LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Timothy Michael Powell, Part 2: “New Places”

Dr. Timothy Michael Powell is an accomplished conductor and composer. He is the Director of Choral and Vocal Studies at Lee College and directs the Lee College Chorale and the Baytown Community Chorus. Dr. Powell holds a DMA in Conducting from the University of South Carolina and was the 1999 National Choristers Guild Scholar, a 2002-2003 Fulbright Scholar to Bulgaria, and a 2002 Fellow with the prestigious South Carolina Conductors Institute. He received both his Bachelors (cum laude) and his Masters degrees in Church Music from Belmont University.

He was the Rhodes College Conductor-in-Residence for the 2004-2005 Season and the Director of the Honors College Choir at the University of South Carolina from 2001-2002. His compositions include numerous major works, including his "Wedding Mass" which will be premiered in Carnegie Hall in June of 2008, and his opera "His Terrible Swift Sword" which was premiered in April of 2007. Go to
www.DCINY.org for more information about the concert.

Dr. Powell is an active clinician and scholar and holds memberships in the Pi Kappa Lambda Music Society, The Texas Music Educator's Association, and the American Choral Director's Association. He serves as the Director of Music at St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Houston, TX. Samples of his music can be heard at

LM: You were awarded a Fulbright grant to study in Bulgaria. What was that experience like? How did it change you? How did it affect your music?

It was the seminal experience of my adult life. Bulgaria, though part of Europe, is such a melting pot between east and west, Christian and Muslim. Throw in the Romany or gypsy culture, and it often feels like you have entered a different world. There's a wonderful tension between the old and new there, particularly since the fall of communism. I lived in an apartment in downtown Sofia. Down the street was the most expensive hotel in the country, surrounded by modern boutiques and shops, and the national soccer stadium. Yet every day, I woke up to the sound of a donkey and wagon being driven by a gypsy passing under my balcony. It was surreal. If it changed me in any way, it was that I became much more self-sufficient. When you only speak a little of the language and you have to catch a bus, you learn quickly to adjust, to cope, to do what needs done, and to learn how to approach complete strangers with hand signals. Musically, I don't know if it had much of an artistic impact, other than I wrote a lot more pop music because I didn't have a piano. I had my guitar and more free time than I've ever had in my life, so that combination produced a lot of good music. Since the dollar went a long way in 2003, I also got to experiment in the recording studio with no time or financial limits, which I think is one of the reasons that “New Places” [a song I wrote there] is successful. If you have the freedom to discard mistakes and start over, then you can also polish and tweak until you are satisfied.

LM: Let's talk about your song, "New Places," inspired by JRR Tolkien. What is it about?

Well, I was living in Bulgaria at the time and listening to a great deal of Cold Play, Nora Jones, and classic Sting. In addition, I was a bit overwhelmed by the experience of living in a different culture. I'd just seen the Fellowship of the Ring for about the 5th time (I've read the Lord of the Rings just about every year since I was in the 4th grade) and was inspired by the visual vistas of the movie. Since I had this feeling that I was entering uncharted territory (at least in my own life) by living in Eastern Europe, and that I was having the great adventure of my life, I decided to put pen to paper to talk about going "across the sea under twinkling stars to fields where no one's been." What emerged was a song that was informed by those three artists (though I think it is much lusher, more exotic, and much more symphonic than any one of the three) and which alluded to Tolkien's poem from The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, "The Road Goes Ever On and On." The song was written on my old guitar, but I got to mess around in the studio and played all but one instrument on the recording. Now that Peter Jackson has agreed to do The Hobbit movie, I'm hoping the song will get a little more attention and make it on to the soundtrack. Some of the folks in the worldwide fan community for the movies come by my Myspace page regularly to comment on the song. I'm hoping that lightning will strike and the song will get some attention.

Don’t miss the conclusion of my interview with Tim Powell on Monday.

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