Dr. Stephen Michael Newby is composing a symphony to Heal the Land

Dr. Stephen Michael Newby conducting the stadium of soccer fans at a Seattle Sounders game.

Dr. Stephen Michael Newby conducting the stadium of soccer fans at a Seattle Sounders game.

Dr. Stephen Michael Newby is six generations removed from his ancestor and namesake, Michael, an enslaved African man who likely survived the horrific conditions of the Middle Passage, only to arrive at The Newby Plantation in Jones County, Georgia, to a new life… a living hell. We now know that Michael, and the enslaved people, used music and rhythm to not only communicate to each other and form a new identity when they had been stripped of everything, but also used music to ultimately escape to freedom in the north. 

Generations later, the ghost of Michael is rising. The ghosts of the enslaved people that were stolen to build the Empire that is America are rising and demanding lamentation. If you honestly look at the past, our country was built off of stolen people and stolen land, and that domination paradigm that oppresses people and the earth is still the driving force behind our American culture and systems.

It is this precise reason that Stephen is writing a symphony, the highest form of musical art in the European culture, to create the musical space that is required to enter into deep lamentation and remembering of our horrific past, and abiding peace, hope, and love that is pulling us forward into the future. Stephen describes the power of music, the connection between voice and the soul, and the experience of harmonizing with others as parts of the way forward as a culture. But, he articulates, that we must lament our past in order to experience the bottomless hope that resides on the other side of examination, reconciliation, and renewal for humanity.

Dr. Stephen Michael Newby is an accomplished composer, gospel/jazz vocalist, and worship leader, and his work has been performed by many well-known symphonies and orchestras that have earned him numerous awards and grants. In addition to directing the Center for Worship, Dr. Newby serves as director of the SPU Gospel Choir and the Worship Arts Ensemble.

He also conducted the national anthem before Seattle Sounders games for nearly a decade, successfully encouraging thousands of soccer fans to join together in song.