|<< Spark Online|
By Michael Van Denend '78
A shy, skinny kid from Inglewood, California, made his way to Calvin College in the mid-seventies and since then the place has never been quite the same.
Glenn Bulthuis spent his four years at Calvin studying (sometimes) and (mostly) strumming his acoustic guitar all over campus. He became the poet laureate of Vander Werp Hall and in April of his senior year, began an astounding tradition of playing his Calvin songs in the Fine Arts Center.
His concerts this spring marked 24 years of Bulthuis extravaganzas and original tunes, from the famous "Cruisin' Down the Beltline"and "Calvin Girl, " all the way to the lesser-known "Calvinists in Outer Space" and "Born to Rock" (the latter an ode to the "most famous band in all of the Christian Reformed rock-and-roll world"). It is an amazing legacy that I haven't heard anyone equal as I compare notes with other alumni directors from time to time.
He played his first concert as a student in 1977 because a guy in his dorm liked Glenn's music and was able to reserve the Fine Arts Center for one night. (Just try to book a date in that hall these days!)
Glenn played guitar, joined by Jerry Talen on piano, Jack De Boer on drums and Lee Swets on bass. About 300 students showed up for the free concert. (Although, as with the legend of Moses, stories grow and now about 3,000-some Calvin alumni claim to have been at that first show.)
Some of Glenn's friends saw this as an opportunity to have a reunion each year. Thus, even though he had moved back to California after graduation, he was able to fly into Grand Rapids for a concert because he and his buddies charged $1 a ticket.
"The next year," said Glenn, "there was a little buzz about my music because someone had given disc jockey Ed Buchanan at WLAV (a local radio station) a tape of my original songs, so I was invited back to play again. The audiences started to grow steadily every year after that."
And grow they did. Just three years later, Glenn sold out the Fine Arts Center (1,100 seats) and in 1982, a second Friday show was added. In another short leap of time, both evenings were packed with Bulthuis enthusiasts. For two years, 1989 and 1990, a third show was tacked on to accommodate the demand for tickets.
Not bad for the quiet kid from California and mid-level administrator at the Herman Miller Corporation, first in California near his boyhood home and then in West Michigan.
Glenn has always shared his personal story with audiences and he predated the hit movie The Truman Show by many years. We were invited to look in on what God was doing with Glenn Bulthuisthe ups-and-downs of his love life, his change in residences and careers and his reflections on world events and American society. We cheered when he found his "Calvin girl" (Jana Zwiep) and later listened to his thoughts about parenthood in songs such as "My Little Boy."
Maybe that's why alumni come to Glenn's concerts year after yearas much as they enjoy the great music, they want to get to the next chapter of the Bulthuis saga. He's the Calvin version of Harry Potter.
In the last few years, Glenn's direction has taken a strong spiritual bent. He's now working in music ministry at Sunshine Community Church in Grand Rapids and his latest CD, Psalm, is full of praise and worship songs, directing our focus not to the boy or girl of our dreams but to the Creator of all persons and all things.
But Glenn's been on that spiritual quest all of his life. And so have we all.
In the words of my favorite Bulthuis tune: "Lord help me be as you'll have me be/Take all I am and use it for Thee/Help me surrender, help me to see/Now and through eternity/You hold the future to all I can be."
Rock on, Glenny.
| Contact Spark