By Jeremy Lloyd
When Aaron Strumpel joined George Fox as artist practitioner in residence for the fall 2012 semester, it gave students with a passion for music the rare opportunity to rub shoulders and strum guitars with a nationally renowned Christian musician who has released seven successful full-length albums and four EPs since launching his solo career in 2006.
While his stay, sponsored by the university’s Center for Peace and Justice, was short, it had a lasting impact on the lives of many students. Strumpel led worship, taught songwriting courses, worked with the chapel band and other student music ensembles, mentored students in one-on-one sessions and even found time for a few impromptu jam sessions out on the quad. In fact, Strumpel’s upcoming EP, Elephant Trio: George Fox University Session, will feature George Fox junior Nolan Staples on bass.
We caught up with Strumpel during his final days with the university to ask about his experience.
What gave you your initial love for music?
I always loved to sing in church; I loved hymns growing up. . . . Music just moves me in a way that I can’t describe.
How would you describe your musical style?
I would call it experimental indie-folk.
What type of songs do you like to write?
I enjoy writing prayers; lyrics that are said in just slightly new ways that maybe help people approach God in a fresh way.
When did you feel called to music ministry?
I felt particularly called to it while I was touring with a missional band called Kindred in Peru . . . I realized how much the body of Christ needed to be connected, and I realized that songs and stories were an amazing vehicle to do that.
What have you enjoyed most about working with students at George Fox?
The energy that they have. There’s an overall sense of optimism that college students here at George Fox have, and I’ve really enjoyed the energy and the vibrancy that it brings to our interactions.
Can you give an example of a student you have worked with?
Josh Tryan is a songwriter who comes in on Saturdays. He’s really creative. He writes very intricate guitar parts, and he writes very avant garde song structures into his songs. He is really advanced, so I give him a lot of constructive criticism, and I send him home with a lot of homework. He’s been a fun one to work with, and he’s become a good friend of mine.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring musicians?
The path of an artist is always changing. In the college years you begin to dream, but often your skill sets aren’t as developed as you’d like them to be. . . . It’s wonderful when you can sit back and remember, I will grow in this, and I will become better and better as the years go by.
What have you learned from the students you’ve worked with?
I’ve relearned the passion levels that I had when I was a college student. It’s been really refreshing and exciting to use that to attack my own songs again in new ways.