This week on the podcast, we have junior, music industry studies major, Brian Wells, kicking off the beginning of a new series, “My GU Story.” It’s all about the people that make up the community at Greenville University about how their life’s journey somehow includes GU. Each person involved with our campus is unique, and we want to showcase that uniqueness. It's our goal to inform you of all the things that make GU, and the personal stories that shape it, special.
Q: Tell us about yourself!
A: My name is Brian Wells, I’m in Colombia, MO, and I’m a junior, music industry studies and live sound and worship arts double major at Greenville. I am a type 1, I think, on the enneagram. I’m not really into the enneagram, but I would describe myself as a perfectionist. An interesting fact and hobby of mine is that I enjoy heeling, like the shoes with wheels. Everyone has them when they are in junior high, but I actually kept mine. They make them in adult sizes. You might see me heeling around campus. It’s very efficient. I like seeing people’s reactions.
Q: Why did you choose to come to Greenville?
A: It feels like so long ago, but that was just three years ago. I have a number of friends in the music department at Greenville who said some incredible things about the program and facilities. I was visiting some other schools, and what I was hearing about Greenville was I get opportunities in my freshman year what other schools offer my junior year as far as studio access and performing. I was like, “Wow! There’s something really special about Greenville.” I was actually set on another university. I came to Greenville, and I sat down with the head of the music industry studies program director. After 5 or 6 minutes, I was like, “Oh my gosh! What Greenville has to offer is so ahead of the game in a lot of ways. The way they put their student’s experience first from their freshman year, at least for the music department, is something that really startled me. Walking around campus, everybody was super, super kind. At this other school, nobody said hi to me. The program is something that brought me here because the access to 5 or 6 professional, state of the art recording studios and your freshman year, you get access to it all, hooked up with a producer, production team, recording engineer to help you record your songs. At this other school, you get to access your junior year, so you’re paying for two years of not getting access? WHat’s up with that? There’s something wrong there. After 5 or 6 minutes I had an interview with this other school the next day, and I had to call them and tell them I’m not coming to your school, I’m coming to Greenville. It was one day of being on campus and getting a feel for how much they value students and how much they prioritize your experience in the music department. I was super set on this other university. I had an honors interview, had deposited, and was looking at roommates. Looking back, I see God’s hand in that. This other university was not Christian. I probably would have never ended up with a worship arts major, working in a church, or with all these incredible Christian friends that have helped my faith. Looking back, I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t visited Greenville. I’m so grateful that I chose Greenville.
Q: Were you dead-set on your major when choosing a school? How did that play out in your decision process?
A: Yes, I was dead-set on music. I was not set on a major or degree plan. So a little background about me; I grew up in the church. My dad is a worship pastor, so I grew up seeing the life of ministry and the inside look on how to put services together and working with musicians in the church. I didn’t want to choose worship arts just because it’s something that I’m comfortable with, and it’s something my dad did. I just don’t want to be a copy of my dad. But I see now that he’s an incredible role model that I really want to be like. Freshman year, I came in as a music industry studies major with a concentration in performance. There’s 3-degree plans or concentrations for the program: performance, lice sounds, and studio sound. All are incredible options. I really enjoyed performing. There’s something about working with other musicians and collaboration and creating something special that moves people. Throughout the year, I didn’t feel super fulfilled by it. So it took me a couple of months in searching and praying. I thought I was running away from what God wants me to do. I submitted and added worship arts as a major. The moment I did that, doors started flying open as far as opportunities. My first awesome experience was the summer of my freshman year. We have a touring worship ministry called summer pursuit. Pursuit is the name of our worship teams, and we have a touring ministry that goes around to 8 or 9 summer camps all around the midwest. I got asked to co-lead that my freshman year after I added worship arts. The way that God equipped me for that ministry and how he grew and strengthened me...I’m so grateful for that experience. It took me 9 months to search through something and trying different programs. I didn’t know which one to do. They all seemed attractive. Talking through stuff with my friends, advisors, my family, and prayer lead me to add worship arts. These incredible opportunities shaped my career choice. It was a process that took me a full year. Having those friends that are able to speak over your life is super important. I’ve found a number of mentors and teachers at Greenville.
Q: What have you been able to accomplish within your program at GU?
