Why We Get Up in the Morning Shouldn’t Differ from Sunday to Monday

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Steven Garber envisions lives marked by greater coherence between our deepest commitments and our everyday cares.

In late 2014, I began consulting with the College of Entertainment and the Arts at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. The college’s dean was considering adding a commercial music program. He was curious to know how I’d sustained meaningful work, artistry, and commercial success in the music business for over four decades. “If we wanted to replicate a musician like you in a degree program,” he asked, “what would the curriculum look like?”

I was curious too. How had I been able to survive, and often thrive, in an industry that favors the young, requires repeated commercial success, and has an attrition rate like no other? In short, if you’re 58 years old (as I was then) and you’ve just had a number one Billboard hit, you have beaten astronomical odds. Could I create a university curriculum that would prepare young musicians to walk a similar path?

Against this backdrop, I set out to aggregate and analyze my musical life, my vocation, from birth to present. It was a privileged exercise. With the help of two real academics, all my discoveries and descriptions were shaped into a four-year bachelor of arts degree. Before I could blink, I’d founded the commercial music program, had become the director of the School of Music, and was teaching in the classroom.

The course closest to my passion was a freshman seminar, Identity and Artistry. Before any music got made, I wanted my students to know two things: that the art of music is rooted in their identity and that the kind of people they become while creating is just as important as the music they create. Identity and artistry, I would say, are meant to be seamlessly integrated.

As part of the course, students would choose …

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