Dr. Randy McCaulley, a well known figure in the Perry community, will launch his Christian music ministry Sunday, April 2 at 6 p.m. at the Perry Bible Church on Iowa Highway 141 at 12th Street in Perry.
McCaulley — or “Doc,” as he is universally known — is a three-term Perry City Council member and former superintendent of the Perry Community School District. In retirement he has been an energetic civic booster, and all proceeds from his April 2 concert will support the Meals from the Heartland project.
The Sunday concert will be the first of many for Doc, who has been led to his musical ministry by faith alone. He recently explained the genesis of his mission in a brief dialogue with ThePerryNews.com.
TPN: Please tell us about your musical background, Doc. At what age did you start playing, and what was your first instrument?
Doc: I started on the piano at age 9 or 10. I was not real interested in practicing, however. At age 11, I began lessons on the trombone, and that became my main musical interest. I eventually quit my piano lessons at age 13. I enjoyed the trombone, and I especially enjoyed playing in the jazz band. That is where I learned the art of improvisation, which I enjoyed very much. Improvisation is basically creating a solo on the spot out of the chords or music that is being played. That ability served me well when I returned to the keyboard in college.
In college, a friend of mine who had played bass in our high school jazz band wanted to start a rock band, and he wanted me to play both the keyboards and trombone. I had barely touched a piano in years, so I told him I would have to really practice. He said, “Just learn all of the chords, and you will be fine.” It wasn’t quite that simple, but I did learn everything I could about chord structure and even took a piano music class at UNI, where I was attending school.
We found a guitar player and drummer on campus, and soon we were a rock band. We practiced several times a week. I used all of my meager savings to purchase a Leslie amplifier, a Wurlitzer electric piano and a compact organ. I still had my trombone, too, and we all bought into the sound system and purchased microphones. We took turns as lead singers and backup singers on the songs. I learned how to improvise on the keyboards, and we started playing at dances and at bars during the second semester. My friend ended up returning to our hometown of Oskaloosa, so that ended our rock band that first year. However, I absolutely loved playing music, so I joined an existing rock band the next year and played keyboards and did vocals for them. I just phased out the trombone and ended up playing in another rock band during my college life, too. It was a great experience for me and gave me some spending money in college. I never would have predicted that I would end up playing in rock bands when I set off for college. I fully intended to continue my cross country and track interests at UNI, but music won out, and really I am glad that it did.
TPN: How has the last year gone of practicing, getting an act together and so forth? Please tell us what you’ve been doing all year.
Doc: It has been a very interesting year. Last spring I announced that I would be retiring again, this time from the Perry Lutheran Home, and I did retire at the end of May 2016. I still do a few things for the Lutheran Home as a volunteer, but I knew that God wanted me to pursue music in a more meaningful way. So I purchased a lot of equipment that I would need to have for a Christian music ministry. I got everything that I needed in June 2016. But in July, just as I was preparing to get serious about putting together my song list and practicing, I had a health issue. It really knocked me for a loop, and I barely touched my keyboard until sometime in late September.
So I started practicing in earnest in October. I had several original songs that were not quite finished, so I worked to complete those songs in October and November. And I selected the other contemporary Christian songs that I wanted to share in my Christian music ministry. By the end of December, I had my song list complete, and I had outlined the faith stories from my life that I wanted to share with others. But I still had tons of work to do yet.
In January, I met with a guy, Brandon Clark, who has been in the music business for years and knows it inside and out. He left the music life to become an attorney who specializes in everything that is involved in a music business. He was very helpful to me and helped me formulate what needed to be done. I knew that I wanted to record a CD of my original music and other contemporary Christian music. So the first step was to find a recording studio. Brandon recommended Sonic Factory Studios in Des Moines, and they have been great to work with on my CD. But I was pretty naïve regarding all that is involved. I had to get what is known as a mechanical license to record music that is not mine. I hired a photographer, Jon Jamison, and a graphic artist, Rachel Tendall, for the CD cover and other parts to the CD. In addition, I am copyrighting my original music.
Next, I hired musicians. I have been blessed with four musicians with ties to me that volunteered to help out. Jerry Peoples from my church is a great and well-known saxophonist, and he plays on a couple of the songs. And two ladies from my church, Michelle and Breanna Peneger, along with my daughter-in-law, Christa, sang on one of the songs also. And the studio musicians on my CD are truly some of the best musicians in central Iowa. The two engineers at Sonic Factory are also outstanding at what they do. So it has taken since early January until now to be close to completing the CD and getting copies made (from a printing and distribution company). We are uploading the music next week to the company and if all goes as planned, I should have my CDs in time for my April 2 debut.
TPN: What is the plan going forward? Will there be a summer tour?
Doc: Well, that is all to be determined. I am a small-time musician, so I will not be going on any summer tour. But I do hope to be playing in a lot of churches throughout Iowa from this point forward. I have an April engagement at a church in Oskaloosa, and I hope to be playing many more places in May and throughout the summer. Eventually, I hope to bring my Christian music ministry to private Christian schools and Christian colleges, in addition to churches. I am leaving that up to the Lord’s direction. I do have a booking agent — Merrilee Bales — who will be calling places on my behalf also.
You know, God brought me to this point in my life, and I will trust Him to lead me as He sees right. God had been putting on my heart and mind to do this Christian music ministry for a long time, and I kept refusing to do so. I knew that it would involve a significant amount of money, time and work to do this, but God kept coming back to me. So I finally told Him, “Yes, I will do this.” Now I am excited about it, and I am ready to get started. This ministry is all about God, His Kingdom and His Glory. This music ministry is not about me.
TPN: Please tell us what we can expect to see at your show. What has brought you to this ministry?
Doc: Well, my program is about 70 minutes. I will be performing six well known contemporary Christian songs, and I will be performing six of my original songs. Some of the songs that I will perform will be just me on the keyboard and me singing. But on some of the songs, I will be using the recorded backup vocals and music provided by the other instruments as I perform my own vocals and keyboards. The engineers at the studio just take out my vocals and keyboards from the recorded CD, so I can perform live with the musicians on my CD. I just have to plug the recording into my sound system. It sounds complicated, but everyone tells me it really isn’t.
Throughout my program, I will be sharing some faith stories from my life that have had a significant impact on me and where I am now. It is an important part of the Christian message that I am sharing. So it is a blend of Christian music and faith stories from my life, and it will all hopefully fit together to bring an important Christian message to others.
TPN: Doc’s Meals from the Heartland fundraising concert will be Sunday, April 2 at 6 p.m. at the Perry Bible Church on Iowa Highway 141 at 12th Street in Perry.