Mike Westendorf: I've been involved in music, generally in choirs and as a soloist, since I was in high school. I actually learned guitar in college by taking guitar classes as a way to burn up my arts credits that I needed to take. I've always had a good ear for music, but those were the first formal lessons. Most of the rest was self taught with occasional lessons. Technically I've been playing since 1994, recorded my first CD in 2002, which was a Christmas CD for my family and then really pursued it harder from about 2004 on.
Mike: I was involved in music as an artist well before I was involved as a music director. My education and full-time work is actually in the field of meteorology at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee running "Innovative Weather." But that job has given me enormous experience in organizing and working with college aged students. Combined with my experiences as an artist, the opportunity to be a music director at The Point of Grace, which is a college campus ministry and church, was a "risk" worth taking. God just keeps making it move forward and what I learn in my job in weather helps me in my job as an artist and worship leader.
Mike: That's always an interesting question to answer. I'm on the record label "Creative Soul Records" out of Nashville right now. I believe that in my experiences, God has equipped me to connect with audiences of many different ages and flexible enough to work in a lot of different spaces. Serving God by taking my music across the country is always an artist's dream. The tension for me is of course that I love my family and want to grow up WITH my kids and I know that can be tough for the full time touring artists out there. They have my prayers and my respect; it's not easy doing what they do. I would love to see the record and radio industry embrace the idea of a regional artist model and to see what a partnership can really look like. I'm a small business operator so I understand the business of this, but if we could see an artist with a regional base with occasional national push and the support to take care of the family, then I'd be interested. All of that to say, yes, if I could do it in a way that kept priorities straight - God, Family, Job/Ministry.
Mike: I'm pretty eclectic, but lately it's been Phil Keaggy and Jason Gray, David Crowder, TobyMac and LeCrae. Steven Curtis Chapman's new song is awesome, so is Matt Maher's and I've enjoyed Chris Tomlin. I'm also an Alice in Chains and Dave Matthews fan and enjoy Classical music, lately Beethoven's 9th along with Holst's "the planets." Every artist has that artist or two that nobody has ever heard of and I've come to enjoy Mela Kamin, Nathan Clark George and a band called Gungor, although a lot of folks are waking up to them.
Mike: Oh yeah, we're out quite a bit, if you include worship engagements, I probably do around 100 events/year. My passion is helping our sponsors reach out and effectively serve their local communities while also encouraging the ministry of the people within their churches so we've developed a concert offering called "Share the Hope." The information is on my website, but it's been a real joy to do those concerts. I once heard a retiring artist remark to their fans "thank you for letting us be part of the soundtrack of your lives" and in touring, that's one of the hopes I have for the music, whether it's a house concert or on a main stage, we hope it connects and lets people experience and sing to God in a new way.
Mike: 1 Peter is probably one of my favorite books, just seeing the wisdom from a man's journey with Jesus, to finish off with his words from 1 Peter 4:7-11, they are just such a treasure for me: 7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering Godís grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Mike: A LOT! Probably the biggest came in the mission statement at the campus ministry that I work with. The idea that Life is a Journey, not a destination, is probably one of the biggest things for me as of late. We tend to see life in a series of destinations... Graduate from High School, Go to College, Get a Job, Get Married, Have a family etc... Even in our daily schedules, we see these things we HAVE to do and they become destinations and we lose sight of the journey. Well, the same thing happens in our walk as a Christian and I feel that even church becomes a destination, all too often something that we go and do for an hour, then move on to the next destination.
Mike: Let Go, Let God. Our life proves our need for forgiveness and our need for our Savior. Not one of us is perfect and our lives show that on a daily basis. The bible shows us who we are compared to a holy God, but it didn't stop there, going on to show us what real love looks like. Because of Jesus we have Hope and Peace, even in the midst of the times when life hurts most. Like a child running to mom and dad for security, love, peace - Jesus says "I've told you these things so that in Me, you may have peace... in this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world." No matter how old I get, I realize that there's still a kid inside me, wanting that security and peace, but also wanting to just laugh, play and to find JOY in the world and what I've been given. So much of life is really out of our illusion of control, which makes me so grateful that God calls me a "child of God." In his arms alone can we find a peace that lasts in every season of life.
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