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Composer of “VeggieTales” brings childhood nostalgia to campus

Oklahoma Christian University brings a wide variety of professionals to campus throughout the school year. This week, Kurt Heinecke, composer of the music for VeggieTales, spoke during the music department’s monthly chapel and after a music department recital Thursday afternoon.

Chair of the Department of Music Dr. Kathy Thompson said she organized Keinecke’s visit with the music chair at Southern Nazarene University, Dr. Melissa Lewis.

“He sent a promotional video and I thought it would be a good idea if we had the budget for it, but laid it aside because I thought we couldn’t afford it,” Thompson said. “Dr. Melissa Lewis asked about a possibility of sharing expenses to bring him here. We made the arrangements together.”

Thompson said she thinks inviting professionals like Heinecke to campus is important because they bring a broader sense of their profession to students.

“I want our music majors to know about all music careers,” Thompson said. “Because we do not have a specific degree in music business or composition, I think bringing in those who have careers in those areas is imperative. I thought he communicated very well with the audience, most of whom have fond memories of VeggieTales.”

Heinecke graduated from Luther College with a bachelor’s degree in band and choral conducting. Later, while living in Chicago, he was introduced to Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, the voices of Bob and Larry in VeggieTales.

“They said, ‘we’ve got this crazy idea,’” Heinecke said. “We’re going to make talking vegetables, with no arms and no legs, tell bible stories. They went around to every major label and they had this 20 second animation they did of Larry coming to life, but nobody bought it.”

Heinecke said he likes to think it was college students from 20 years ago who were working in Christian book stores who got hooked on the show.

“A mom would come into the store and say, ‘I’m looking for a show for my kids,’ and the student would say, ‘Oh, you’ve got to check out VeggieTales,’” Heinecke said. “So that’s how it really took off.”

Due to its initial unpopularity, Heinecke said the first episode was completely self-funded.

“It was that first episode that someone at Word Records got a hold of,” Heinecke said. “That’s when they actually signed us for a deal, but it still took us a couple years  that to really take off, and from then on it was an awesome ride.”

Heinecke said his advice to current college students is to be open to all the experiences readily available while in school.

“I remember college very vividly and, trust me, what you think you’re going to be doing in 10 years, you probably won’t be doing,” Heinecke said. “You’re going to be doing some variation, something different, and using some extra skills you didn’t think you would need.”

Junior Caleb Richter said it was special to hear from Heinecke because he plays the tuba, an instrument played by Heinecke during the VeggieTales theme song.

“This is the TV show I grew up on, so it was really cool,” Richter said. “He talked about finding a job and how sometimes your major isn’t really going to work out the way you thought it would. It’s also been really interesting to hear from a guy who’s really been successful in the music industry.”

Thompson said there are several opportunities planned in the art department, such as concerts and the musical.

“Our affiliation with the Oklahoma Orchestra brings a number of fine artists to the OC Campus,” Thompson said. “Students, faculty and staff can attend most all those concerts and all concerts without charge. Our next big event is the homecoming musical, ‘The Music Man.’”

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