Taking the Long Way In Life’s Journey

Paul Langford, '88, may have taken the long way around in his journey to OBU, but he also took the long way around in his music.

Paul came to OBU via Hong Kong, where his parents served as Southern Baptist missionaries. He entered OBU as a music major, even though he had no prior training or experience in music. "I never took lessons and didn't know how to read music. I always sang in choirs at church and school, but someone had to play my part for me a hundred times and I would just memorize it," he says.

In the spring of his senior year in high school, retired OBU faculty and staff members Dan and June Hodges visited Hong Kong, and came to have dinner with his family. "Dan was extremely kind and encouraging and gave me a lot of help in knowing what to prepare for the music entrance exams. Little did I know that he would be one of my professors and his nephew, Lane Davis, would become one of my lifelong best friends. His visit was providential, and I was able to, with the help of a musician friend, prepare just enough to pass the music entrance exams and get into the mid-level theory classes."

Paul entered OBU in 1984 with a declared major in music education. He later changed to voice performance, but when he met Michael Cox, he changed his major a third time to conducting in order to study under him "Once I caught a glimpse of this man - his vast musical knowledge, tremendous gifts of teaching and encouragement and tremendous performing skill as pianist, composer and conductor, I knew I wanted to spend as much time around him as possible. I just hoped to soak up any good thing I could." It was also at the time when Paul realized that he had quite a bit of catching up to do. "My piano skills were so limited that I could have been refused the opportunity to pursue this degree where such skills are needed. He agreed to meet with me one-on-one every day for about eight hours during almost the entire summer of 1987, between my junior and senior years. Can you believe that? He was trying to catch me up on all the stuff I had missed - learning to read music, learning to play the piano, learning to conduct, learning to understand instrumentation and rehearsal leading and so much more. I still have trouble grasping the sacrifice he made and the patience he showed."

Today, Paul is a Chicago-based singer, arranger, keyboardist, producer and conductor, with a musical career spanning 13 years. As a singer, he has performed or recorded with such greats as Kenny Rogers, Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford, GLAD, Steve Green, Larnelle Harris, Ray Boltz, David Foster, Celine Dion, and Yolanda Adams. His voice has been heard on radio and TV commercials for such companies as Ronald McDonald House Charities, Oldsmobile, L.L. Bean, Old El Paso and Nintendo.

While Paul may have taken the long way around, it seems that he has finally arrived at a place where he is comfortable. "I love a lot of different kinds of music, and I know I love doing it with people I have a good relationship with. I love my wife, Jennifer, and value our family life. How can I incorporate all of what God has given into something that serves his purposes and is enjoyable and motivating to me? I am not sure how it all adds up, but I feel certain he has brought me exactly to where I am for his good reasons and so I am just walking daily depending on Him. My continual hope and prayer is that people would be moved by my music - not just entertained. I want them to feel something deep down, whatever God is trying to say to them. I want the music to help."