In our alumni newsletter, we will feature a Montreat College alum who exemplifies Montreat College’s mission in one or more areas of the following: intellectual inquiry, spiritual formation, and preparation for calling and career. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Kevin Auman ’92, professor and alumnus of Montreat, to discuss his impactful experiences as both a student and faculty member of the college.
Director of Alumni and Parent Relations
When did you attend Montreat College, and what did you study?
I came in January of 1988, and I finished in May of 1992. We didn’t have a communication degree like we do now, so I got a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in communication and a minor in cross cultural studies and music. Today I serve as Associate Professor of Music Business at Montreat College.
What extracurricular activities/sports were you involved in?
I took music classes and I also played in a band that was called The Few. I was involved in everything all the time! I received a Campus Life Service Award when I was here, which was given to a student who does a lot of volunteering. I was the president of the Student Honor Court, which was a student court before which students who committed an honor offense (like cheating on a test) would go. I started a debate club called the Veritas Society, and I was also involved in student government.
Did your band play here on campus, or was it just for fun?
It was a little of both. We played primarily for students here. We played rock n’ roll, not worship music, and I played the guitar. One of the guys, Tommy Allen, went on to become a minister, and our drummer was from Brazil. I’m not sure where the rest of the band is now.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
Don King, for sure, and also Rich Gray. Don King really brought literature alive for us. I saw Don as an example of what real scholarship was like; at that time he was building his career as a scholar. Rich Gray was hands-on with helping me to become a good writer, and he spent a lot of time with me. For my senior thesis I was able to write a novella, and Rich helped me walk through it. It was a long process. I never published it, but I think I can still go back to it and turn it into something. Don and Rich were very influential in the direction I was headed. Brad Daniel was a young professor who just arrived here, fresh out of his master’s program. He had such an impact on me because he taught Worldview classes. That’s exactly what I wanted; to learn how to be a Christian in this world (not just a minister or a missionary), and what that looked like. Brad really helped me think about that, and it was very challenging. He would challenge you no matter what was your world view. You had to be able to support it and think it through, and I had never been in an environment like that before. And even though I was coming in with a new Christian world view, it wasn’t okay for me to just say “I’m a Christian.” I had to be able to support it, and believe it myself
What is your favorite memory of Montreat?
I met my best friend here, Matt Auten ’91. He was a musician and a guitar player. We were both learning to play fingerstyle guitar and write music together. We spent late nights trading songs, and playing and listening to music. Talking about music is my favorite! He’s gone now; he passed away. But it was a rich friendship that lasted the next 30 years of our lives. We always lived in proximity to each other, and we were very close to each other’s families. That would have never happened if I didn’t come to Montreat. I had many other meaningful friendships, too. Matt was one of many, that came out of those nights in the dorm playing music.
You said you were writing music. Was it secular or Christian music?
I am more of a composer than a songwriter; I have only written a few things with lyrics in them. Matt was writing lyrics from the very beginning and we did some of that together, but my contribution was always music. We were learning to write music that reflected our faith, and was informed by our faith. It wasn’t worship music, but music that is rooted in and speaks to a life of faith without being expressly meant for the church. How can we write music that can stand with other musical genres? There’s the Christian music world that we listened to and were fed by, but we were thinking: who is writing out there in the big wide world about music that is informed by faith that can stand up with other music? That was a huge thing that Matt ended up doing. He became a professional musician and released three albums that fell into that category.
That reminds me a bit of the band Switchfoot, because they’re not just pigeonholed into the contemporary Christian rock category.
Exactly. Matt and I worked together and I produced some of the music. He ended up on the same record label with which I was working at the time, but the conversations and thoughts started here at Montreat. It circled back to the question of what does it mean to be a Christian in the world? How does your life, your work, and your faith show itself? That all started here, in and out of classes and conversations with faculty. We had a wonderful chaplain here that anybody from that era may remember, Calvin Thielman. He has a lecture series named after him. Late one night Matt and I had a conversation with Calvin at his house on Montreat Road. He stayed up past his 7:30 p.m. bedtime talking to us about how to live out the Gospel and spur a revival in our community. All of that happened at Montreat.
How did attending Montreat as a student most impact you?
It was learning to think critically and being pressed to do that, which helped us to understand how to think Christianly. We learned to understand what it means to do every kind of thing in this world: to be an engineer, a business person, or a doctor. What does it mean if you are a follower of Christ in that role? When I first became a Christian, my assumption was that I’m only going to be a pastor or a missionary. Yet when I came here I realized that everyone should be all in, in whatever you do and with your specific gifts. This sent me on a path to set me up for the rest of my life, to this very day. It changed my life in a really substantial way.
Tell us a little bit about your path in life since you graduated from Montreat?
Don King was contacted about a position with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in their broadcasting department, and they wanted to hire a young promising student. He told them about me and I went and interviewed. I was hired before I graduated, working part time in Broadcasting. When I graduated I was working full time for BGEA in broadcasting. I did that for the next 10 years, and I also became a production director for them. Afterwards I left to start my own production company, and I worked for Silent Planet Records. I was already been involved in the music world, and I had been a music director for BGEA radio stations. I had come to understand all the workings of copyrights and licenses in that world, as well as producing concerts and live events. Then I went directly into the music business in the Asheville area and did that for many years. In 1999 I was contacted by Montreat College to help start teaching courses in audio production, and then over time they decided to start Music Business degree. I agreed to take on a course here and there, and then I decided to teach here full time. Now my title is music business program director.
Do you still play music?
Yes, but I had a serious injury two years ago to two of my fingers. They were shattered while I was working on a project with students. We were moving boulders and one crushed my hand. I didn’t think I would ever play again, but I have recovered about 85% and I can play pretty well now.
Do you play for pleasure, or do you have a band on the side?
No, I don’t have a band on the side. Most of my playing is with the students. I have two rock ensembles and I often play with them or demonstrate for them here at the college. I am still writing music and I’ll begin recording in the next year or so.
What is most impactful in your role as a Montreat College professor?
The number one thing is having the privilege to come to work here with some of the faculty that had an influence on me as a student. During the first few years that I was teaching, Don King was teaching here full time, and Rich Gray and Brad Daniel were here. They mentored me as a faculty member; the same people who impacted me as a student also impacted me as a professor by guiding me as I taught my students. That had a massive impact on me. Faculty like Dottie Shuman and Mark Lassiter who have been here for a long time really helped to mentor and teach me. I experienced what it is to love one another as faculty, and to create an environment of care between faculty, which isn’t typical at colleges and universities. There’s usually a lot of politics, pushing, and elbowing trying to get ahead, but that isn’t true here. It’s because the heritage has been passed down by people like my former professors who set a standard. The respect, dignity and ways they care for one another is what I experienced as a student from my faculty, and now I realize they were also giving that to one another. Montreat College nurtures its students because we have an environment where the faculty truly care for one another. I try really hard to carry that torch now that I’m one of the older people, and carry it forward because that’s really important to me.
What pearls of wisdom would you offer to other alumni of Montreat College?
We were given quite a gift to be here, and it’s our job to pass that on. The kind of care that we were given as students here by faculty, it’s now our job to pass that on to younger people no matter what is our profession. Remember what you were given, and know that now it’s your turn. You can do what was done for you!
Is there anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t cover?
I am still friends with a lot of people from my era who settled here, and they are very involved with the community. That’s an interesting thing that came out of that late 80s and early 90’s when I was here. It was a really strong group that ended up having an impact in this valley. There are many alums who are now at retirement age and beyond. It’s a wonderful and special thing to have that kinship.