Faith and Arts Still Connecting at Calvin U.

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Jack Droppers and the Best IntentionsJack Droppers (2nd from left) & the Best IntentionsJack Droppers knows music from all the angles – backstage, on-stage and audience.

So the Grand Rapids native is a natural as he settles into his new role as executive director of the Calvin University Student Activities Office (SAO).

"I heard from a friend about the potential of this job being open," said Droppers, 30, from his home on the city's southeast side. "He told me: 'You need to apply for this.'"

Calvin's SAO organization books music artists and films for the campus, with input from an advisory board. Most of the events are open to the wider community.

Droppers - a singer-songwriter who fronts his own band (Jack Droppers & the Best Intentions), has seen numerous shows at Calvin through the years and also attended its Festival of Faith and Music.

"A lot of my life has been surrounded with the faith and arts conversation," said the artist.

A MUSICAL JOURNEY

Although born in Grand Rapids, Droppers spent his formative years near Orlando, FL. He learned to play guitar on his mother's old classical model and started writing music "when I learned my first chord." But young Jack came into his own when he bought his first Fender electric.

"That was my ticket to finally fully expressing myself ....this cheap guitar and loud practice amp with all of their wisdom and distortion," he recalled.

He returned north to enter Hope College and the budding artist soon formed a band of like-minded comrades. The heartbeat of that band is still active, with Jack as chief songwriter /lead singer. They've recorded two EPs and two full-length albums, the most recent project the "Three on Three" EP.

His faith-based outlook infuses much of his music: "You can't escape yourself when you're writing a song," he says. But as a graduate of Western Theological Seminary in Holland (he served as an interim pastor for a Caledonia church plant), he layers some of his own commentary in songs such as "American Jesus," and "Image of God," which explore the complexities of being a Christian in America.

"Those two songs in particular seem more raw," he admitted "But the music has reflections on what it means to be human, and for me that is through the lines of what it means to be a created creature."

He likes to describe his musical style as "American garage rock."  (You can sample his music on YouTube)

AN ARTS PHILOSOPHY

In consultations with his Calvin Student Activities Board, Droppers has emerged with a game plan for what they most value in the art they bring to the campus community.

     
 

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"Students want artists who are thoughtful and thought-provoking. Another is, will this (artistic expression) make us think hard and deeply? – that's part of Calvin's ethos," he added.

Thirdly: a focus on connecting with everyone on the campus.

"How do we diversify the musicians we bring in... so that we can be representative of the body and good news to every student, not just those who look like us?"

Droppers succeeds longtime SAO director Ken Heffner, who for 27 years led with an approach of engaging popular culture while thoughtfully critiquing it. A wide variety of music artists and films came to the campus under Heffner's tenure. It's a vision that Droppers readily adopts.

A MUSICAL CURVE BALL

Droppers officially came on board in January, and oversaw one previously-scheduled February concert. Then Coronavirus/COVID 19 came in March emptying the campus and decimating the live music scene everywhere.

"We were in conversations for two or three spring shows," he recalled of a slate which included a talent showcase in May. Then the plugged was pulled.

Looking down the road, Dropper's office had lined up eight artists for the fall semester. Several have dropped out or are attempting to reschedule. Just a single show is on the books.

One thing Calvin has to offer is a multiplicity of different-sized venues. "If we host a show for 200, we can put it in our (Covenant) Fine Arts Center, where we're able to do social distancing," he said of the venue which holds 1,200. But the University has yet to form regulations for such events in the wake of COVID-19.

GETTING GOING

Droppers' previous position was at Compass College of Cinematic Arts in Grand Rapids. "It was a job I enjoyed, working to get funding and starting a new campus ministries office," he said.

"But by the time the (Calvin) job interviews were over I was convinced there was where I was supposed to be."
     
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Author Information
Terry DeBoer
About:
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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