United state of Worship Arts resonates at Showcase
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Slaven Gujic
GCU News Bureau
Geoff Hunker is in Satellites & Sirens, a prominent Christian rock band. He is a worship leader in a church. He is everything students in the Center for Worship Arts at Grand Canyon University want to be.
And yet they are everything he wants to be, too.
Hunker has been coming to the GCU Recording Studio from his home in Gilbert every week to help produce the Canyon Worship 2018 album, written and performed by students in the Worship Arts program.
Monday night, he had another reason to come to west Phoenix: He was in the audience for a public display of that music, the spring edition of the Canyon Worship Songwriters Showcase in the jam-packed outdoor patio of the Canyon 49 Grill, which proved to be a perfect venue for the event.
All 12 of the songs the students performed are candidates for the album, and the wide variety of sounds made it clear that it will be filled with talent and diversity.
“I thought it was awesome, just to see all the students coming together and how they creatively put together the music,” he said. “And it was great to see the support that’s here for them from other students. I thought it was a blast and am glad I came to watch it.”
Hunker had no idea there was so much spirit in the Recording Studio until he started visiting, and he keeps getting reminded of it the more he is around its daily occupants.
“To see the talent of the students and to see the hearts of the students, too – that’s been a really cool thing for me, to actually get to know some of these students and see how much they love the Lord,” he said. “They try to walk it out and they’re doing their best to go to these classes and learn about how to do this craft better.
“I think it’s cool to see what GCU is doing. I wish there was something like this when I was younger. Something like this, I would have been all over. I would have been in that studio every single day.”
The welcoming aspect extends to everyone, not just the veterans of the program who will be graduating in a few weeks. Chris Calderon, a freshman from Chicago who performed his song, “Tool,” on Monday night, didn’t know what to expect when he got to campus last fall, but he called the experience “amazing.”
“Everyone’s together every day, eating together, praying together, worshipping together,” he said. “It made me re-evaluate my life because so many people are so dedicated to serving God. I was just touched by that.
“We live there. Everyone hangs out there. It’s just mind-boggling, how close it is.”
But it’s about more than just the relationships. Yes, that part is great, but they’re also the rocket fuel for the music that is coming out of the program.
Calderon had planned to attend a prominent music-only college when he changed the lyrics of his life course and decided on GCU instead. He’s glad he did.
“I was kind of bummed because I was going to meet so many crazy-great musicians, but I found so many great musicians here,” he said. “I’ve been able to grow so much more musically. I have so many more opportunities here.”
One of those opportunities is to meet people like Hunker. Ronnie Petkovich, a senior who joined with Micah Ruiz Esparza to perform “Run Back to Me,” got an internship with Satellites & Sirens two years ago and got to help Hunker write one of the group’s albums. Now he’s a worship leader at a church in Prescott.
Oh, and one other thing: Right after he graduates at the end of the month, he’s getting married … and the ceremony will be officiated by Hunker.
“The relationship and seeing how he’s grown and how he’s helping other students here grow, too – I love it,” Hunker said.
Petkovich sees that growth in the musical genres the Worship Arts students are exploring – “People are taking risks, which is something that our culture needs right now, especially in Christian music” – but it’s also evident in the talent.
“I think the talent level rises each year,” he said. “I was blown away by some of my colleagues and peers. I’m honored just to be a part of that.”
It took a lot of students to make it all come together. The production people were on the patio in the early afternoon getting everything set up, and the musicians arrived at 4 p.m., by which time the temperature had climbed into the 90s. The heat made tuning the instruments more difficult, especially after the sun went down and the air cooled a bit, but the setting made it all worth it.
“Everyone connected on a social level like I’ve never seen, and I think it’s because of the venue,” said Recording Studio Manager Eric Johnson, whose idea it was to take the Showcase to the Canyon 49. “I think when everyone came in they saw the turf, they saw the color, they saw the awning and the weather was really nice – nice sunset – everybody really got into it and it became this little party.
“The students really got together and rallied around the whole project.”
And that, in turn, made it easy for the audience, which filled just about every available space of the spacious patio, to enjoy it. They brought blankets and sat on the artificial turf. They cozied into the sofas and soft chairs. They ate their dinner at one of the tables.
Plus they got all that musical variety, which made people like Hunker especially happy.
“Music, and especially worship music, is always changing. It’s cool to see these students trying to do something a little different with it,” he said. “And being in Christian music and hearing songs on the radio, I think it’s cool to see students who love the Lord and are writing songs for Him and for other people.
“I love being a part of this.”
So do they, Geoff. So do they.
SHOWCASE SONGWRITERS AND OTHER PERFORMERS
- Chris Calderon: “Tool” (with Nathan Lake, Trevor Ahern, Mikayla Kogle, Jordan Barrow, Chantelle Langford)
- Courtney Welker: “Like You Will”
- Mallory Denson: “Can’t You See”
- Joshua Townsend: “New Life” (with Cristel Salcido, Danny Soltau, Eric Wagner)
- Logan Myers: “You Are Enough” (with Calderon, Nicole Raum, Saiki Roy)
- Mallory Denson: “Hold Me”
- Mary Van Vleck, Amanda Hauck and Bailey Drake: “Chasing after Your Heart” (with Roy)
- Katie Brown: “Tides”
- Micah Ruiz Esparza and Ronnie Petkovich: “Run Back to Me” (with Jonathan White)
- Roxana Farcas: “Surrender” (with Ahern, Emma Korte, Sarah Saenz)
- Travis Hathaway: “Your Love” (with Saenz)
- Caleb Wiseman: “Echoes” (with Johnny Harris)
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.