Alumni Evan and Jenny Owens may not have ever gone through basic training, much less served in combat, but the couple has still developed a passion for ministering to soldiers and their families. In fact, helping soldiers overcome the spiritual wounds of war has become this couple’s mission and led to them founding REBOOT Combat Recovery in 2011.
Jenny received her B.A. from Belmont in 2005 followed by a doctorate in occupational therapy, also from Belmont, in 2007. After graduating, she worked in neuro-rehabilitation at Vanderbilt and then with patients suffering traumatic brain injuries at the Warrior Resiliency and Recovery Center at Fort Campbell’s Blanchfield Army Community Hospital.
Jenny said, “I will never forget my first soldier patient. He was young, strong, handsome and totally intimidating. He seemed absolutely out of place among the wheelchairs and walkers that scattered the clinic. But, upon getting to know him, I came to recognize the invisible wounds that no less affected his mind and spirit. He was involved in a rocket attack at a gym in Iraq. It was a mass casualty situation. He dragged his workout buddy to safety before he even recognized that he was also injured. His greatest desire was to be returned to full duty and deploy, once again, with his unit to Afghanistan. But he had memory problems, trouble finding his way around, problems getting his words out, headaches and visual disturbances. Anxiety, a thing that had been completely foreign to him, bubbled under the surface… This is why REBOOT exists. This soldier is who we exist for. Because this soldier patient is one of a million like him.”
Belmont School of Music alumnus Rayvon Owen has made a name for himself on this season of “American Idol” as one of the top 4 performers in the competition. Since the beginning of the show, Owen has been wowing Idol judges and fans with his technical skills and stage presence.
Before his performance on April 22, Owen met with Idol mentor and Big Machine Records founder Scott Borchetta. Owen discussed his strategy since being in the bottom two in recent weeks of the contest and the ways he has worked to improve his performances. “It wasn’t until being in the bottom for the third time that I finally realized that you can give a good performance, but what else is there to you? It’s okay to express what you’ve gone through, your story,” Owen said. “People want to connect to that. People want to see your heart.”
With that in mind, Owen began last week with Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One” and closed with Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” ending the performance with his signature falsetto note impressing judge Jennifer Lopez. “[That high note] was a great way to finish the show – to fight. You are such a fighter, which I love about you,” Lopez said. “You are not going down. You want to be here, and you show us that with your vocal performances.”
Singer/songwriters and Belmont School of Music alumni Ginny Owens, ’97, and Andrew Greer, ’04, returned to campus on Wednesday for a chapel presentation featuring their newly released book, “Transcending Mysteries: Who is God and What Does He Want from Us?” Focusing on connecting stories from the Old Testament to personal stories from their lives, the book features chapters named from titles of Owens’s and Greer’s songs.
The duo’s chapel presentation included performances of their songs intermittently sprinkled through book excerpt readings, the way Greer said the book was designed to be read. Greer began with an excerpt from “Rescue Me,” a chapter named from his song of the same title, and described his recovery process and the challenges that came with doubting God’s love for him.
After an honest conversation with his father where he acknowledged past mistakes, Greer said he was able to rekindle knowledge of God’s welcoming and abundant love through his father’s words. “I love you, son. Not in spite of your stuff, but with all of it.” With the affirmation of his earthly father clear, the affirmation and desire to serve his Heavenly father became more and more clear.
With a focus on “coming home,” the week’s festivities included a homecoming concert featuring prominent Belmont alumni and friends, a pep rally and bonfire, a spirit walk and tower tailgate, an alumni social with special guest William Paul Young, a “Back to Blvd” celebration at Belmont Blvd. restaurants, a double header featuring both the men’s and women’s basketball teams and a canned food drive benefiting Nashville’s Second Harvest Food Bank, among others. The university’s annual Homecoming celebration includes a reunion for Tower Society members, Belmont alumni who graduated more than 50 years ago.
With a focus on celebrating’s Belmont desire to be “Nashville’s University,” the canned food drive was a staple part of this year’s Homecoming events. Faculty, staff, students and alumni were challenged to donate 1,000 canned food items to the local organization. The drive ran throughout the month of February and culminated at Saturday’s events. With more than 2,400 canned food items totaling more than 2,800 lbs., the Belmont family far exceeded its initial goal.
Belmont alumni Rayvon Owen, Cody Fry, KellyeAnn Rodgers and Piper Jones are competing on American Idol’s 14th season and last night, the four performed together in the group round as Blvd. “The really awesome thing is, we all went to college together. We’re all buddies – Belmont University!” Jones said.
Blvd performed their rendition of Idol star Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” earning high remarks from the judging panel. “It was so smart to sing that song… Really impressive… That was my favorite one today,” said Idol judge and musician Harry Connick, Jr.
Following their performance, judge Jennifer Lopez wasted no time letting Blvd know they were safe. “I’ll just keep it very short, all of you are going through to the next round,” she said.
Once safe and off stage, Fry was grateful for the opportunity to perform with his friends and fellow Belmont students. “We all went to school together, and it was a once in a lifetime musical experience to be up on that world stage, just singing with some of my best friends.”
Tune into FOX next week to watch the contestants move forward in their Idol journeys.