary to piece together a complete jerk; yet, he is manifestly not. Rather, he is quite the calm, gentle, caring soul. The kind of guy who leans in to listen while you talk, quickly abandons his schedule to help a friend in need, and always—and I do mean always—thinks of others first. In a word, exemplary. Meet Alan OW Barnes.

Short of the two people who brought me into this world, I can think of no other individual who impacted my life more profoundly and positively than Alan. I’ve known him for well over two decades, and he has always proved a better friend to me than anyone else (a kinship that I don’t believe I really deserve, as I’m confident I’ve failed to reciprocate. Shameful.) He was the original brainchild, co-owner, and shareholder of my modest little production company Knightyme Studios Inc., which I’m proud to say is not only still servicing clients today, but has since spawned two subsidiary companies—marketing, and voiceover. In the latter, I won an Emmy Award for Narration, and the former, an Emmy nomination as a Director (to say nothing of the profits earned from these entities.) Most of the musical situations in which I’ve played or recorded since the turn of the century (certainly all the lucrative ones) were a direct result of Alan’s kind recommendation. He could’ve hired anyone in this vast, talent-laden city, but he always chose me. And finally—above all else—over the last twelve years I find myself continually struck by the terrifying realization that were it not for Alan, I would not have experienced the brilliant love of a perfect spouse, the contagious enthusiasm of an eight year old son, the wonderfully-smothering rambunctiousness of a two year old boy, and I certainly wouldn’t find myself sitting here, once again, at Northside Hospital holding yet another delicate newborn—our third baby boy—who, as I write this, entered the world a mere 20 hours ago: for it was Alan who introduced me to my lovely wife. Boy am I glad I met Alan. And if I know him as well as I think, then my bet is he’ll hesitate to accept glory, shying away from it with something like, “Aw man, whatever…it was nothing!”, which of course would only prove my point all the more. I’ve not a better friend in the world.

Alan’s emotionally warm and congenial nature is suspended in perfect balance by a precise and dizzying intellect. Able to see well beyond the horizons upon which the rest of us gaze, he appears to enjoy—without the slightest effort, mind you—an immeasurable understanding of how things work, particularly in the area of Liberal Arts. Play for him a mere moment’s worth of the vaguest musical selection and then sit back and watch as he casually peels back and exposes the individual elements of its composition and precisely reveals its origin, influences, and audience. Effectively dismantling the complexity of even the most confusing music, he is somehow able, still, to articulate in plain English exactly what the heck we just heard. His eye for visual art is no less astonishing. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve watched him point out, to my delight and surprise, the hidden truths behind exquisite art, secret techniques of the masters, and seemingly infinite numbers of mysterious components comprising even the simplest of renderings. It’s almost as if he possesses a certain ‘Neo-esque’ quality, much like the character in “The Matrix”, who upon rising from death suddenly experiences the world as it truly exists…who understands it completely and isn’t the slightest bit afraid of it. Except that Barnes didn’t have to die first, and his abilities didn’t “suddenly” manifest themselves. Best I can tell, the man has always been this way. I don’t get it.

If there’s anything about Alan, however, that serves as a reminder that he is in fact human, it would be his unusual affection for running out of gas or forgetting his pants on the way to a gig. Thankfully, these two occurrences remain mutually exclusive. (Give him another couple years…) I’ve ridden shot gun on multiple occasions where his car sputtered into the parking lot of some remote gas station I swore we’d never find, rolling right up to the pump just as the engine spit out its final ker-plunk. This happened several times. Other times, G-forces smushed my face against his passenger window as he careened madly around Atlanta street corners desperately attempting to find black dress pants for sale on our way to a performance for which we were likely already late (surely caused by a lengthy Starbucks queue earlier). To put an end to this particular problem, he finally bought a half dozen or so black slacks and kept them in his vehicle—tightly stuffed, right next to his Irish linen shirt under the passenger seat.

Since those early years, Alan has groomed himself into quite the winner. It only took him eight months to finish the one-year Music Performance program at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media—and he was riding on a full scholarship, to boot. Later, he earned a Bachelor of Music in Commercial Music with a Composition and Arranging Emphasis from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Continuing his studies there, Alan earned his Master of Music in Composition. And finally, at Savannah College of Art and Design, he earned a Master of Fine Art in Graphic Design/Sequential Art.

Soon, relevant entities began to take notice of Alan’s accomplishments and abilities. The Atlanta Institute of Music and Media hired Alan as their Bass Department Director, and while there, he rewrote the entire bass curriculum which in turn dramatically accelerated the department’s infusion of students. It’s been almost two decades since; AIMM still uses Alan’s material. Later, while teaching Audio Production and Animation classes at the Art Institutes, Alan co-authored the Audio Production curriculum and the Digital Publishing curriculum. Additionally, he was among the top ten instructors handpicked to rewrite *all* curriculums for the entire national chain of schools—all forty locations. The higher-ups at Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Johns Creek, Georgia hired Alan, at first, as a musician, then later they promoted him to Musical Director of the band, and now he holds the title of ‘Music Coordinator’ for the church. At Georgia Perimeter College, Alan wrote the curriculum for the Visual Story Telling and Digital Publishing classes. He taught Online Graphic Design and Animation at Kirtland Community College, music classes at Boston Bible College, and was adjunct faculty for both Belmont University’s Digital Music courses and Vanderbilt University’s classes for Computer Music Components.

His talents have afforded him the luxury of claiming homestead in nearly every state along the east coast, and even as far away as Hong Kong. Currently, he lives in Rhode Island with his wife Kimberly and daughter Kiera, and teaches animation classes over the Internet through the Art Institute’s Pittsburg Online Division. He is also routinely employed by some of the most noble organizations for his formidable artistic skills. Recently, Alan was commissioned to draw the ongoing comic book “Marrow Man” about a superhero who helps little children through bone marrow transplant procedures, giving them “something to fixate on, fun stories to read, and educational imagery to help them understand the science behind what they are going through”, says Alan. Marrow Man was created by the Epic Battle Campaign organization which works in conjunction with bethematch.org in hopes of generating heightened awareness for the need for bone marrow donors; I can only imagine how Alan feels knowing his handiwork might help save children’s lives.

Who knows what Alan will bring next to the world’s stage, but I’m betting it will be even more magnificent. As for me, I have no idea where I’d be, who I’d be, or what I’d be doing if it weren’t for Alan. I owe you everything, my brother. Thank you. I’m proud of you, I love you, and I wish you the kind of happiness your friendship has brought me.