David S. Peck, Associate Vice President for University Relations at Azusa Pacific University, recently had an opportunity to interview Stephen Mason, a student at Azusa Pacific Online University, while on the road touring with the band “Jars of Clay.”
Question: Stephen, I understand you play the guitar. When did you start playing, and when did you know you wanted to play in a rock ‘n’ roll band?
Answer: Well, I found a ukulele in the closet at home (I guess there are much worse things to find in a family closet) when I was 11 or 12 and started playing with it. From there, I graduated to the guitar and then became interested in other instruments. Like many other aspiring musicians, I went to college to play music, met a few guys, wrote some songs and then started a band. It was successful, and I dropped out after my first year to pursue playing music with Jars. It’s now been 17 years. They say that education is lost on youth. It’s funny, because I now realize what that means.
Q: So, you’ve taken a 17‐year break from your sophomore year, playing thousands of concerts and traveling hundreds of thousands of miles. In June, you started back at Azusa Pacific Online University to finish your degree, what brought you back?
A: Being on the road, and the experience of the past 17 years has broadened my perspective, my faith, and my understanding of some responsibilities that I have. While life and our experiences challenge us to “never stop learning,” I was challenged to put some structure to what I knew, and learn the language that really formalizes my life and the experiences that I’ve enjoyed. Education can be really viewed as a privilege, and as I’ve learned it really is more of a responsibility. I owed it to myself and others, after dropping out for 17 years to go back to school and work on finishing my degree. I think that we are challenged to be lifelong learners. When we stop learning, we die.
Q: So you’re a husband, father of three, and a traveling artist. How do you balance being on the road and getting your homework done?
A: Musicians tend to have more time than they realize, and are not always the most disciplined people with their time. I quickly realized that I could spend time while on the road, on planes, in airports, hotels, and at concerts reading and then writing. It’s actually been fairly surprising to me, how much I’ve been able to get done. While at home, I’ve actually become a morning person. It’s also been something that my wife and I have been able to connect on, as we talk about different issues and some of the papers and topics that I’m reading and writing about.
Q: What have you learned about yourself, and the experiences you have had?
A: As I look back, being able to formalize my thoughts through my classes at Azusa Pacific, I’ve been able to connect the dots with my experiences that bring a sense of value and understanding to who I am. Whether it’s writing an essay on the word “Patriot,” or studying the significance of rhetoric and argumentation – these activities are providing formal language that helps me create connections that are meaningful and valuable. As an artist, many times I look at the interpretation of life through a different lens. This process is allowing me to bring meaning and understanding in a different and more powerful way.
Azusa Pacific Online University (APOU) is a separate university under the Azusa Pacific University system. Sharing the mission and values of the 112-year-old Azusa Pacific University, APOU delivers quality Christ-centered education to learners everywhere through affordable, accessible online academic programs that integrate faith and knowledge. APOU offers a Pre-Nursing Health Science Certificate, Associate of Arts, and Bachelor of Arts in Management.
This past fall, APOU partnered with Jars of Clay in a scholarship giveaway. Visit APOU’s website this week for an interview with Chelsea Cathey, one of the scholarship winners attending APOU this January.
For more information on APOU and its programs, visit www.apu.edu/apou.