Music professor leads ASU Gospel Choir on path to international collaborations

October 11, 2021

The ASU Gospel Choir in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre recently released a recording, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” with York University Gospel Choir as part of an international collaboration project.

The recording, which includes 70 students across academic disciplines, is the first project in the collaborative vision that Nathan De'Shon Myers, assistant professor and director of the ASU Gospel Choir, has to connect the choir at Arizona State University with the national and international gospel community. ASU Gospel Choir with Assistant Professor Nathan De'Shon Myers. Download Full Image

Professor Karen Burke, founding director of the York University Gospel Choir and a 2020 guest artist with the ASU Gospel Choir, reached out to Myers about a collaboration, including visits to each other’s campuses and joint concerts. Because of COVID-19, those plans had to change direction.

“We are very committed to collaborating for the sake of our students, our programs and our communities to show the validity of gospel music, the connectivity that can happen through it and the learning experiences that students can grow through,” Myers said.

Since travel was not allowed, Myers and Burke worked with the leadership teams of both choirs to create a new plan for a virtual collaboration.

Last year, Myers was a virtual guest lecturer with the York choir and Burke was a virtual guest lecturer with the ASU choir, and both choirs met virtually and participated in breakout sessions and rehearsals leading up to the recording of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

To create the recording, the choirs used BandLab, a platform Meyers and ASU students learned about when they all attended the virtual Power Up Gospel Conference, coordinated by Burke for more than 17 years and sponsored by the Toronto Mass Choir.

After a training on BandLab, Myers selected the platform for creating high-quality recordings that could be mixed and mastered at a professional level. For the recording, each choir member individually created and submitted their own videos last spring. Most of the students recorded directly into their laptops with headphones and the laptop as the microphone. They also assisted with the initial mixing and balancing of the tracks.

The ASU choir recorded their tracks first, and then Myers trained the York choir on how to use the BandLab and organized a detailed recording schedule.

Myers mixed the individual sessions together and then mixed within themselves on a new track for the audio. A professional editor then combined the video and audio.

Every student’s recording was captured on the final project.

“Everyone who wanted to be a part of it, who could be a part of it, was a part of it,” Myers said. “It's a great testament to the international impact that gospel music can have and how you can integrate certain technological tools to bridge those gaps between distances as we work to safely participate in what is considered one of the most dangerous art forms (singing) within this time period.”

Myers said the recording project is the beginning of a longer-term partnership and collaboration with York University and that there are plans for more in-person work together, including travel to each other’s campuses and both professors teaching at each other’s universities.

Future plans for Myers and Burke also include creating connections between gospel choirs and directors nationally and internationally, with soft connections already taking place.

Myers plans to reconnect the ASU Gospel Choir to the two major gospel music conventions in the United States, the Gospel Music Workshop of America and the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, to further national connections.

Myers said a larger goal is to create an alliance of gospel choirs and directors to connect around the globe.

“We are looking to simultaneously build community at the local, regional, national and international levels,” Myers said.

At the same time and in addition to performing at the Tempe campus, the ASU choir is connecting with the local community through outreach and volunteering on campus and around town. This semester’s performance schedule also includes the Tempe History Museum on Oct. 8, local Tempe church Dayspring UMC on Oct. 21 and at Hospice of the Valley’s “Light up a Life” event honoring loved ones who transitioned, which will be featured on AZTV in November. 

“Ultimately, I would love to take the choir out of the country as ambassadors for the university,” Myers said. “I see our choir as an ambassador for the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, for the university and for gospel music in America.”

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


Alumni spotlight Q&A with Jordan Harstad

Master of Healthcare Innovation program at ASU opened door for computer engineer to pursue career in health care IT

October 11, 2021

With a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, Jordan Harstad seemed an unlikely candidate for pursuing a graduate degree in health care, but that’s exactly what he did.

Harstad enrolled in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Master of Healthcare Innovation program at Arizona State University. It was his first introduction to the health care industry at the academic and career level. Jordan Harstad smiles for a photo he's wearing a bow tie, white shirt and black vest Jordan Harstad says the Master of Healthcare Innovation program at ASU opened the door for him to pursue a rewarding career in health care IT. Download Full Image

“While taking courses in the MHI program I became extremely interested in health care IT. Since graduating in 2015, I was able to start a career in the field,” Harstad said.

Currently, he’s the market IT director at Tenet Healthcare in Phoenix — a role he worked his way up to thanks in part to the information and skills he picked up through his graduate experience at ASU.

“If you’re a student that is considering the MHI program but have no experience in health care, do it! The curriculum is a great complement to various unrelated undergraduate degrees and backgrounds,” he said.

Here, Harstad expands on how his education helped set him up for success and prepared him to thrive during a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic.

Question: How did your degree program help you in achieving and maintaining the position you have now? 

Answer: A few months after graduation from the MHI program, I started my first health care job as a director of IT for a single hospital in downtown Phoenix. A few years later, I expanded my career as a multi-hospital IT director. Then, a few years after that, I was promoted as a market IT director, where I currently oversee all information technology needs for eight hospitals, multiple stand-alone emergency-department facilities and various other ambulatory clinics in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. 

Earning the MHI opened this door for me to pursue a health care IT career, and I am extremely grateful to have been granted the opportunity. Daily, and especially in the COVID-19 world we live in, I use strategy and teachings from the MHI program in every meeting, email and business plan I am involved with at work. This program was truly a life changer for me.

Q: What is a favorite memory from your time in your program? 

A: My favorite memory from my time in the program was actually my 2015 "incoming" interview with the MHI program chair/director, asking me why a computer engineer (CSE) undergraduate student wanted to enroll in the MHI program. I explained to him that I had done IT and CSE-related items my entire career and that I felt IT and health care were the next "big thing." Now, six years later, in the COVID-19 world we live in, this couldn't be more true.

Q: What advice would you give to students who are currently enrolled in the program? 

A: Absorb everything you are taught; it will truly change your perspective on health care, your career and everyday life. Don’t just submit the assignments for a good grade — make sure you understand the background, the strategy, the reasoning.

Q: What were some unique challenges, if any, you had to overcome while pursuing this degree?

A: Some unique challenges I had were that I had zero knowledge of health care. Many of my MHI classmates were already either in the health care industry or in a related field. I knew none of the acronyms; I could provide no examples in any of the assignments for experiences requested that related to MHI. It was very difficult but well worth the challenge.

To learn more about alumni activities, events and programming, visit the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation's alumni section.

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation