Archive for April, 2013

“Zorro” is Worth the Drive to Atlanta

April 28, 2013

And that is especially true if someone else is doing the driving, which is what happened Saturday as some 50 members of the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning traveled on a CSU bus to the Alliance Theater.

We had a great time, not only because “Zorro” is a highly entertaining and exciting musical, with some of the best and most exciting staging I have ever seen, but because of the company.  CALL folks enjoy not only learning in classes that have no tests and no required home work, but also in doing special things together.

“Zorro” plays through May 5th, so if you want to see it, you only have a few days left.

Do I recommend it?  Definitely! It is a hoot!

We Need Lawmakers who Support Public Education

April 25, 2013

In defending budget cuts to public education, some always posit that more money will not fix the problem. Well, that may be true if more money is tried as a solution by itself. For more money to work, strings have to attached. One of those strings is that with higher pay comes higher expectations.

However, there is another factor to consider. Less pay, and less money for today’s electronic teaching aids, can certainly exacerbate the problem.

Parental involvement is an important element in motivating children to achieve educationally, but it is not, in my view, more important than a good teacher.  How many parents spend six hours a day with school-age children?

Good, dedicated teachers can have enormous influence in changing lives for the better.  It happens over and over, and it happened with me.   Going to school did not thrill me at all until the legendary Bob Barr took over the Jordan High band.  He really knew how to motivate kids. Not only did he motivate me, but he helped me get started in my broadcasting career.  When he found out that was what I wanted to  do, he connected me with the late Ed Snyder, then an announcer at WDAK, who mentored me and helped me get my first job in broadcasting.

George Corradino,  who headed up the Muscogee County School District’s music program for years, did the same thing when he was the band director at Columbus High for my late nephew Jack Gibson.  My sister Betty told  me that Jack was about ready to drop  out of  school  until George came along.  Not only did Jack excel at percussion in the CHS band, his grades improved in all his subjects, and, inspired by George, he went on to become a school band director himself.  He ended up getting his PhD and becoming Vice President of Development at Kennesaw State University, which was what he was doing when cancer took him away from us. I run into people all the time who have similar stories.

When I see state legislators and governors slashing public education budgets year after year after year, it tells me we need a big change at the Georgia State Capitol.  Education is essential to the future of Georgia’s citizens. Something has to be done.  We need lawmakers who don’t just say they support education, but show it with their actions.

Why Have Georgia Lawmakers Abandoned Public Education?

April 22, 2013

April 22, 2013

Wonder why the Georgia legislature is turning its back on the key to a prosperous future for Georgians. What can those lawmakers be thinking about when they slash funds for the public schools in the state? Do they just not give a damn any more about the futures of the state’s children? And why do we keep electing people who would  do this?

They have been cutting educational funding for years now, and will continue next year. Muscogee County School District alone is being cut by another $23 million next year.

Cuts like those have crippled school districts all over the state. The lawmakers may say they support edcuation, but they keep coming up with devastating cuts.  Looks like it’s time for voters to do a little House cleaning in Atlanta. 

The Hippie Effect and the Megachurch

April 14, 2013

Continuing my look at the phenomenon of the dramatic rise of the evangelical megachurch,  I’m going to t ell you about a Harper magazine essay Blinded by the Right? that had an interesting take on how the big shift started. According to T. M. Luhrmann,  who spent ten years researching American evangelism, Christian hippies “begat evangelical conservatives.” 

American evangelism goes way back before hippies ever arrived on the scene, he says, “but the hippies changed what it meant to be Christian in  America.”

As I attend Atlanta’s Mt. Paran services, I can observe the hippie effect.  The rock concert light shows that accompany rock and jazz Christian music all are remenicient  of the hippie era.  What has changed is the drug culture that went with the hippie music. The drug high has been replaced with the “Pentecostal spiritual high.” 

You would  never think that hippies would embrace the politics of the political right.  But, it seems most of those who  joined the Jesus People movement in the 1970s did, and  they, and their progeny, still do. 

I believe it is safe to assume that not all  hippies became Christian evangelical conservatives.   But, Luhrmann makes a good case that a lot of them did and had a huge effect on the movement.  Churches who adapted to that effect have grown impressively.  Perhaps there is a lesson in this for other organizations, organizations like symphony orchestras.  More on that in a future post.



My Encounter with Jonathan Winters

April 13, 2013

Naturally, when I  learned that one of America’s most unique comedians had died, I thought about my encounter with him.  Jonathan Winters, who died at the age of 87, was funniest when he was ad-libbing.  His off-the-wall humor definitely found an audience, and I was happy to  be in that audience.

I met him when he dropped by WSB Radio and TV in Atlanta for some  publicity interviews. I forget what he was promoting.   What I remember most is that he was always “on.” He was brought in the WSB Radio newsroom where we were working and started performing for us the minute we shook hands.

He said he had been a Marine  gunner on the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard in the Pacific during World War II.  He told us about a Marine general addressing some Marines about to leave the carrier to go a mission.  Imitating the general speaking to the troops, he said, as best as I can remember, “Now, men, you are about to go on an important mission. I had hoped I could go with you, but….”  Just as it was with all of the characters he portrayed on TV shows, characters like  Maude Frickert, who he played wearing a white wig and a granny dress, and football coach Piggy Bladder, it wasn’t just what he said, it was the way he said it that had people in stitches.  He had us in stitches in the WSB Radio newsroom.  I ran into him in the mens room before he left.  There were two or three of us using it at the time.  As we washed our hands, he continued to crack us up with his improvisations.

I was glad I got to meet him. He was definitely an original.

