Campus News

Bethel College music department begins anew and welcomes home Jeshua Franklin

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Bethel College is now ushering in a new era of vocal performance with the addition of professor Jeshua Franklin. However, this is not Franklin’s first time on Bethel’s campus.  His first trip to the school came in 2001, not as a teacher, but as a student studying flute performance.  Franklin transferred from Modesto Junior College, attended Bethel for the final 3 years of his undergraduate degree, sang in the choir and ultimately decided to pursue choral performance in his future endeavors. Franklin claimed that he was hooked on Bethel College from the beginning. “I wanted to go away to school and wanted a Christian school,” he said, “but after I came for auditions as a sophomore I was so impressed with the school that I didn’t apply anywhere else.” Franklin went on to finish up his classes at Bethel as a student, but while he was here, the seed of returning back someday became planted in Franklin's vision for his future. “Returning to Bethel has always been a long time dream of mine,” said Franklin, “Bethel has been huge for me personally and spiritually.“ Franklin has spent the past four years teaching vocal performance at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Ill. before ultimately returning to Bethel College in the fall of 2016.  Franklin, who was originally from Modesto, Calif., said that the move back to Mishawaka actually felt like a second homecoming for both him and his wife. “My wife and I are both really excited to be here,” said Franklin, “My wife grew up in Elkhart so it’s kind of a returning home for the both of us.” Although Franklin spent most of his years pursuing instrumental music, he claims that the love of vocal performance was always there since he was just a small child. “I joined band and began playing the flute at 10 years old,” said Franklin, reflecting on his music days of old, “but I grew up singing at home as a family and in church every Sunday morning.” Franklin explained how he came to pursue his passion of music not just as a hobby, but as a profession. “I always knew [music] was going to be a big part of my life from a young age, but when I was 16 or 17 was when I really started pursuing it,” said Franklin, “It was around my second year at Bethel that I shifted more towards choral performance, and I’ve never really gone away from that.” Franklin steps in as the new director of choral music at Bethel College, following the retirement of Wishart Bell, interim choir director and close friend of Franklin. “[Bell] has always been a huge mentor figure to me,” said Franklin,  “Both he and Bob [Ham] provided me with their strong friendships and provided a huge role in my life as not only a musician but also as an individual.” Bell took over as the interim director of choral music last spring and served as a temporary replacement for former choir director Bob Ham who passed away earlier this year after over 25 years of service to Bethel College.  Franklin believes that this opportunity to pick up where two great leaders left the program creates a unique and encouraging challenge. “There’s definitely some nervousness that comes with it,” said Franklin with a sense of reflection, “Bob [Ham] was my teacher and he taught many great things, but above all, he led his ensembles, with spiritual leadership and not just musicianship.” Franklin emphasized that the job requires a balance of honoring those who served before him, while also paving way for a new era of growth with the students. “I believe in being myself while still honoring legacy.  I definitely hope it’s a successful year for these students,” said Franklin, “especially following some of the ups and downs of emotions of the past few years for these juniors and seniors.” Although it often varies from person to person, Franklin believes he knows a definition of success that can be applied to this Bethel music program: “When a choir performs with continued excellence and students feel as though they’ve reached that excellence,” he said. Franklin elaborated on his definition: “It’s my hope that members of the choir and the audience can feel the passion and time that’s been put into every piece…Transparency, that’s the key.” Franklin currently directs the college’s concert choir, Voices of Triumph (the college's a capella ensemble) and voice lessons.  Although higher education often faces difficulties with keeping up with current demands, Franklin wishes to bring about positive changes to Bethel College’s music department that could bring about new areas of excellence. “Being a small school, we obviously want to continue to grow, so recruitment is going to be a very big thing for us,” said Franklin, “…We don’t want to expect it to be exactly the same as it’s been in the past, but instead add and create more opportunities in our choral ensembles.” As for the future, it’s quite simple in Franklin’s eyes.  Continue down the path of excellence that has been created in the school's past, and do that for the foreseeable future. “It’s my hope that we’re going to be here for a really long time,” said Franklin.
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