Staple in the music world visits campus, motivates students

Students in Liberty University’s School of Music recently learned from a staple in the music world when multi-platinum music artist Michael W. Smith returned to Liberty Nov. 7.

During his visit, Smith engaged in a time of worship and devotion in Liberty’s School of Music Concert Hall, and he also spoke in a songwriting class Monday afternoon.

Smith has visited Liberty many times before, including in 2019 when he announced the launch of the Michael W. Smith Center for Commercial Music. 

Michael W. Smith leads School of Music Chapel in the School of Music Concert Hall on November 7, 2022. (Photographed by Eva Soderstrom).

“The Michael W. Smith Center for Commercial Music is the bridge from Liberty to Nashville and from Nashville to Liberty,” John Forystek, the director of product development and communications for Liberty Music Group, said. “The goal is to have students start working on their careers with real interaction from professionals while they’re on campus.”

According to Forystek, the center was launched to help give students an in-depth, realistic view of what the music industry encompasses, as well as to help prepare students to confidently dive into the industry immediately after graduation.

“The professors facilitate the learning from a market standpoint,” Forystek said. “We always have points for professional development where we bring in pros to talk to our students and (give) lectures.”

Forystek also said that the center is in place to allow students to engage in one-on-one sessions with artists like Smith where they can ask for career or personal advice, giving them an opportunity to ask questions that Google wouldn’t be able to answer.

Smith hopes the center will be influential in the lives of the students it produces, and he also hopes the center will provide strong mentors for its students.

“I hope that this will make a difference,” Smith said. “I think we all need mentors. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if I hadn’t have had people mentor me.” 

Michael W. Smith leads School of Music Chapel in the School of Music Concert Hall on November 7, 2022. (Photographed by Eva Soderstrom).

Smith also hopes students within the center will cause a revival in the music industry.

“I do believe with great faith that there’s a great revival,” Smith said. “Maybe these kids are part of it.”

Student Claudia Colatrella appreciated how genuine Smith was during his visit to Liberty.

“I really got to see his authenticity for worship,” Colatrella said. “He said earlier that the greatest worship leaders that he knows are some of the most humble people that he knows, and I feel like he emulates
that too.”

Forystek also hopes that students see Smith’s commitment to serving the Lord through music in each visit to Liberty.

“Every time Michael is on campus, I hope the students understand that there’s a reason that he’s had a lifelong career,” Forystek said. “I hope that they see his heart for the Lord, and I hope that they see his integrity … I hope that they glean more of the life lessons, and not as much of the celebrity status.”

While a date isn’t set yet, there are plans for Smith to visit Liberty again soon.

“I’m always a little richer when I leave. I love students,” Smith said. “I always said if I retired and did something else, I’d be a youth pastor or a coach or something, especially with students or kids.”

Smith is the news editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter

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