Concluding the composition: chair of the music department to retire after 34 years

By Libby Koziarski

After 34 years of teaching, Dr. Jonathan Bruce Brown, Spring Arbor University’s (SAU) music department chair, is set to retire. 

His first encounter with SAU was 44 years ago on March 31, 1973, when his sister was married on campus. Ten years later, he heard about a job opening, “and the rest is history,” he said with a smile. 

Dr. Brown. From SAU’s website.

Dr. Brown has taught several classes at SAU, with some of his favorites being Intro to Fine Arts and Music Theory. He also started and directed the string orchestra, helped set up the computer music lab, and composed a brass piece for the kick-off dedication of the campus library in 2002. 

“It is a real blessing to be here [at SAU],” he said. “I just hope people feel like I tried to be helpful.” 

According to sophomore Rachel Lawrence, “Dr. Brown is just a really great guy to talk to… and he does such a good job laying down the basics and making complex concepts easy to understand.” 

Dr. Brown is not only an accomplished professor at SAU, but he is also a nationally-recognized composer. His performances have been showcased from Washington D.C. to Honolulu, Hawaii, garnering annual awards from the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) since 1992. 

34 years later, Dr. Brown’s career at SAU comes full-circle as he plans his farewell concert.  The concert is on April 27th, 7:00p.m., in the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church chapel. 

Pirates on Playgrounds

By L.J Richardson
Spring Arbor University brings Gilbert and Sullivan to the stage

After a sabbatical semester Jen Letherer, associate professor of communications, returned to the stage to direct W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s comic operetta “The Pirates of Penzance” which showed in White Auditorium on Feb. 9-11 at 7:00 p.m. and on Feb. 12 at 3:00 p.m.

The decision to produce “Pirates” was a collaborative choice agreed upon by Dr. Mark Douglas and Dr. Natalie Emptage-Downs along with Letherer.

“[Natalie] said we had the voices to do a Gilbert and Sullivan Show,” Letherer said. “”Pirates” seemed the most accessible, and I came up with the idea of setting it on a playground.”

Photo by Kimmee Kiefer 

“The Pirates of Penzance” is historically set on the shores of England.

Letherer said, “The story is ridiculous, most opera stories are, and that’s why I think it’s funny we’re setting it on a playground. It strikes me as the kind of story people would just make up.”

According to Letherer, “Gilbert and Sullivan were the Shakespeares of musical theatre. The appeal of Gilbert and Sullivan is the music is incredible, the way it is scored is very memorable, clever, witty, wordy and beautiful. The integrity of the story and the integrity of the music carry it above and beyond.”


Photo by Kimmee Kiefer


In a show fraught with pirates, maidens and major generals, Letherer said truth and how it effects the characters was the overall message of the show: “Sometimes truth causes us to leave the ones we love and distance ourselves from those we care about when they are dishonest.” Letherer’s vison is that those who watch the play will examine the truth in their own lives.

Letherer said the one emotion that she wanted audiences to experience at the end of the show was joy. “As the finale states, ‘Poor wandering ones, though thee hast surely strayed, take heart of grace, thy steps retrace, poor wandering ones. Take heart.’”


Is TIDAL the Answer to Music Streaming?



You may have heard about the star-studded press conference held by Jay-Z on Monday. It was all in support of his recently acquired music streaming service, TIDAL.

Artists such as Alicia Keys, Arcade Fire, Daft Punk, Jack White Kanye West, Rihanna, Usher and Deadmau5 have been locked in as direct supporters and were even given a small piece of the company in return.

TIDAL’s claim to superiority in the streaming world is that it will stream CD-quality audio as opposed to the MP3 quality that platforms like Spotify and Beats Music use. These “CD-quality” files come in FLAC, WAV, AIFF and Apple Lossless files and take up significant more space than an MP3 or AAC file.

Jay-Z has come out strongly against the current music-streaming system which has seen much backlash for supposedly ripping off artists. Spotify has said that artists receive $0.007 per play and that it has paid more than $1bn in royalties since it’s launch in 2008.

Artists such as Thom Yorke and Taylor Swift alongside others have pulled their music from Spotify in protest. Spotify has responded by saying they believe their service is a valid alternative to piracy and they continue to pay out nearly 70% of all revenues in royalties.

However, this money rarely makes it too the artists before being thinned out. BBC news said, “This 70% is usually paid direct to record labels, who take their cut before it reaches managers and artists.”

Dave Johnson of TIME released an article outlining what artists earned from streams based on Spotify’s current payout rate and the amount of streams the artist received. At roughly 30 million (M) plays in October 2014, Stay With Me would’ve earned Sam Smith $170k-240k. At 20M plays, Cool Kids would’ve earned Echosmith $120k-170k. Although this amount is perhaps not as large as it would be if the albums were downloaded in full from iTunes or bought in a store, it’s certainly not chump change.

I’ll admit, I love Spotify. I pay the $9.99 per-month fee for their premium subscription. Aside from the ability to access nearly any album or song at anytime for one flat rate I enjoy the usability and format of their app. Everything is no more than a couple easy clicks away and the app is appealing to the eye in a streamlined sort of way.

I also, however, will go out to a store and buy a hard copy of an album if I like it. In fact, I bought two albums in Best Buy this week after listening to them on Spotify and enjoying them. I want to support the artists as much as I can.

Online music streaming doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Hopefully all of this conversation leads to improvement in all areas of the industry. In the meantime, do what you can to support the artists you love. Spare the $8-10 to buy an album in a store, every purchase matters.

By Jesse Gentry