“Where are you going to college?”
I don’t know how many times I was asked this question my senior year in high school. It seemed like a normal everyday occurrence at my extracurricular music activities. Conductors, teachers and fellow music students—everyone was curious about where graduating seniors were going to college. If you were any good, you were hoping to get into Julliard, Curtis, Yale—the big music schools.
But any time the question came my way, I had to explain that I wasn’t going to music school—I was going to my Church’s small private college “down the road.”
Of course, for me, going to Armstrong College would be a great achievement. However, my fellow musicians didn’t view it quite the same way. Usually, when a student chose not to go to music school, it was a sign that they planned on quitting soon—that they weren’t all that serious about music, even though I was. But I wanted to go to hwac.
During my senior year, my orchestra had a chance to work with the world renowned Gerard Schwarz, one of the great American conductors. He is one of the most recorded conductors of all time, winner of seven Emmy awards, eight ascap awards, nominated for 14 Grammy awards, having premiered over 300 works, and having conducted many of the finest orchestras throughout the world.
The day of our concert with the maestro, as we were all getting ready backstage, he approached me and asked the dreaded question: “So, where are you going to college?”
Great. Now I have to tell one of America’s biggest names in music that I’m not going to music school. I’m sure he’ll love this.
I simply answered like I always had. I couldn’t lie. Upon hearing my answer, he didn’t say much, but he walked away intrigued. As for me, I didn’t think twice about it. I got into concert mode and performed just as I always had.
After the concert, the maestro found my father. They had met before, so it didn’t seem strange to me that he would single him out for a moment. I didn’t realize the gravity of their conversation until my father told me what they talked about.
It turns out that, upon hearing that I wasn’t going to music school, opting instead to go to hwac, the maestro wanted to return to Oklahoma with his orchestra, perform at Armstrong Auditorium, and feature my father and me as soloists along with him and his son.
This was unheard of. Getting to play as a soloist with any orchestra is rare at my age, especially when that orchestra is led by Gerard Schwarz.
Consider: This opportunity probably would have never happened if I went to a big music school like Julliard or Curtis. It was only able to happen because I went to God’s college.
I’m not the only hwac student to have this kind of opportunity. I know hwac students and alumni who have given lectures to academic elites, flown on a private jet, participated in archaeological excavations, toured with a performing dance troupe, and won celebrated achievement awards—thanks in large part to them going to hwac.
You might think the takeaway here is simply, “Go to hwac.” But it’s bigger than that.
King Nebuchadnezzar, arguably the most powerful man in the world at the time, had just taken a large portion of Jerusalem’s population captive back to Babylon. From the spoils, he requested well-learned, healthy children who could be added to his service (Daniel 1:3-4). Among them were four young Jewish boys: Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and Daniel (verse 6).
At first, the four boys were singled out for their “weird religion”—they refused to eat the unhealthy meat and drink of the court (verses 5, 8-13). Especially if you go to public school or participate in extracurricular music activities, it’s easy to empathize with Daniel and his friends! However, their healthy lifestyle made them stand out in a positive way (verse 15). And God blessed them for it.
“As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom:” (verse 17). Of course, these young men weren’t hwac students—they were enrolled in the court of a gentile ruler! But that didn’t matter. They were still able to let God lead their education.
Look where that godly education brought them: “And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah … And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm” (verses 19-20).
Viewing it carnally, these guys were just four among many others who were studying the same subjects, training for the same duties, etc. Actually, these four were the weird ones who didn’t eat what everyone else was eating! But, at the end of the day, the king saw these four young men for what they were.
What made them so special? God was the one leading their education. And because they put their education in God’s hands, He was able to make them ten times better than the king’s personal experts.
Think about what that might mean today. Imagine knowing sickness and disease ten times better than Dr. Anthony Fauci, knowing how the universe works ten times better than Neil deGrasse Tyson, knowing American politics ten times better than Tucker Carlson, knowing world history ten times better than Victor Davis Hanson, knowing archaeology ten times better than Israel Finkelstein, being ten times the speaker that Winston Churchill was, or writing ten times better than Malcom Gladwell.
I am nowhere near the best cellist in the world, let alone ten times better than the best. But I know that God has the power to take me there, if I let Him lead my education as Daniel and his friends did. However, when I performed with Gerard Schwarz, it wasn’t because I was the best cellist in the world. God was able to make the opportunity available because I went to His school.
Would my cello playing have benefited from music school? Sure—although I’m sure I wouldn’t have benefitted morally from it. I’ll admit I don’t have the same level of musical training others in my field usually have. However, God still gave me an opportunity that virtually no other music university student would ever get to experience.
So, the big lesson? Be like Daniel and his friends: Let God lead your education.
And yes, hwac is often the way God does that with young people today. Keep in mind though, those four years eventually end. The learning, however, shouldn’t. Ultimately, it’s about supporting God’s Work. If you’re wondering about whether or not to apply to hwac, and your heart is in the Work, you’ll make the right choice.
So, study hard in school. Read the Bible. Get to know the Church literature. Pay attention in services. Fellowship with God’s people. Follow the Trumpet. Read good books. Listen to good music. Travel. Get a job. Work hard. And, if you can, apply for hwac. Put your education in God’s hands, and see if the opportunities He provides for you don’t absolutely shock you.
And who knows—by the end of it all, you might even find yourself in positions ten times greater than the experts.