Written by Winston Arblaster
Photos by Ryan Bluebaugh and Erika Sataraka
Rewind eight months to the beginning of the 2014-15 school year and you would find the Creative Arts students gearing up for a songwriting workshop, taught by an individual they would perhaps not know by name, but who has crafted the sounds of many of the hits that occupy the airwaves of today’s Christian radio. Dave Hanley (Founder and CEO of DREAM Records) flew in for a few short days in September - one of two trips he would make to Oregon this year from his Los Angeles studios - to teach an exclusive workshop in Stewart Chapel, wherein the students would learn the art of songwriting and a few insider “tricks of the trade.” It was in this workshop that the students would write (in a semi-chaotic group fashion) the single that would go on our record, and more importantly, catch the songwriting bug that has now spread across the NHCC campus. We had about forty original songs that were submitted by our student body and staff and had the difficult job of narrowing the list to eleven. The amazing thing is that we had about twenty-five students/staff contribute to the album…some wrote songs, while others sand, or played piano, drums, or guitar.
Fast forward to 7am on the morning of April 28th, and a short message hits the screens of over 77,000 Facebook and Twitter users simultaneously: “The debut worship album from New Hope Christian College is now available for purchase.” With a little help from this “crowd speaking” social media campaign, the digital world was made aware that there is a new worship album on the “shelves” of iTunes, Spotify, and over 200 other platforms. Orders flood in, CDs are packed and mailed right from the NHCC Reception desk, and digital orders are placed thanks to a featured spot in the iTunes Store. A week later, we get news that New Hope Christian College has peaked at #19 in the national Billboard Charts for the Praise and Worship category.
With an initial success that is almost mind boggling, one has to credit God for such favor for seeing our “little college” propelled so suddenly to receive national, and in fact global, recognition. It’s only Him who has the power to exalt the humble and offer grace to those who would not presume to deserve it.
Such is the case with our Creative Arts students, who during Dave Hanley’s 2nd visit, spent ten whirlwind days recording their voices and instruments to create an album they could expect to be little more than another new learning experience punctuating a week of classes, rehearsals, and chapel. The makeshift studio we put together at New Hope Eugene didn’t reflect the state-of-the-art rooms where most chart-toppers are made. These musicians were largely new to the process; in fact, most were in a studio for the first time. But God is in the business of doing great things in our weakness. He takes our offerings and turns them into an abundance.
Being in the Top 20 of the Billboard Charts is a badge of honor few can wear; fewer still are Bible colleges. Indeed, we may be the first. But more importantly, God has set us apart. He’s written His word on our hearts and given us voices with which we can worship Him. This is what people hear when they listen to our album and this is what we are celebrating.