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Musician’s outreach site uses integrated approach
Douglas Yeo, Trombonist
Douglas Yeo is a Bass Trombonist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra Faculty, New England Conservatory of Music, Boston University College of Fine Arts.
Doug has used his musical background to create a Bridge Strategy evangelistic site in which his faith blends naturally and with integrity into a comprehensive site which is genuinely useful at a musical level. He has kindly written for us an explanation of the ethos and scope of his outreach site. These insights are very valuable to anyone planning any type of evangelistic outreach.
While the Internet seems to be a ubiquitous force in the lives of a growing number of people, it was not always so. In 1996, Stan Oakes, then President of Campus Crusade for Christ’s Christian Leadership Ministries, challenged me to develop a website which would combine excellence in my field, music, with my Christian faith. At that time, the Internet was still relatively new and there were few models to work with. But with my experience writing articles and books, the support of CLM and the help of a talented graphic designer, I caught on to the possibilities of the internet, realizing how powerful a force it could be in reaching people with the Gospel. My site has far exceeded expectations and has grown to be my primary teaching tool, with over 350 pages of articles and resources which are viewed by thousands of people a day. While the site has evolved over the years, its success can be attributed to fidelity to the guidelines explained below.
PurposeThe Internet has two kinds of websites: end points and intersections. I wanted to be a place where people went to get information (end point), not just another site which simply pointed people to other sites for information (intersection). Links are an important part of any site, but it is concrete information which will keep people coming back for more. Because my site is an endpoint, hundreds of other sites on the web link to my website because people know they can get what they want when they visit.
CredibilityI have often told people that the fact I play in the Boston Symphony does not guarantee people will listen to what I say, but it does mean I often can get people’s attention. What I do in the first minute of that attention is critical. When setting up my website, I let people know on the home page who I am and what I have to offer.
FocusYou can’t please everybody. If you try to be all things to all people, you may end up diluting your message and getting off-topic. My target audience is young musicians (age 16-30) who want to do what I’m doing – play in a symphony orchestra or teach other musicians. My writing style is direct but neither overly intellectual nor talking down. I keep my audience in mind at all times, talking to people regularly about what they would like to see on my site and making adjustments as needed.
DesignMy overriding design goal is to be sure anyone with any browser will be able to view my site. We must keep in mind that not everyone has a cable modem and a high resolution monitor. My site has no frames, no java, no animations, no pop-up ads. Instead, it has a clean, clear look, graphics which load quickly, and a site-specific search engine. Making sure people can actually find things they are looking for is a key element in successful design.
InformationPractical information is what draws people to my site. I talk at length about how I got where I am today, give tips on taking auditions, how to practice, how to choose an instrument and such. I have free, downloadable MP3 files from my recordings, free PDF files of music, and many photos. People download information from my site in record numbers – if you offer something for free, people will keep looking for more. In the process, they keep being confronted with your message.
IntegrationI do not want to hit people over the head with the gospel. Instead, I want to integrate my Christian faith throughout the site, drawing readers into my message through the information they want. My lead article, The Puzzle of Our Lives, is the story of my spiritual journey but it begins by talking about how I got started in music. And, because reports from my server showed I was getting a high number of hits from Japan, I had that article translated into Japanese as a way to let those readers I feel it is important for me to have something on my site in their own language. Readers find my faith woven into many articles on my site in a natural way, as I would in conversation. I want readers to understand that my Christian faith is not an “add-on” to my life but it is integral to my being. I tell people, "Trombone is not who I am, it is something I do. My Christian faith is not something I do, it is who I am.
PluralismThe life of the aspiring musician can be overly goal-oriented which leaves many young artists without a balanced life. Throughout my site I add things to encourage readers to have a more pluralistic life. I speak of my own personal fascinations with things outside music, such as the sculpture of Daniel Chester French and French gothic cathedral architecture. Each of these subjects show readers that there is more to my life than music and that a balanced life can provide better communication in music. Non-musical topics also give me opportunities to further the integration of my faith into the site; for instance, within the text accompanying photos of Daniel Chester French’s statue of Harvard University founder (Rev.) John Harvard, I make mention that French has portrayed the Puritan minister resting his right hand upon a Bible, and that Harvard’s well-known motto, Veritas (“Truth”) is an abridgment of the University’s original motto, Veritas pro christo et ecclesia (“Truth for Christ and his church”). Informative, natural flow, powerful.
AccessI encourage people who visit my site to email me. This is a huge commitment, but I manage to keep up with the high volume of email I receive because it has proven to be one of the unique things about my site and it makes a difference in people’s lives. Most other sites put together by musicians and professors do not encourage email contact. By soliciting contact, I make myself more personal to readers, and can interact with people in depth. I regularly receive messages from people who are earnestly seeking to know God, and others who are confused or even desperate. Email can be an impersonal format if you treat it that way, but it can also be a lifeline for people who have nowhere else to turn. I also participate regularly in several music related email listserve groups. This takes time, but it has proven to be a critical way of letting people know I am accessible, and my website URL appears on the bottom of every message I send. I can often respond to listserve queries by simply pointing people to an article on my website.
With the Internet being an ever-growing cesspool of garbage, sites which offer something helpful, interesting, thought-provoking, challenging and uplifting are all the more important. The integration of academic excellence with the Christian faith as I have done on my site is a way to reach the seeking, post-modern person who is looking for information on how to get ahead and may actually discover how to get a life.
related pages within the Bridge the gap & Using culture menu links
recommended books on reaching outsiders, including free downloads
valuable online videos about web ministry