Unlocking the Heart of Beauty: FOCUS’ Music Album, “Origin”

With the launch of “Origin,” FOCUS’ first-ever music album, the FOCUS Worship Team reflects on music, faith and the saving power of beauty.

The FOCUS Worship Team is a unique collective of musicians from all over the country. They contribute their musical and artistic talents primarily at FOCUS events, such as SEEK and SLS, leading the attendees through prayer and liturgy. This past fall, the team came together for an unprecedented occasion: the recording of “Origin,” the first-ever FOCUS music album.

“This past year at SEEK was an amazing experience of worship,” said Shaun Garrison, the leader of the FOCUS Worship Team. Recalling the origins of “Origin,” Shaun remembered how deeply moved he and his fellow musicians were following an evening of adoration at SEEK2015, having led nearly 10,000 people in worship. That experience sparked the inspiration for a new, exciting project.

“We thought, why don’t we go ahead and record?” said Shaun. “We should make time and space for this group of people to come together to share life, to laugh, to share meals and to create music.”

So, in October, the FOCUS Worship Team came to Buena Vista, Colorado, for a retreat and recording session. During their time of prayer and fellowship, Shaun and the core team — including Jessy Kaufman (nee Kirkwood), Leah Sedlacek and JohnMarc Skoch — joined a talented crew of additional musicians — Sonny Fortunato, Kenny Kohlhaas, Sarah Kroger, James Rosenbloom, Edwin Trahan and Tom Veitch — to record. Music producer Shawn Williams (who has worked with artists such as Sidewalk Prophets, Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban) was flown in; his experience was invaluable in helping to lead and coordinate the recording project. The album features ten tracks of timeless hymns along with original songs composed and performed by members of the team, resulting in a unique compilation of sacred, soulful music.

“Origin” is more than just an album, however. It’s a first step in a new initiative within FOCUS, one that models and encourages creativity in all its forms to witness to Christ. With the creation of “Origin,” the FOCUS Worship Team encountered in a new way the gift of beauty and its place in evangelization — especially in how the search for authentic beauty is ultimately a means of coming to God.

The Gift of Beauty

“Beauty will save the world.” These words by Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky speak to a profound truth of our faith, in that the heart and source of all beauty — God Himself — works through us in the creation of art to draw souls into contemplation and communion with Him.

“Beauty — especially in the realm of music, I think — strikes to the heart. It’s almost like it moves us to contemplation right away,” said Fr. Jay Buhman, a FOCUS national chaplain who served the Worship Team during their recording retreat. “It’s so powerful because it bypasses everything else and just goes right to the heart, where our conversion really needs to take place.”

JohnMarc Skoch, guitarist and vocalist for the FOCUS Worship Team, also connects the search for beauty to something greater than ourselves. “Beauty is something that captivates you and helps you to realize your smallness —almost your insignificance when compared with the magnitude that you’re witnessing,” he said.

As the search for and beholding of true beauty helps us gain a proper perspective on creation and our place in it, it also inspires wonder and awe in the mystery of God and His love. Speaking to beauty and faith, another vocalist, Jessy Kaufman, said, “I really love that part of art and music, in that it does take you to somewhere that cannot be explained, it takes you to the mystery of who God is.”

When art and beauty lead us into an encounter with the divine, it ultimately pushes us forward, providing new insight into how we should live our lives. Leah Sedlacek, violinist and background vocalist, put it succinctly: “The role of beauty in today’s world is calling everyone to that reflection of who we are and what are we here for.”

In these times of great violence, uncertainty and suffering, beauty has the capacity to not only remind us of the worth and significance of our lives, but it ultimately returns our hearts to what matters most: our relationship with God and His great love for His creation.

The Start of a Journey

For FOCUS, the “Origin” album serves as a hopeful step forward in the work of the New Evangelization on college campuses. Though much of life on campus is caught up in superficial forms of beauty, the pursuit and discovery of true beauty within the faith and the life of Christ is a vital means of conversion and evangelization. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said in his Letter to Artists, “Authentic beauty…unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence.”

To find out more about “Origin” and to purchase or share the album, check out focus.org/origin.

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