Ken Steorts, founder of Visible Music College in Memphis, TN, started out by leading worship at his church, with a background in music production and pop music. Soon he was touring as a young professional in the Christian music industry. While working in Christian music, Ken saw a lot of young bands trying to integrate a college experience, church, and a Christian worldview. The dream of Visible Music College started when Ken imagined a place that teaches Christian musicians both discipleship and edgy, modern music in an educational setting.
In 2000, Visible started as a one-year program. Today, Visible offers accredited bachelor degrees in music, music production, and music business, with sites in Memphis, Chicago, Dallas, and Germany. The dream is to reach the west and east coasts, and eventually, around the world to plant sites that continue the vision of “academic modern music training that doesn’t feel like it.” The current buzz of excitement at Visible is around their “2020 by 2020” plan, an ambitious and exciting vision to serve 2020 people in the year 2020.
Essentially, Visible has reimagined education for its students –– a unique community of musicians, innovators, and artists. Ken describes Visible as the “best of music, discipleship, and education.” It is a highly relational model of education, as the students of Visible live and study music and ministry together daily. Their website states, “At Visible Music College, you aren’t learning to be an artist. You are an artist, learning.” Another good distinctive of the school is their non-profit record label, Madison Line Records. Madison Line is a distinctly practical outworking of the vision of the school, and many bands work with Madison Line Records.
Like the city of Memphis itself, it’s very clear that Visible Music College was founded on an entrepreneurial spirit. Visible was notably and intentionally based in Memphis (not Nashville or LA), in a city with an attitude, with an incredible music history, the influence of blues and rock ‘n’ roll, and a certain indie-like grit. It is a city steeped in musical talent, much of it the result of black and white music coming together 50-60 years ago. It’s also a divided and poor city. When Ken’s vision for Visible started to come together, he thought, “Let’s do it in Memphis and make it real, relational, a place where all genres are welcome. And as soon as we can, we’ll have our students teach music to kids in the inner city, invested in the very community in which they’re learning.” Ken’s vision was that their students would profoundly embody the name itself ––“Visible,” being seen in and of the community.
In a city at a crossroads of urban, folk, gospel, and rock, Visible is a school with relatively low-cost private education. Mindful of the investment that private education requires, Visible has several programs for students coming from under-resourced communities. Every student can begin working in the school to gain professional experience while earning their degree. This provides a great opportunity for practical and affordable learning and experience in an academic environment. Visible also has a scholarship program where every student is offered $3,000, which is offset by work hours in the school. “As long as you keep your grades up,” Ken says, “There are opportunities to gain valuable experience on campus, with professional development objectives, and earn $3,000.”
At the heart of Visible Music College is Christian Community Development. They proudly serve and love the city of Memphis. Visible is also playing an active role in the education reform happening in Memphis. They are excited to be able to invest in and give back to Memphis through their students. Ken Steorts says discipleship changed his life, through a pastor who believed in him. That is, essentially, the heartbeat of Visible Music College: transforming the lives of their students by discipling and empowering them –– as musicians, artists, leaders, but especially, as followers of the living and creative God.
CCDA is excited to have Ken serving on the Memphis Host Team as we look toward the 2015 National Conference in Memphis, Nov. 11-14. Ken and a team from Visible will be heading up conference production and Stage II. We are so grateful for their willingness to serve CCDA in this way and look forward to being with them in the city they are so proud to call home.