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Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
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“Greater Than” song releases on Spotify

Professor, students collaborate on new music

First performed in the fall of 2023, Taylor Music Collective’s “Greater Than” single was uploaded to Spotify on Feb. 24.

Since that time, it has attracted over 250 listeners on the app and nearly the same amount for its official music video, released on YouTube. Yet the song is far from finished, as Todd Syswerda, co-writer of “Greater Than,” and professor of music composition, songwriting, music technology and music theory, said.

“Now, we're in the process of recording that in some different languages,” Syswerda said. “We just (laid) vocal choral tracks in Korean … I have some people doing that right now in Spanish and Portuguese as well. So, we're seeing if we can just create some different versions of a song that has an impact.”

It’s an impact the song has held since its debut. With the song’s theme and lyrics inspired by the message of last year’s Spiritual Renewal Week, Syswerda remembers students approaching him to ask about the song’s digital release immediately following its chapel premiere.

Five months later, he delivered in full, featuring Taylor students as both the musicians and vocalists on the track.

“We all got to build off each other,” sophomore bassist Ben Gerig said. “He [Syswerda] said he wanted an opportunity for students to be creative and just to go for it.”

Syswerda’s openness allowed Gerig to develop part of the song’s bassline himself and led him to work more closely with Taylor Music Collective’s drummer, Owen Brookshire, whom he’d worked with in the past.

It also developed a sense of freedom for the song’s musicians. 

Junior Olivia Ross, an alto vocalist for the piece, described how her initial nerves dissolved throughout the recording process, allowing her to lean into the posture of worship “Greater Than” evokes. 

“There was less pressure to try to get it perfect,” Ross said. “He was very intentional about saying, ‘Okay, you can do whatever you want during this. You know, stick with the melody, but whatever your heart is saying when you think of these lyrics, do that.”

Focusing on the language of the soul allowed Ross to better focus on the meaning of the song. For her, there was peace in knowing God would provide, even through the nerves or mistakes that could take place during recording or even in her life overall.

It’s a provision Ross found ultimately in her fellow musicians. 

“Everyone was just so supportive,” she said. “And because of that, it just was a really fun experience and very encouraging. Nobody was trying to outperform anyone in any way. It was just like we're all here to worship God in this way.”

This collaborative atmosphere was important to Syswerda. 

While he was a lead songwriter, Syswerda hoped that the recording process would teach students to open their eyes to opportunities around them.

“I'm laying the foundation,” Syswerda said. “A big part of what I do here is I want people to see that, at Taylor, this is what we have the talent to do on a daily basis. We don't have to hire [an] outside group.”

That’s why he invited the film and media department to collaborate with him on the song’s music video. Rather than working with an outside source, Syswerda recognizes the potential Taylor students possess to combine their gifts and majors to develop a variety of multimedia projects.

Syswerda hopes to continue to explore those projects in his time teaching at Taylor. His goal is that students, departments and majors on campus would showcase not only Taylor’s pool of talent but also the ability of a God whose collaborative nature truly is “greater than.”

In addition to Spotify, the Taylor Music Collective’s “Greater Than” single is available to stream on Apple Music, Amazon Music and YouTube.