By Aren Rennacker
As a kid, Roy Ice didn't like the piano. He wasn't too fond of the accordion either. The guitar was okay, but it lacked something. It wasn't until a high school friend introduced him to another instrument that he finally fell in love. "The moment I picked up those drum sticks, I knew that was my instrument," he recalls.
What began as an interest became an obsession. Without a drum kit, Ice would play on bar stools and upside down trash cans for practice. Once he got his own set, he couldn't pull himself away. At one point, he was playing nearly 40 hours a week, with blistered hands to prove it.
It was in 1996 that the obsession paid off. As a seminary student at Andrews University, Ice and fellow student Tim Gillespie—now a pastor at Loma Linda University Church—began holding auditions for a Christian band. After adding two members and the name The Electric Fisherman, they began writing music. Over two Sundays, they wrote 15 songs.
With performance opportunities trickling in, the group needed to determine their precise purpose. "We knew it had to be more than just entertainment," Ice says. Recent studies had revealed teenagers' difficulty understanding God's grace, and they felt convicted to bridge the gap. Helping young people understand the nature of grace became the message of their music. With that also came a new band name: Big Face Grace.
With the duties of a developing band added on to their seminary studies, multi-tasking became vital. While traveling to shows, their 12-passenger van became a practice studio. They plugged amplifiers into cigarette lighters, removed the benches to fit Ice's drums, and had Gillespie drive so he could sing. Neighboring motorists could hardly believe the sight.
Pulling good grades on top of that was a near magic trick. "We would return to school in the early hours of Monday morning and try to take a test or turn in homework," Ice recalls. Miraculously, all graduated. Understanding God's grace was never an issue for them.
Following graduation, their prominence grew and so did controversy. Acceptance from the Adventist church was not immediate, and many in the Midwest were unreceptive to the concept of being both contemporary and Christian. Big Face Grace was aware, and, rather than avoid the tension, made it their secondary goal to provoke discussion of whether God allowed for such a blend. Ice remembers staying focused on their purpose. "I thought, 'My job is not to create controversy, it's to create Christians.'"
After signing a record deal with True Tunes Rhythm House, the time commitment and travel increased. They went all over the United States and Canada, including several appearances at Spirit West Coast, and did two separate three-week tours in Australia. Following a two-week tour in Finland, one entertainment reviewer wrote that after watching Bon Jovi perform two days earlier, Big Face Grace was a better show.
Several of their songs reached the top ten of the Christian music charts, including one number one hit. One of their songs reached the charts after their producer made it into, of all things, a dance remix. BFG was unaware of the song's success until they saw it in a Christian music magazine.
Following one show in January 2004, the group sat at a table signing merchandise for over four hours. It was then that the members realized they had grown uncomfortable with the direction of the band. "There was a time after the shows when we were having deep conversations with kids about Jesus Christ and His grace, but the world had started to outgrow those two questions that were the founding messages we started with," Ice says.
A few days later, after lots of prayer and discussion, Big Face Grace took a performance fast. They canceled all of their upcoming shows and decided not to play again unless specifically called to by God.
Each member continued their pastoral work from there. Though spread out in different churches, they have remained close friends, even performing a few times for various benefit concerts. Reunions remind Ice of the fun he had for those eight special years. "I miss it when we get together and play," he says, "but it's a lot of work to truly do a professional performance. What I really miss is laughing so hard I never had to do a sit-up."
Ice's time as the talented drummer of Big Face Grace will always bring a smile to his face, and a moment of pride. "My proudest moments aren't the hits or a song solo or a place we performed," Ice remarks, "I'm most proud of the fact that we generated discussion. I feel like we made a difference."
You can now book Albion reservations online! Gibby, Wil, and the rest of the team suggest that you make the most of Albion cabins and other facilities during the lovely summer months. Did you know that you can view the Albion bird list, check out the photo gallery, or learn more about special workshops — all at puc.edu/albion? To reserve online, go to puc.edu/albion/reserve.
John McDowell and Maria Rankin-Brown served as judges for the Jessmyn West Creative Writing Contest, sponsored by Napa Valley College. A reading and reception for the award winners was held on May 13.
On April 27, Charo Caballero-Chambers and Sylvia Rasi Gregorutti participated in a literary luncheon in Corte Madera with Chilean novelist Isabel Allende (author of House of the Spirits and many others). Allende read from her most recent novel, Island Beneath the Sea, set in Haiti and New Orleans during the 18th century. Among the topics discussed after the reading were issues in translation, bilingualism, and Allende's development as a writer. In May, Sylvia took students completing the Beginning Italian sequence on the yearly field trip to Little Italy (North Beach) in San Francisco. Their explorations included the Nuova Porziuncola, a jewel-like replica of St. Francis of Assisi's famous chapel; Biordi Art Imports, where they viewed hundreds of colorful Italian maiolica ceramics and participated in a question-and-answer session in Italian with the owner; lunch at the Steps of Rome; the church of Saints Peter and Paul, where Marilyn Monroe married homeboy Joe DiMaggio; and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's landmark bookstore, City Lights Booksellers & Publishers.
At their departmental colloquy on May 20, the nursing department welcomed Terry Newmyer, president and CEO of St. Helena Hospital, who spoke about health care today and the Adventist Health system.
Alexander Carpenter recently spent two days shooting five episodes at the GC offices for the Hope TV show "Intersections: Your Faith, Your World."
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