The Story Behind the Fellowship – by Janet Byers
Jeff Byers was a Duke-trained, Vanderbilt dermatologist who passed away on January 9, 2021 due to hepatic hemangiosarcoma. Although his professional career was in medicine, Jeff’s primary passion and calling in life was music. This gift was nurtured from age three to sixteen by his sole piano teacher, Janell Whitby, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He played in various bands from high school into adulthood, including Mad Dog and the Hose Kings, The Executives, and The Bat Surfers (now available on streaming services). He was the musical director and pianist for the Duke Med Student Faculty Show for four years and arranged all the orchestral parts for one show entitled, “The Sound of Mucus.” He was a volunteer keyboardist for Good Shepherd UMC as well as for the Awakening Band at Brentwood UMC. In 2003 Jeff produced an album, The Hour Has Come, of original Christian songs. He also published an arrangement of the hymn “How Firm a Foundation” for choir, organ, piano, and trumpet.
Throughout his life, Jeff generously shared his exquisite musical talent. He maintained a classical repertoire at his disposal and held a deep respect for classical and baroque composers, but also emphasized joyful embellishment and creativity in his improvisations. He was known for personalized parodies, rousing Christmas caroling at parties, and family jam sessions with his children and extended family. Jeff nurtured this gift graciously and beautifully in me and in our children, who grew in their love and appreciation of music and in the joyful sharing of it.
For his birthday in December 2018, I gave Jeff a long weekend of creative solitude at Rockvale Writers’ Colony. He stayed in the Granary and was in composing heaven as he worked on original keyboard pieces and ekphrastic pieces to accompany five poems in the November 2019 issue of the Rockvale Review. In the idyllic, inspiring setting of RWC, it’s no surprise that Jeff fell in love with the place. Jeff expressed on multiple occasions his desire that he and I get involved in supporting it and my good friend, Sandy Coomer, in the future. This fellowship is one way in which I would like to honor Jeff and encourage other musicians who could use the creative milieu of RWC to create original music for others to enjoy.
We are pleased to announce the winner of the
Dr. Jeff Byers Fellowship for Musicians:
Mark’s prize includes a 1-week residency at Rockvale Writers’ Colony and a $200 stipend for food and travel.
Mark Burrows is a composer, conductor, and educator whose music is published by many major houses. His works are featured on numerous state and festival lists, and he receives multiple commissions each year for groups ranging from children’s choirs to adult ensembles to intergenerational festival choirs.
Mark loves travelling the country reminding people how amazing they are and how, together, they can do amazing things!
Mark received his undergraduate degree in music education from Southern Methodist University and his graduate degree in conducting from Texas Christian University.
Mark is currently Director of Children’s Ministries at FUMC, Fort Worth. He lives in Fort Worth with his wife Nina. And he occasionally feels sorry for himself that their daughters, Emma and Grace, have moved away to college so they can become a nurse and music therapist respectively, and save the world.
RWC is grateful to songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick, who served as the judge for this contest. He had this to say about Mark’s work:
I find Mark Burrows’ application to be excellent. The commitment to, and the passion for, creating works that enrich and nourish the soul are apparent in Mr. Burrow’s words. There is a lot of heart in this. His self-discipline is well-guided. To know that you can’t always wait for inspiration but, rather, must go in search of it through hard work and determination is key to reaching a finish line in creative pursuits. His understanding of that is to be commended.
I believe his project, “And On Earth Peace,” is worthy of support. There is no question that the desire to create a work of excellence is there and the contribution that the Fellowship donates will, no doubt, afford him the opportunity to focus his efforts on developing this project and help it reach its full potential.
Most people know Wayne Kirkpatrick from his 1996 Grammy Award winning song of the year, “Change The World”, recorded by Babyface and Eric Clapton. What you may not know is that Wayne has had over 200 songs recorded in the last 30 years. He has enjoyed Pop, Country, R&B and CCM success with songs such as “Every Heartbeat” and “Good For Me” by Amy Grant, “Place In This World” by Michael W. Smith, as well as recordings by Don Henley, Wynonna, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, Tyler Hilton, Gabe Dixon, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Joe Cocker and The Wreckers (My, Oh My).
Wayne solely wrote Garth Brook’s single “Wrapped Up In You” and penned the song used in the Garth Brooks’ Dr. Pepper commercial. He is also a writer on Bonnie Raitt’s singles “I Can’t Help You Now” and “I Will Not Be Broken” as well as “Take My Love With You” from her Grammy award winning Slipstream album and had the first single from her album, Dig in Deep, entitled “Gypsy in Me.” He has produced and written on 3 Little Big Town records, yeilding such top ten hits as “Boondocks”, “Bring it on Home”, “A Little More You” and “Little White Church”.
His songs have been featured in movies, including Almost Famous, Phenomenon and Bruce Almighty, as well as TV shows, such as Grey’s Anatomy, Hart of Dixie, True Blood and Nashville. His song, When You Act, was written for and featured on an episode of the Netflix original series, Julie’s Greenroom, and was performed by Julie Andrews and Alec Baldwin.
Wayne is also co-creator and co-composer/lyricist of the Broadway musical, Something Rotten! which was nominated for 10 Tony awards. He wrote songs for the Warner Bros. animated feature, Smallfoot, and he is a composer/lyricist for Mrs. Doubtfire, The Musical, his second Broadway production which is opening in London’s West End next year.
Wayne was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for 2018.
A long time game enthusiast, he is also co-writing/producing/directing a documentary about the History of Board Games, which is on-going.