JBU Professor Releases Debut Music CD

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Siloam Springs, Ark (April 1, 2002) - Dr. Rick Sparks, associate professor of broadcasting at John Brown University, has released a CD of piano-based instrumental music.

The album, titled “Smooth Gospel,” features smooth-jazz and contemporary pop arrangements of classic hymns and gospel songs.

“I hope these contemporary interpretations of some fine old songs of faith will give them fresh life for the listener and maybe even create a new favorite or two,” said Sparks, who plays a 9-foot grand piano each Sunday as pianist at First Baptist Church of Springdale.

Sparks credits a former student with his choice of smooth-jazz as a musical style for several of the tracks on his CD. JBU graduate Grady Nichols is now a rising young artist on the national smooth-jazz scene.

“I had the chance to see Grady and his band at a concert in Tulsa last year while he was recording a live CD,” said Sparks. “The pieces fell into place when Grady did a couple of original jazz arrangements of old gospel songs that made them sound totally fresh, brand new. I thought, 'that’s what I want to do on the keyboard.'”

The songs range from a three-piece mix of piano/bass/percussion to multi-instrument arrangements with Chicago-style horns and keyboards. Sparks arranged, produced and recorded the album in his home studio over a seven-month period.

Given the rising popularity of smooth-jazz nationally and in Northwest Arkansas and the new smooth-jazz station 97.5, Sparks’ CD of smooth-jazz and pop-flavored hymns and gospel songs may stand a chance of reaching a larger audience than he originally intended.

“I never produced this CD thinking it might be heard by more than a few hundred people,” Sparks said. “But, you never know, there might be an audience out there that would enjoy hearing these old songs dressed up in smooth-jazz and contemporary pop. We’ll see.”

“Smooth Gospel” is available locally at the John Brown University campus bookstore in Siloam Springs, at the ministry resource centers of First Baptist Church of Springdale and Pinnacle Hills, and at local businesses in Northwest Arkansas (Bedford Camera & Video, Springdale, Rogers, Fayetteville, Ft. Smith; Whitmore’s Music and Inner City Salon, Siloam Springs). The CD is also available from Sparks directly via e-mail at silbersix@earthlink.net and can also be purchased at www.cdbaby.com.

Sparks has taught broadcasting at John Brown University since 1989. He received his Ph.D. in communication from the University of Missouri last year. He is the former program director and general manager of JBU’s 2001 Dove Award-winning FM radio station, KLRC.

John Brown University is a private university with an enrollment of over 1,600 students from 45 states and 33 countries. JBU is a memer of the Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities as well as the Council for Christian Colleges adn Universities.

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