June 10, 2023

It was another normal Tuesday afternoon rehearsal for California Baptist University’s New Song Choir.

As 80 young women eagerly waited for the next song cue to perform for the small classroom audience, the room became still and faces turned confused as their conductor asked the small audience to exit the classroom and the choir to take a seat.

Dr. Steve Betts, associate dean of the Collinsworth School of Music and professor of music, explained to the choir and piano students that he would not be returning to CBU in the upcoming fall semester.

He received an offer for a position as the dean of humanities at Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma and accepted. He explained how much he loved his students and CBU, but he felt this was a great opportunity to which God was calling him to pursue.

Betts has worked at CBU for four years and has been the associate dean of the School of Music for three years. He also teaches music courses and is a piano instructor.

Betts had to start somewhere to get to where he is today, and it all started through his love of music.

“The place I heard music the most was at church as a child, and when I was 8, my dad’s sister got an old piano because she always wanted to take lessons, and they could not afford it,” Betts said. “So after a year, she decided to get a better piano for herself, so I asked my dad if we could buy her old beat-up piano. So that was the start of it.”

Betts said he played the piano from third grade through high school and often played for churches, which influenced him to major in music in college. His career goal was to become a piano teacher.

Betts earned his bachelor’s degree in piano performance at MidAmerica Nazarene College, his master’s degree in piano pedagogy at Wichita State University and his Ph.D. in music education and piano pedagogy at the University of Oklahoma.

While going to school, Betts was not only married but held multiple jobs, such as a music intern and orchestra director for a church and piano teacher for children. While studying for his doctorate, he commuted from Kansas to Oklahoma for a year because he did not want to give up his positions at work.

Before coming to CBU, Betts taught at Louisiana State University for four years and Southern Nazarene University for 10 years. He has been conducting since he was 22.

“I think he is a true leader,” said Angela Brand, associate professor of music. “He really is in all senses of the word. He is kind, he is compassionate, but he sees the big picture. He sees everything and works really hard, and he wants to help people do their best and that is the mark of a great leader and that is him.”

Although Betts is first and foremost a teacher at CBU, he is also seen by his students as something more.

“I refer to him as a second father; he is like having a dad at school,” said Meghan Hawkes, junior keyboard accompanying major. “He is quite possibly the most influential person that I have had outside of my family and probably in my entire life, both personally as a Christian, and especially musically, he has really shaped me.”

CBU prides itself on its Christian values, and faculty are asked to model their faith for students.

“He is just a wonderful man of God,” said Breeanna Theilacker, junior music composition major. “He is just the perfect example. We all strive to be like Christ in our life, and he is the perfect example of someone who is already achieving that.”

Betts said leaving CBU was a difficult decision and sacrifice, but he has received reassurance from not only himself, but from God, as well.

“I’m guessing I have fulfilled my purpose here because God is moving me, and I am trusting that is the case,” Betts said. “I’ve tried to be obedient and do the best job I can, and I guess I’m just trusting that is what he has planned for me.”

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