Josiah Adams rubs his flip-flop drumsticks together in anticipation of playing his water cooler drum. His band has been asked to play a worship song without traditional instruments.
Adams, a member of a band of NPWI students, is trying to get top marks on his band challenge assignment.
Every week students in the program are given a project that involves them recreating an arrangement of a song with certain twists, like nontraditional instruments or no instruments at all. Once the band presents the song on Friday, a new band leader is chosen and they get a new assignment. The quick turnaround with sometimes strange guidelines can be stressful for some bands when preparing to perform.
The National Praise and Worship Institute, NPWI for short, is a program that is overseen by Mark Hosny, who is the director of Trevecca’s praise and worship program. NPWI offers two years of training with a certificate at the end or the option to transfer into another degree.
Each week the students in the program participate in a band challenge. The challenge part is more about pushing the students to think outside of the box when creating arrangements in their bands. Despite the name, Hosny stresses that these weekly assignments are not meant to pit bands against each other, but rather give him an opportunity to give immediate feedback on their performances.
Hosny has specific goals in mind for his students as he creates the assignments.
“My goal is [to work on] the big three: musical, spiritual, and personal strengths and weaknesses,” said Hosny.
The band challenges have grown in popularity online.
“The NPWI band challenges are gaining more viewers on the live streams than any other event on campus,” Vince said.
The weekly band challenges aren’t just for perfecting their craft, but helping members grow closer together.
“It’s like living together,” said a first-year band member Sarah Adams.
Second year band members put more focus on learning as much as they can before leaving for their internship.
“Hailey is playing guitar this week, and she doesn’t play guitar,” said second-year band member Michael Vince about bandmate Hailey Long. “It helps you learn things you might not do otherwise.”
The day of the performances brings out mixed emotions for all of the performers.
“My favorite part is that when it’s over I’m relieved of the stress,” said second-year band member Jordan Smith.
Some see the stress as a learning experience that they can reflect on.
“Stress is good because it helps you grow,” said second-year band member Hailey Long. “It makes you realize how much you’ve really learned.”
“It’s about breaking chains and building confidence in the students,” said Hosny.
Even though band challenge is for a grade, the students look at it as much more.
“Friday isn’t just another class to us. It’s a whole worship experience by itself,” Vince said.
The band challenges happen every Friday at 1 p.m. in Zelma Waggoner Performance Hall, which is located in the Jackson Center for Music and Worship Arts and are open to students, faculty and staff.