Matt Papa: Artists-in-Residence Uses His Talents to Pour into Cedarville Students

by Kathryn McDonald

On July 13, 2021, Cedarville University was excited to announce that Matt Papa will serve as the Artist-In-Residence for the coming school year. Cedarville students had the opportunity to hear him speak and sing in chapel, teach in certain classes and even interact with him personally.

Papa is a two-time Dove-award nominated Christian music artist and songwriter. He is best known for his recent songs “His Mercy is More,” “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” and “Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor,” which he co-wrote with Matt Boswell. These modern hymns reflect what Papa described as his mission: “To write songs that are singable, beautiful and timeless.”

Assistant Chair of Worship and Associate Professor of Worship, Roger O’Neel said that this is something that the Music Department has been looking forward to for “quite some time.”

“Having Matt on campus when he can be to teach classes or to hang out with our students or perform–it’s just very meaningful, because it’s one thing to sing someone’s song, but it’s another thing to get to know the person behind the song,” O’Neel said.

Cedarville University is dedicated to providing its students with relevant instruction that prepares them for their chosen career. Having an artist-in-residence is just one opportunity to allow the Worship majors to develop their personal and professional skills. 

In addition to his role on campus, Papa provides information about Cedarville at his concerts and on his website, O’Neel says that this also is a great opportunity for people to hear about the wonderful programs that Cedarville offers its students to learn and grow both inside and outside of the classroom.

This year, Papa will be a guest lecturer in at least three classes for Worship majors. He will feature as both a performer and worship leader during the Worship 4:24 conference on January 28-29, 2022, and he will lead a one-day songwriting seminar on March 19, 2022, which will be open to the public.

The chance that students have to learn from his experience reaches beyond the classroom and extends to chapels, concerts and rehearsals. O’Neel said, “To have our students see him in multiple contexts, I think, is a real benefit to having an artist-in-residence.”

On October 4, Papa led the student body in a worship chapel where he had the opportunity to share his heart for what he does. Papa says that the reason he does what he does is because he still believes that author and pastor A.W. Tozer got it right when he said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” 

Whatever that is for each of the students shapes where they are heading in life, and who they will become. “That’s why I write the songs. That’s why I do what I do,” said Papa.

Papa hopes that his songs plant the seeds of God’s character in our minds. So as we sing, we understand Him better and more fully. 

As artist-in-residence, Papa seeks to extend beyond drawing others into worship. The students who Papa interacts with can learn from his ministry and passion to do just that. 

For Papa, the moments where he heard from experienced songwriters and musicians was formative at the beginning of his own career. Now, he has the chance to pour into students what was poured into his own life and share the lessons he learned with a new generation of songwriters and musicians.

Papa noted that for many professional musicians, they choose either to continue their careers as musicians or to teach what they know. His position as an artist-in-residence allows him to do both. Investing both inside and outside of the classroom is rewarding for Papa as he enjoys what he describes as “seeing the light bulbs go on.” 

“College kids are in such a unique season of life, and I love the ability to influence people and what they’re doing in life,” said Papa. “Here on campus is just a closer touch point to pour into these kids who are just awesome and are just going to be culture-shapers.”

Papa said, “If I can help pour into those guys and shape what they’re doing, then hopefully it will have a ripple effect through future artistry and song writing.” 

This forward-thinking mindset drives Papa to share his experience with young people seeking to enter the music industry and make a big impact for God.

Kathryn McDonald is a junior Psychology major and a Campus News writer for Cedars. When she’s not at her desk studying, you can probably catch her in the library writing a letter to a friend, reading her favorite American poetry, or drinking coffee from her favorite mug.

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