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Center for Commercial Music brings a taste of Nashville to campus

Guitarist Dave Cleveland teaches a School of Music student in the recording studio.

This week, students in the Liberty University School of Music’s Michael W. Smith Center for Commercial Music were treated to some of the finest talent that the Nashville music scene has to offer. Several musicians who have contributed to albums from Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant, and many others, shared about their craft and helped Liberty’s budding artists set tracks for their own song releases.

Guitarist Dave Cleveland, bass guitarist Jacob Lowery, drummer Steve Brewster, and keyboardist Jason Webb gathered on stage Monday evening in the Center for Music and the Worship Arts Concert Hall to give students a sample of what studio recording sessions are like in Music City.

“A workshop like this is even more stunning in our state-of-the-art Concert Hall, where the excellence of the performers is matched with the high-tech performing venue and awesome audio, video, and lighting crew,” said School of Music Dean Stephen Müller.

The guests experimented on stage with song demos from music students before they were joined by former “America’s Got Talent” contestant and current School of Music student Joseph O’Brien for a closing worship song co-written by O’Brien, Executive Director of the Liberty Worship Collective Kevin Huguley, and Liberty Music Group songwriter John Forystek.

On Tuesday, the musicians listened to more student-written song demos in the recording studio then created tracks for the songs that the students will be able to use when they release their work for the world to hear.

“This is amazing because I knew what I wanted this song to sound like but I didn’t know how to say it,” said Catherine Shepherd, a sophomore pursuing a B.M. in Commercial Music: Artist Development. “But these guys knew what I meant and they knew how to play it.”

Guitarist Dave Cleveland, bass guitarist Jacob Lowery, drummer Steve Brewster, and keyboardist Jason Webb collaborated on stage Monday night as they added music to a student’s lyrics.

Following three recordings of Shepherd’s song, “Graffiti,” which will soon be released on Spotify and speaks into the beauty of being able to come to Christ with our sinful pasts, Brewster exited the drum studio and told Shepherd, “Wow that was amazing. I feel so inspired.”

The artists were equally as impressed by the facilities and equipment that the school had to offer.

“Honestly they are just as good and even better than some of the places we record music in Nashville,” Lowery said.

Müller said that these couple days are a sample of what the School of Music’s commercial music students will be afforded throughout their time at Liberty.

“Having the Nashville studio musicians on campus and in the studio is one of the key features of the Michael W. Smith Center for Commercial Music,” he said. “Our guest musicians are the best of the best and our students get to watch them, learn from them, and work with them. This interaction helps the students develop an understanding of the process of studio recording as well as the professionalism required to succeed in the music business.”

The artists made themselves available on Tuesday evening for students to ask questions, including how to stay true to their convictions in an industry that can be difficult due to frequent travel and time on the road apart from family.

“Liberty does a great job of showing what the real world is like by bringing in professionals like these men,” said Donavan Perez, a senior specializing in recording, engineering, & producing. “I’ve definitely enjoyed this experience. It has been a great opportunity to watch these guys do this and also to be able to gather more knowledge about it.”


Liberty offers both a B.S. and B.M. in Commercial Music. Students learn musical theory and technique of multiple genres, along with the fundamentals of recording and producing commercial music. The programs are taught from a biblical worldview, allowing them to explore music as both art and worship. The degrees are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. For more information, visit the School of Music’s website.