Questions For Andy Robison
Peter Ray Cole
PRC: Thanks for agreeing to talk with me about your songwriting. When did your interest in songwriting begin?
AR: In my days at Harding University, carrying a double major in Bible and Music, I became aware of the L.O. Sanderson Scholarship for potential hymn-writers. Several years after college, I began trying to set a friend’s poems to music.
PRC: Who are the authors and hymn-writers that have influenced you the most?
AR: L.O. Sanderson and Tillit Teddlie were members of the Lord’s church who did much good in writing Scriptural, singable songs. I love their work.
PRC: Do you find your styles to be similar?
AR: Perhaps in some songs. But, I’ve tried to dabble in different styles. Singing can be Scriptural and still have different approaches.
PRC: You mention two members of the Lord’s church who are well known hymn-writers. How has the Body been represented in hymn writing?
AR: To my limited knowledge, most hymns we sing come from the broad Protestant spectrum; few are from members of the Lord’s church.
PRC: How many hymns or songs have you currently written?
AR: Fifty or so now, including collaborations with lyricists and other writers.
PRC: Singing is so powerful. When we sing, so much is happening: we are praising God, admonishing and teaching the audience. It can be very influential on the participant, often stirring strong emotions. When you debut a song, what emotions do you experience?
AR: My nerves are usually a wreck. It’s weird how you really feel like you’re laying yourself on the line. Will it be singable? Will people like it? Or will it be a distraction? But, then, when people sing it well, it is an indescribable joy.
PRC: You have 5 CD’s available. All of the proceeds go to the WVCYC. The singers for the project are all volunteers. These CD’s have raised over $35,000 for the youth camp. How has that experience been for you as a songwriter and director?
AR: We have now produced five CD's, and, in the old days, one cassette tape. This would not have been possible without the generous, selfless, and tireless work of so many singers through the years, and the donated recording studio time by Sounds Incredible. The rehearsals and recording dates are some of the highest points in my life, because of the relationships with these wonderful and talented people. Working with them is an uplifting and edifying privilege.
PRC: The response to the Camp CD’s has been very impressive. Have any of them sold out?
AR: The tape and the first CD (Blessed Assurance) are sold out. Though supplies are waning, we still have copies of The Tie That Binds, O! How I Love Jesus!, Someday, and our latest release, Resurrection.
PRC: Is this a talent that can be developed? Can someone pick up some pen and paper and begin writing hymns?
AR: I believe so, but it might take a lot of time. It did for me, but maybe I’m slow—years of piano lessons and choir participation to learn music, collegiate studies in Music Theory and related subjects.
PRC: What advice would you give to readers who might be interested in songwriting?
AR: Study the Scriptures. Study the poetry there and good poetry elsewhere. Study Music Theory.
PRC: Your songwriting has seen some success. People may even be associating you with songwriting. Do you ever fear “typecasting?”
AR: That is almost laughable. No, not really. If people would ever even come close to seeing me as “that guy who writes songs,” I’d consider that an honor.
PRC: When you consider all that has been accomplished, it must be very satisfying and motivating. Do you have a vision for where you would like this to lead?
AR: Well, yes. Old songs are great, but every generation seems to have its fresh expression in song, and I’d just like to be a part of that. I’d just like to see the Lord’s church have more input into contemporary hymn writing with doctrinally distinctive songs.
PRC: Is anything like this happening? What would it take to produce a songbook that could be available for the entire brotherhood?
AR: Right now some of us have a little book of our original works. It is readily available, and all we ask in return are donations to WVCYC. Someday, I would like to produce a larger book that incorporates songs from many styles and generations—the kinds of books congregations have in their racks. But that is going to take a lot of time in typesetting and a lot of money in printing costs.
PRC: Is this something you would like to pursue?
AR: Yes, as time allows. I would love to edit such a work.
PRC: It seems that every time the Body of Christ assembles we sing. In addition to fulfilling the command to sing, we seem to enjoy it. What should individuals do to improve congregational singing?
AR: This is difficult because some people have the errant idea that this either can’t be done or doesn’t need to be done. Brethren, in my view, should always be striving to do their best at whatever they do for the Lord, including singing. Congregations should regularly have classes that teach music fundamentals and regularly have practices where a knowledgeable leader instructs in the singing of songs. A workshop here and there won’t get it. It needs to be constant. Some may think they can’t sing, but the more they learn about it, well, they might be surprised at what good can come.
PRC: Are there any trends that you have observed in the brotherhood concerning singing?
AR: A lot of young people seem to be latching on to the Praise & Worship genre. While there is nothing inherently wrong with many of these songs, there is often no real doctrine taught. They are produced by the music industry to appeal to the widest possible denominational audience, in order to make the most money. These need to be sung, but need mixed with songs of distinctive, Scriptural doctrine.
PRC: Does it seem the next generation is stronger or weaker when it comes to understanding the Biblical precedent for a cappella singing? For example let’s make the age 18-30. Do they understand or appreciate the issue?
AR: That might depend upon the area of the country to which one refers. At large, I’d have to guess that many would not have a problem with adding instruments or instrumental sounds. There seems to have been a generation or two that lacked strong teaching on the matter. This has led to apathy or an ignorance of the issue. But in some pockets, the young people are stronger than ever on insisting upon Scriptural music.
PRC: Thanks again for discussing this with me. If someone had more questions about your work how could they contact you?
AR: My e-mail might work best: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be glad to help if I could. –PO Box 146, Fairview, WV 26570. email@example.com
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