Faculty Focus: Paul Plew

One of Dr. Paul Plew’s earliest memories of Los Angeles Baptist College was the excitement he felt about getting to make music every day.

Before arriving at LABC in 1979, Plew had worked in churches where he split time between music and youth ministry. His primary training had been in music, but most of his time was tied up with other duties.

At LABC, now The Master’s University, Plew could narrow his focus.

“The Lord had trained me all my life to invest in young people with music, and here I get to do it every day,” says Plew, the dean of TMU’s School of Music.

Plew and his students will make plenty of music in the coming days. TMU will host opera performances on Friday; an orchestra concert on Saturday; a handbell concert on May 1; and the Spring Concert on May 6.

More information can be found here.

In the build-up to a busy final stretch of the semester, Plew sat down with TMU Communication Manager Mason Nesbitt to talk about the return of live concerts, Plew’s taste in music, and the days when Plew sang on the radio as a toddler.

TMU: How excited have students in the School of Music been lately to be performing in front of on-campus audiences again (with COVID precautions)?

Plew: I’m telling you, they did not realize what they had missed until they were experiencing it again. The excitement, the energy, the look on their faces. The response is unbelievable. The students just keep saying how excited and how thrilled they are. Again, you don’t know what you miss until you can’t do it anymore.

TMU: What do you enjoy most about working in the School of Music?

Plew: That’s a big question. Do you know how many years I’ve been here?

TMU: Since 1979.

Plew: Were you even born yet? (laughs)

TMU: I wasn’t.

Plew: A couple things come to mind. Our philosophy here in the School of Music is God, Family, Craft. So it’s God, Family, Music. What I enjoy most about being here is investing in the lives of the students. When students come into my office, half the time they’re not talking about music, they’re talking about life. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m also a music pastor at Santa Clarita Baptist Church and I have been for a long time. I have a pastor’s heart. So I care for the students, and I enjoy investing in their life and encouraging them to be in Scripture every day and to be in that spirit of praying without ceasing and encouraging one another.

I also enjoy directing choirs. I love tours and going into churches, going into other countries. We take the Chorale every four years to Israel because I really want our musicians to love the Lord more than their music, and a part of that is because going to Israel they see where it all happened and it continues to happen. Another thing I enjoy here is being with the faculty.

When you were roughly 3 years old, you began singing on the radio with your family. Tell me about that.

The program was “The Plew Family” and we sang as a family on WPEL in Montrose, Pennsylvania. It was a Christian radio station, and it was somewhat new back then. Our program was on Saturday afternoons at two o’clock for roughly eight years. This would have been from probably about 1951 to ’58 or ’59.

What kind of music did your family sing on the show?

It was gospel music. It was songs like “Mansion Over the Hilltop” and “Over the Sunset Mountains.” It was also Al Smith and John W. Peterson and “How Great Thou Art.”

So obviously you can sing. But do you play any instruments?

My main instruments would be piano and organ. But I also play brass instruments. I play baritone horn and trombone.

When you’re driving around in your car, what’s playing on the radio?

It’s always 91.5, KUSC.

What kind of music do they play?

It’s major works of the major stylistic period, basically your Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

Who’s your favorite musician of all time?

Let me give you a couple. I love George Frideric Handel. I love the music of John Rutter, who is a contemporary composer. I love the music of Dan Forrest, who is a guest lecturer here all the time. We perform his music quite often.

Do you enjoy any other kinds of music?

Oh yes, yes. I like the solo songs of Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra. And I mean, for example, Saturday night our orchestra will do music from “Beauty and the Beast” and “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones.” I like that kind of music.

As you’ve walked around the Music Center in recent weeks, have you heard music from “Indiana Jones” coming out of a practice room?

Of course.

And at that point do you expect a big stone to roll after you down the hallway?

Exactly, that’s when I start running.

To learn more about TMU’s School of Music, click here.

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