A: Starting with freshman year, that was an incredible ministry experience that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. That was learning how to lead a team, work with a team, and to do ministry day-in and day-out, and every day getting practical hands-on experience. That was one of the most formative, positive, life-shaping experiences that I’ve had. Also, the internship opportunities that I’ve gotten through the connections of my advisors at Greenville. I had the opportunity to intern at a church in Houston, TX, this past summer. The opportunities to lead and plan and see how the larger church goes about ministry, how they plan services, youth ministry, running sound, and seeing their production process. I had a trip to Nashville for a full week, where we visited record labels and talked to their executives. We sat with session players on huge records like Chris Tomlin, Natalie Grant, and these huge players that want to pour into these up and coming leaders in ministry. We spend a year soaking gin the studios and incredible spaces for these musicians that have had some of the most important songs for the industry. The mentorship for musical growth that came from that summer and decerning where I needed to go as far as my career and calling were incredible. And these are all experiences and connections through an alum of Greenville University, David Ray, who I’m so grateful for. These all came from my advisor, Paul Sunderland, who had the connection. As far as recording, if you come in as a music major, take advantage of the studio space. Our studios are really nice. Our faculty is so supportive and so knowledgable. This past year I’ve had the opportunity to record 5 original songs of my own. I’m also in a band called Prone to Wander. We’ve recorded 5, 6, or 7 original songs this year alone. We are coming up with an album we were hoping to record this semester. That didn’t happen, but this band started through one of our classes, commercial music integration. You get through into a band to perform every week with a different grouping of people. A couple of us got into a band together and thought we worked well together and wanted to keep it going. The incredible opportunities through the fruit which you see when you pour yourself into a class. I’ve worked with a number of faculty to write music. We have a songwriting professor who is always willing to help and craft a song. His name’s Steve cook, and he’s an incredible songwriter and professor. I wrote my first worship tune, “Grateful for the Cross.” I wrote my first pop song, “Back to You.” Which you can find on Spotify under Brian Wells. And I just wrote my first EP that I released a month ago. So that’s three original songs, one that had to be re-recorded in quarantine, which is wild. Learning how to collaborative over distance has been exciting. These songs are special and important to me. This has all happened through the MIS program. I got paired with a producer, the incredible Noah Schlosser, look him up on Spotify. His music, production, and friendship have meant the world to me as afar as developing me as an artist, and the friend he’s become has been incredible. It’s a partnership that came through the MIS program. The artists get paired with their own production team. You can be a producer, producing an artist’s work. Your studio engineers get paired with an artist, as well. The live sound engineer mixes for the artist. It’s a very cool habitat and ecosystem of people helping each other. Gary Erickson is the head of the MIS program, and he is a genius. I’m so grateful for the recording experience, but also the performing. There are so many performance opportunities at GU. We have an awesome blackroom stage, which is such a sweet space. This goes back to when I was first visiting GU, but seeing the amount of money and the amount of investment that the university pours into performance and music, I see that in our facilities and the opportunities we get on campus and the incredible stages. The blackroom has incredible audio and lighting that just got put in. We have our chapel space which, if you’re in Pursuit, you’ll lead there once a week. Midnight Breakfast is a blast, so so fun. It’s in our dining commons. We just set up a stage and have breakfast at midnight. Bands perform, and you eat there with your friends. There are some incredible performance opportunities at Greenville and connections I’ve made that will be lifelong relationships and friendships.
Q: What were your expectations going into Greenville, and how were they met or exceeded?
A: Meeting with Gary Erickson before my freshman year, my expectations were pretty high. “Can Greenville actually deliver on all these promises?” I was kinda skeptical but also super hopeful. What I heard from my friends made me think there was no way this could happen at small Greenville. But man, they delivered. My expectations were all met. It’s a blur of joy. My classes are performing, voice lessons, bettering myself as an artist, in the studio learning practical ways of getting a job and working in the industry, I’m doing guitar lessons and worship ministry. Almost all of my classes during my freshman year were in my major, which is not something you find at a lot of schools. My expectations were high, but GU blew it out of the water in a lot of ways. It delivered through the experiences that I was offered and promised that actually happened. Also, the ones that happened that nobody prepared me for, these incredible performance opportunities that I wasn’t even dreaming that I’d get to do.
Q: What does your future look like, and how it GU preparing you to fulfill your future plans and aspirations?
A: I hope to be a worship pastor, just like my dad. That’s been the journey through college with my relationship with my dad. To see his life of ministry is such a blessing and an opportunity for growth and to see what it’s like. I think my internship last summer gave me that perspective. Worship pastoring a church is the dream. God’s been preparing me for this my entire life through my relationship with my dad, serving at summer camp ministry, worship teams, and finding Pursuit in college. It’s a testament to God’s patient, faithful provision. Even when I didn’t want to do performance, he had something better for me, and with just a little bit of realignment, I found that and the doors started flying open. In the last three years of serving on worship teams and getting to do ministry every week is such a joy. Even sophomore and junior year, co-leading a worship team provided practical experience in panning sets and talking with speakers to coordinating something that supports their sermon, planning longer Vespers set, and approaching different ministry in different ways. Also, planning other worship events life Outpour, which is an annual ministry event with mostly music and a speaker. It’s a joy to plan, pray, and think through a theme and how we can best show God’s goodness and faithfulness through the way we worship. The different classes with Paul Sunderland and how it’s shaped my view of worship. I think of my internship this past semester at Greenville Free Methodist Church, which was so good. I look back on my years at Greenville so far, and I see practical experience after practical experience of really intentional ways that I’m being prepared for ministry. Even my internship this past semester that stopped short, I was able to work with my dad at his home church, which has been such a sweet blessing to work with him. The practical experience over the last couple of years has been so formative and has prepared me in some sweet ways.
Q: What’s the best part about being a student at Greenville?
A: I would say the best part about GU is the individual attention I’ve gotten from professors, which is not something you find at every university. During my freshman year. Our choir director, Jeff Wilson, invites students over to his house for a Sunday lunch. This professor whose incredibly qualified and the way he calls out individual students and wants to build a relationship with them personally. You’re not just a grade or number. You are going to have a personal relationship if you want to pour in that effort. But if not, that’s okay. It’s if you want it to happen, it will. They want to have coffee together, have a meal together at the DC, and just talk. I don’t think that’s a common college experience, especially as at a public university with much bigger classes. The amount of individual attention, mentorship, and opportunities for growth personally with your professor are special to Greenville. That’s something that I hear from a number of my peers and students. It’s pretty rare. With Greenville, my average music class might be 10 people. There are sweet interactions with professors and friendships that form. You’re not just a number; you’re a person. You don’t see that everywhere.
Q: What’s the best thing about college in general?
A: One of the obvious things is getting to find out who I am as an individual and finding my identity spiritually, relationally, and emotionally, apart from my family. I have a supportive family, which was great in a lot of ways, but in other ways, like finding ownership in my faith, I needed to step away from my family and find a school that would support me but also decerning what I believe apart from my family. A common thing in college is to find out who you want to be and pursue it.