Editor’s Note: Ken Medema is a legend in the Christian music business. For four decades, Ken has inspired people through storytelling and music. Though blind from birth, Ken sees and hears with heart and mind. His ability to capture spirit in word and song is unparalleled. One of the most creative and authentic artists performing today, Ken custom designs every musical moment of his performance with brilliant improvisation that defies description. With an ever-growing circle of friends around the world, Ken's vocal and piano artistry and imagination have reached audiences of 50 to 50,000 people in 49 United States and in more than 15 countries on four continents. Ken performs in a wide variety of venues, from local congregations to charity fund-raisers, to high school and university campuses, to denominational youth gatherings, to universally televised religious programs, to corporate conventions, to annual assemblies of national organizations. He is co-founder of Interlude Retreat Corporation, which gifts retreat experiences for music directors, runs conferences and workshops and visits small but mighty churches to explore the musical possibilities for that congregation. He has recorded over 40 albums and his latest musical (co-written with Mark Cabaniss and arranged by Ruth Elaine Schram) is for children titled NOAH’S ROCKIN’ ARK ADVENTURE. Ken sat down recently with Jubilate Music Group to talk about the past, present, future, and more.
JMG: When and what was your first published composition?
KM: I believe it was Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying, probably 1972 with Crescendo Music.
JMG: What do you find is the most enjoyable part of writing songs?
KM: The best part of writing a song is discovering that the idea I had is not nearly as good as the idea I just now had after working it through time and time again.
JMG: After four decades in the music business, you’ve clearly seen a lot of changes in how people worship musically. What encouragement can you give today’s church choir director?
KM: Everything is changing. The Christian Music culture we knew is becoming obsolete. Out task is to examine the new, find what is beautiful and true and bring it to our people. Worshippers still want to sing. Often, they are not given the chance. People still want to be in choir, believe it or not, and if the church refuses to let them do so, community choirs will. Think of yourself as an enabler for people who long to sing.
JMG: You have co-written a new children’s musical titled NOAH’S ROCKIN’ ARK ADVENTURE. From your early days as a writer and your now classic “Storytellin’ Man” musical for children to this newest one, what do you enjoy most about writing for children?
KM: I am a kid at heart. I love to jump up and down and make noise and sing at the top of my lungs so if I can help kids to do that, it is satisfying the kid in me. I also love to find ways of taking our beloved theology and making it accessible to a child’s mind.
JMG: What mountains do you have that you are excited and yet to climb?
KM: I want to write a big choral work like a cantata or oratorio or musical. I want to find a way to more truthfully live out my passion for social justice, for diversity in worship, and for caring for the mental health of musicians, pastors and students. I want to learn how to be more responsible to the environment, and if possible, to immerse myself in the life of my city and to sing good news into its conflicts and issues. I want to continue to explore the power of music, to bring many cultures, tribes, neighborhoods and enemies together. I believe I may have a knack for this and so I long to travel as much of the world as is possible.
JMG: “Getting to Know…Ken Medema” - Our “Lightning Round” of quick questions and answers:
-What is on your current reading list?
KM: Four books by Elizabeth Bare, a science fiction writer, Radical Judaism by Arthur Green, the monthly issues of The Christian Century, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
-What types of music do you listen to most?
KM: Everything! Classic rock, electronic dance, Broadway, Brahms symphonies, pipe organ anything, modern choral work.
-What is your favorite vacation spot?
-What is your favorite Christmas carol?
KM: O Holy Night, verse two especially.
JMG: Thank you, Ken, for your time today. It’s an honor and joy to have your music in our catalogs. Your music and perspective are uncommonly creative, and the world is truly blessed and a better place because of your gifts to us in worship of our Creator. We’re excited about what God will do through you in the time to come!