by Andrea Towns
CLEVELAND, Ga., (TMNews) – A junior Music major, with a concentration in Composition, Phillip Arthur Simmons has a fervent passion for music and a zeal to serve the Lord and others.
With a love for music deeply rooted in years of hard work and preparation, that seventeen-year investment has bloomed into a servant heart saved by grace. “It hasn’t always been an easy path to travel. Trials are a part of the life of the born again believer, but I thank God for each trial I have encountered,” Simmons said.
The common ground of music
One of Simmons favorite aspects of this art is the fact that music forms a common ground on which all people can relate. His personal recognition fuels his desire to write. Simmons shares: “[I] love that music is the aural manifestation of every emotion ever felt by man. It is a channel to communicate mourning, joy, love, pain, anger, victory, defeat. It unites mankind through time and distance. It makes people smile.”
During his time at TMC, Simmons has presented several original compositions, two of which are consecutive movements in a Requiem Mass that he is currently writing.
“The theme of the requiem is the sanctity of life,” Simmons said. “It uses the traditional Latin text and movements of the Requiem Mass. It is meant to call attention to the wrongness of abortion.”
The first movement, which described the tragedy of abortion, was presented at his student recital in the fall of 2013. The second movement he presented fall 2014, which was in light of the horror of our sins against humanity. The piece was a cry to God for mercy with liturgical text dating back to the fifteenth century tied to a modern intention.
An overwhelming grace
At the core of his love for music, people, and purpose in life, is his relationship with the Lord. Simmons shared his personal testimony that speaks of blessings, trials, and thankfulness: “I grew up in a Christian family,” he said. “I’ve been involved in a church body since I was born. God has blessed me immensely in that. However, a very real issue for anybody who grows up in that situation is the danger of not realizing the need for God’s grace and mercy.”
Simmons, although raised with an understanding of the Bible, did not know God’s true forgiveness until he was a high school freshman.
“I remember praying to God that He would become my focus and that the life I lived would glorify Him,” Simmons shared. “From that time onward God gave me a thirst for His word. I desired to learn more, not for the sake of knowledge, but because I wanted an intimate relationship with the almighty God.”
What inspired your love for music and composing?
“My parents started me on private piano lessons when I was three years old. Music has been a part of my life from nearly the very beginning. I loved playing the piano and listening to music as a child. I remember one evening when I was five years old watching Star Wars (The Empire Strikes Back) for the first time with my family. What immediately stood out to me was the music. At that young age I didn’t quite comprehend the idea of what a composer was, but I knew that I wanted to be able to make sounds like that. From that time I have had a passion for creating music of my own. I would listen to music and then reproduce it by ear on the piano. It wasn’t until I was eleven that I started composing. My first written compositions were very elementary because I hadn’t had any training in composition. During my teenage years, I began to study orchestral scores of my favorite composer and learn how to write efficiently for the orchestra. Until I came to Truett-McConnell I was a self-taught composer. It has been a joy to grow in my musicianship and knowledge of composition since my childhood.”
What led you to TMC?
“It came time for me to apply to colleges in my later high school years and I was trying to find a good school that would teach me to be a film composer. I applied to the music school at UGA and had been accepted to the college of music on one of their highest scholarships. Shortly after I received my acceptance from the music school I learned that I was denied admission by the admissions department. Slightly worried, I began to review my other options. Georgia Southern and Georgia State had also been some of my choices. During this time someone suggested looking into Truett-McConnell. I had never heard of Truett and was a little skeptical. I looked up some information on the school and discovered that I had a few acquaintances that attended Truett. I booked an audition date for the department of music. As soon as I arrived on campus I felt God telling me that I belonged here. That was even further confirmed after I had spoken with some faculty. They were so inviting and really communicated that they cared about the academic and spiritual growth of their students. I was accepted to the school and came in the fall of 2012. I have been blessed in every year here at Truett and I am so thankful for the impact this school has had on my life.”
How do you hope to apply the knowledge gained here at TMC?
“In the profession that I hope to enter into I will have the opportunity to be the light of Christ in what is normally a dark place. Having been trained in music and in evangelism I will be able to bridge the two and use them to be a witness for the kingdom of God.”
As a rising senior, what are your plans after graduating?
“After I graduate I plan to pursue a master’s degree in scoring for film and visual media in Dublin, Ireland. I hope to become a film composer and work with orchestras from all over the world.”
How have you seen the Lord use music to share the gospel?
“Music is significant to the believer and the lost alike. By using music, a connection is instantly opened between any group of humans. In my own life this has made people accessible for me to talk to about their beliefs on the gift of music and whether they see it as a gift from God or a work of their own accord. This presents a perfect opportunity to share the gospel. I have also recently been on a mission trip to the UK with the TMC Chorale. Part of our mission trip was sharing the gospel through music. We sang songs of our faith to the public who otherwise would’ve never heard the message of the gospel. I very strongly believe that music is a very effective tool for sharing the gospel. Everybody loves music.”
What is the Lord doing in your life now?
“The Lord is blessing me beyond anything I deserve. I have had so many opportunities recently to use my skills as a composer. God is making clear to me the call on my life to write music for His glory. He has opened doors to things that I never would have thought possible. I am so thankful for the joy I have in God and being able to see quite clearly His hand guiding my life.”
Simmons reflects on his journey and states, “I thank God for opening my eyes to see my need for His redemptive work and I pray the He will craft me more into His image until the day I die and see His face.”
Andrea is a junior English major and a freelance writer for TMC.
Legacy by Phillip Arthur Simmons
“This inspiration behind the piece is the discovery and forward progress of the NASA program during the 1960s.”