Brehm Center Taking Students to SXSW

New immersion course kicks off this winter

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The Brehm Center is at it again, this time with a brand new immersion course that takes place at South by Southwest, the annual music, film, and interactive conference and festival held in Austin, Texas.

Go here to see stories from the summer immersion course in New York City.

The class, which will take place during the winter quarter (March 10-14. 2014), is called "Understanding Popular Music," and will be instructed by Affiliate Professor and Artist-in-Residence Barry Taylor and the Brehm Center's Associate Director Nate Risdon.

"We're going to look at the phenomenon of popular music and explore its functions in society-how it can mirror the religious experience, why it is so powerful in conveying ideas, why it is a 'shaping reality' in contemporary culture, and how we can engage with music theologically," said Taylor.

Taylor, who teaches the Understanding Popular Music class at Fuller, is himself a songwriter and has composed music for movie soundtracks as well as his own music CDs.

"I came of age when pop music ruled the world and carried new ideas and values to generations of people who wanted to experience a different kind of life," he said. "Music has always been a theological focus and interest."

The course is a four-unit class with a program fee of $275 to cover ground costs and a wristband to access most shows. Students will stay with host families in the area, and will enjoy a welcome dinner held at a local church. Each morning, faculty and students will gather in a classroom stetting to get oriented and reflect on the festival, music, and atmosphere. The class will then venture out to visit venues, listen to music, and engage in conversation. A few bands will also come back to the classroom to talk about their music and, if applicable, how their faith informs their music.

"SXSW is as big as it gets in terms of music festivals and it will provide us with an abundance of opportunities to experience and participate in live music events," Risdon said. "Being present helps us truly and more fully understand a cultural phenomenon or expression in a healthier, more integrated way. In the past, there was a tendency to be outright dismissive of such expressions-thinking of certain popular and untamed cultural phenomena as devoid of God. But God is omnipresent, right? So we want to explore how God is present in these places."

Austin-area church leaders will also be invited to sit in on the class. Risdon said he hopes that the class can help model one way in which local churches can engage and be present at SXSW.

The course has been a long time coming with various faculty, staff and students talking about having a SXSW class for a number of years.

"There came a point where I just said to everyone, 'Let's do this,'" Risdon recalls. "It wasn't a hard sell."

Risdon says it has become part of Fuller and the Brehm Center's identity and ethos to offer classes with significant cultural and artistic engagement-something little to no other seminaries are doing with courses like the immersion classes that the Brehm Center offers.

To see the course description and syllabus, go here. Space is limited and will be given out at a first come, first served basis. Alumni and non-student spouses are also welcome to participate in the course for $750.

For more information or if you have questions, contact Nate Risdon at

(626) 584-5200
(800) 235-2222
135 N. Oakland Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91182