You've seen the ads from Calvin telling you to “engage pop culture.” You've seen the lists of artists that have played at Calvin in the last 20 years.
Maybe you've even gone to one of our recent concerts on a visit to campus: mewithoutYou, Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor.
We'll admit that we like to talk about the great artists that come to campus courtesy of Calvin's Student Activities Office (SAO). But before we go on gushing about how amazing Death Cab for Cutie was last spring, or how much we love it when Derek Webb of Caedmon's Call leads our chapel services, we should probably talk about why we care about pop culture so much.
FAME AND THE HUNGER GAMES
Join us for a trip into a packed classroom in Calvin’s Covenant Fine Arts Center. Students fill every seat and stand against every available wall, hoping to talk to indie pop sensation Ingrid Michaelson. They chatter about the sold-out show that night and how early they’ll have to arrive at the concert venue to get a good seat.
Finally, a young-looking woman enters the classroom and sits on a stool at the front, wrapping her thick cardigan more tightly around her small frame and staring through her “nerd” glasses at her boots. This is Ingrid Michaelson, the award-winning singer-songwriter whose songs are regularly featured on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill and commercials for Google Chrome, Old Navy and Target.
The students are a bit in awe of the artist sitting in front of them. Ingrid is visibly nervous, perhaps wondering what she got herself into when she signed up to play at a Christian college like Calvin.
It takes some introductions and conversation pointers from student activities director Ken Heffner to break the ice. The main pointer:
“What we want to avoid in this conversation is obsessing about people, not because they’re good artists, but because they’re famous. So if you ask any of those kinds of questions, I’ll veto them,” he says.
That seems to do the trick; questions start flowing. Nobody asks Ingrid about her favorite color or who she’s dating. What they do ask her: What are you reading right now? (Book #2 in The Hunger Games) Do you give up something when you work with a producer versus recording albums independently? How do you stay so grounded? Is your music primarily targeted at females? (Read the answers to these and more questions here.)
By the time Ingrid has to leave for her sound check, everyone—including the artist—is even more excited about the concert that evening. Clearly, a new mutual appreciation has developed—one that ultimately makes the concert even more enjoyable.