Jordan Band Director Wins the Harry Kruger Memorial Award

April 9, 2013
Columbus Community Orchestra Conductor William Fry and Harry Kruger Memorial Award winner JVHS Band Director Adam Mitchell

Columbus Community Orchestra Conductor William Fry and Harry Kruger Memorial Award winner JVHS Band Director Adam Mitchell

The Jordan Vocational High  School Band is back in the game, and the young band director responsible  was honored at the Columbus Community Orchestra concert at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.  When Jordan Band Director Adam Mitchell was named this year’s winner of the Harry Kruger Memorial Award for Excellence in Conducting I was reminded of what another young man did in 1946.

Bob Barr also took over a 17-member Jordan band that could barely play an easy march and in no time at all beefed  up the number of musicians  and had it winning superior ratings in the district music festival.  The band went on to become national champions in a competition in New York, play in presidential inaugurations, and travel to play in such places as Los Angeles.  He also was the director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

Now, another young man has come along to get the Jordan Band back to winning superior ratings in district music festivals.  The band, under Adam Mitchell’s leadership, has done that for two years in a row.  He got a huge hand when Columbus Community Orchestra Director William Fry announced that he had won the Kruger award.  The late Harry Kruger taught music at Columbus College and was director of the Columbus Symphony for a number of years.

Why Megachurches are on the Rise

April 8, 2013

Going with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson to the 10,000-member Mt. Paran Church in Atlanta Easter Sunday got me to thinking about the megachurch phenomenon, and about why it has happened.  While confidence in organized religion in the United States is at its lowest point in three decades, according to a Gallup poll,  megachurches continue to be on the rise.

The latest Gallop  poll on the subject that I could find, which was taken in July of 2012, shows that only 44 percent of Americans now have confidence in organized religion.  That’s overall. Break it down, Protestants have the most confidence, at 56 percent,  compared with 46 percent of Catholics.  Factor in other religions and the non-religious and you get the 44 percent number.

The growth in megachurches has been dramatic. In the U.S., they have more than quadrupled in the past two  decades.  Wikipedia reports, “It has since spread worldwide. In 2007, five of the ten largest Protestant churches were in South Korea.[7] The largest mega church in the United States is Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas with more than 40,000 members every weekend and the current largest megachurch in the world is South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, with more than 830,000 members as of 2007.”

After searching the Internet for articles explaining this phenomenon, the best one I found was one published November of last year in the Knoxville News Sentinel.  It was posted by By Meghan Davis.

For one thing, she introduced us to the findings of Omri Elisha, an assistant professor or anthropology at Queens College, City University of New York, who spent two years in Knoxville studying .  He wrote the book Moral Ambition: Mobilization and Social Outreach in Evangelical Megachurches.  Among the reasons he gives is”Megachurches offer a wide array of ministries and services. From spiritual growth and religious education to youth programs, volunteer opportunities, social networking and even career development, megachurches have the resources, the staff and the space to provide many more avenues of participation than one typically finds in smaller churches.”

I saw evidences of all of that at  the Mt. Paran Church.  The megachurches like Mt. Paran offer artistic opportunities, also, with huge choirs,  substantial orchestras,  rock-style music combos, that combine with charismatic ministers to provide highly emotional spiritual experiences.

Next in this series, we’ll look at something new to me.  A friend of mine, after reading my first post on megachurches, brought me a copy of Harpers that contains an article explaining how hippie Christians of the 1970s “begat evangelical conservatives.”

The Rise of the Evangelical Megachurch

April 1, 2013

Photo: Three generations of McMichaels

It’s always good to be with family on special holidays, and I was fortunate to be with my son Rick, grandson Ben, and daughter-in-law Marian this Easter.  She’s not in the pic because she was down in Atlanta’s Mt. Paran Church’s music department getting her french horn ready for the choir and orchestra’s Easter performance.  She plays French horn in the orchestra and Rick and Ben sing in the choir.  I counted 30 in the orchestra Sunday, and the choir had at least 125 singers.  Were they good? Very! Am I biased?  Of course. But, really,  they had a triumphant sound Sunday.

60 is a big crowd at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus where I attend most Sundays.  And the largest UU congregation in Georgia, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, has about 800 members.  The Mt. Paran sanctuary must hold two to three thousand people and it was totally packed for two services Sunday.  I had to park on the top deck of the church’s four-deck parking garage.  The church, I am told, has about 10,000 members.  That’s big, but not as big as Worldchangers International in College Park, Georgia which has a sanctuary that seats more than 8,000 and has 30,000 members, and a controversial pastor named Creflow Dollar, who, according to Wikipedia, owned a $1,000,000 mansion and, among other things, two Rolls Royces, and a private jet.  It appears that evangelical churches, especially the Pentecostal and  Charismatic ones, are attracting more and more  people, as some of the old mainstream traditional churches, that still keep things simple and don’t do  light shows and have 30 piece orchestras and 125 member choirs, are losing them.

According to article in The Knoxville News Sentinal, a sociological study shows “more than half of all American churchgoers now attend the largest 10 percent of churches.” The article also states the number of megachurches has doubled since 2000 and “there are now more than 1,200 of these churches throughout the United States. One in three are in the Southeast.”

And this phenomenon is not just in the United States. For instance, Brazil has the largest concentration of Catholics in the world, but in recent years the church has lost 20 percent of its membership.  It seems that most of that 20 percent have moved to evangelical churches.  The National Catholic Report puts it this way, “Brazil, the largest Catholic country in the world at 149 million, loses half a million Catholics every year. Protestants have grown from nine percent of Brazil’s population in 1991 to 15.1 percent (some say as much as 22 percent), while the proportion of Catholics has dropped from 84 percent to 67 percent. In Mexico, 88 percent of a population of 102 million is now Catholic, a decline of 10 percent compared to the mid-20th century.” I heard about an evangelical church being built in Mexico will seat 21,000 people.

Why has this trend happened?  Stay tuned.