KNOXVILLE – Each Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m., “Songwriters in the Round” chapel group meets to perform at local coffee shop Sipz.
The group was formed by the Dean of Chapel, Bill Wolf, who was driven by his love of songwriting – both writing songs himself and spending time in fellowship with other song creators.
“I knew we had a good number of songwriters on campus, so I thought that might be a good group to hang out with. I was right!” Wolf said. “We have some really talented songwriters at Johnson!”
Sophomore Tanner Rutherford said, “The group consists of an assortment of people on campus that write songs. It is a time for discussion, but it mainly serves as an outlet for songwriters.”
While guidelines are generally open, group members’ current task is to create a song inspired by the book of Exodus.
“What we do is we try to write a song each week, and we perform whatever songs we have completed each week,” said Fidy Fiarferana, sophomore. “Each week who performs differs as well, but we try to make it a safe place for songwriters and try to nurture creativity and help stimulate ideas for songs.”
Students in Songwriters in the Round are able to take to the stage to share their latest creative piece while fellow students can relax, study, and get much-needed caffeine in a casual setting.
“Sipz Coffee in Seymour is gracious enough to let us crash every Tuesday night. They give us the stage, turn off the house music and let our little group provide the entertainment for the night,” said Wolf. “It has been a real blessing. I believe art can foster community and community can foster art.”
Wolf had a similar opportunity as this group when he performed as a student at weekly open mic nights at New City Café. That experience was formative for him as a songwriter and in terms of his faith, and he hopes that Songwriters in the Round chapel group will have the same impact.
Freshman Chase King said, “[I enjoy] being in a safe environment that encourages creativity, but also that we all know music and songwriting enough that we can critique each other.”
“I love the sense of community we have in the group and how no matter what kind of song we write, it’s always received positively and we always try to give positive feedback on the songs while helping give new ideas for what we can write next,” Fiaferana said. “I just really enjoy being able to share songs that are personal and close to me and being able to hear others share the same.”
Songwriters in the Round may serve as the main artistic outlet for some, while for others it’s more a time to have their work critiqued and to share ideas with others.
Rutherford said, “I joined because even though I have the songwriting outlet through my band, it works well to give me motivation and peer critiques of my work.”
“[I’m] building relationships as well as learning how to better my musical talent, which I plan to later use in my ministry,” said King.
Creative expression through music has served as the driving force of uniting the variety of students in this group.
“My goal for this group is just that I hope the art we produce improves along the way as we share and hear from one another. And, in turn, through this sharing and hearing from one another, I hope we grow closer together and together closer to God.”
Catch this group’s next session next Tuesday night at 6:30 at Sipz, located at 10721 Chapman Hwy in Seymour, Tennessee.