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News

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Campaign yard signs are just one expenditure for candidates during election season.

Election finance filings are in, and Los Altos appears to be hosting a few financially lopsided races.

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Schools

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School students wear their school spirit clothing to greet their mascot Oct. 3 in celebration of being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Blach Intermediate, Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter schools ea...

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Community

Sports

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High running back Austin Johnson goes for a big gain after evading Los Altos High defensive tackle Phil Alameda in Friday’s game. Johnson scored two touchdowns for the Spartans.

After unveiling its wildc...

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Comment

Logan, McClatchie, Peruri for LASD board: Editorial

This is a crucial time for the Los Altos School District. Its leadership faces the challenge of balancing enrollment growth versus maintaining the small, neighborhood schools that make it a very popular district to attend. The district must also adap...

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Special Sections

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Tandava Waldon, left, manager of East West Bookstore on Castro Street in Mountain View, works with a customer. Waldon said the recently approved minimum-wage hike will have little impact on his business. “It’s not such a...

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Business

Delay Social Security? An easy way to decide

One of the most heatedly debated questions regarding Social Security is when to start.

You have the option of initiating benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the larger the monthly payment you will receive over your...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

Suzanne Monica Dimm Specht passed Tuesday, Sept. 9th at the age of 84. Sue was born on April 21, 1930 in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon in with a degree in Music, Sue taught in a little town called Clatskanie, Oreg...

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Travel

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening


Courtesy of Sally Brew
North Korea is home to many monuments honoring its “Dear Leaders,” left.

In August, I traveled for 11 days with MIR Corp. to North Korea, a fascinating country that is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. ...

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Stepping Out

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto


Courtesy of José Luis Moscovich
West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” is slated to open Friday night in Palo Alto and run through Oct. 26.

West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” (“The Troubadour”) is scheduled to open this weekend...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Stanford scholar examines commercialization of Christian rock

Based on his study of the booming Christian music industry, a Stanford University professor determined that the commercialization of Christian rock might be undermining its spiritual purpose.

Every Sunday around the country, pastors use Christian-themed rock music to engage their parishioners. Sounding much like standard top-40 pop-music fare, these scripture-based tunes are also becoming more popular on the radio and with consumers.

However, as popular Christian worship music gains a larger audience, Ari Kelman, associate professor of education at Stanford, has uncovered a surprising paradox: The very musicians, songwriters and music producers who create the music are increasingly sensitive to the relationship between rock music and worship.

Kelman, director of a new doctoral program in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education that integrates education and Jewish studies, found that evangelical musicians, like any other musical artists, aim to make the very best music they can. They hope their music will “at best, lead people in prayer, and at least, not mislead them,” he said.

The secularization of religious music

But it is this decidedly secular approach to music production that causes industry professionals who produce spiritual music to question the role that worship songs have assumed in the church.

Through the course of his research, Kelman learned that these specialized musicians feel they are embracing a secular culture that threatens to undermine the “prayerful purpose” of the music.

Kelman, whose current research focuses on the intersection of religion and pop culture, interviewed more than 75 songwriters, worship leaders and music producers and participated in numerous workshops and conferences on worship music.

Songwriters and performers “ultimately hope that the sacred purpose will trump the music’s secular origins,” he said. “The music ends up echoing with both sacred and secular overtones – one never trumps the other.”

But Kelman quotes Martin Smith, lead singer and primary songwriter of the Christian rock band Delirious, as saying, “As the genre of worship music developed into something more popular, it lost focus. We’ve become too song focused and, in truth, we need to become more worship focused.”

Kelman points to Bob Kauflin, a longtime Christian songwriter and teacher, as an example of someone who creates worship music yet is fully aware of the power of worship music to derail spiritual aims.

According to Kauflin, music is a gift from God to deepen and develop the relationship with Him.

However, when the song “becomes an idol … when the performer becomes the mediator … when people can’t worship God unless the music sounds a certain way, when they can’t worship God unless they sing these certain songs,” then the songwriters “have messed it up,” he added.

Kelman underscored the powerful role that musicians and music producers assume in faith practices.

“If people sing their faith, then those who write, perform and produce this music” become central to worship performance and practice, he said.

Worship songs, Kelman noted, seek to model a “heavenly version of prayer” derived from Christian scripture. They attempt to deliver theology while leading the audience through a performance by listening and singing along to a scriptural message.

Exploring the music, prayer connection

Kelman said he first envisioned his project as a reflection on what “the connection was between music and prayer, and the feeling of transcendence or powerful presence that music often evoked” in him.

Kelman, who is Jewish, grew up attending synagogue, where he first encountered music in a religious setting. However, he described the experience as less inspiring than attending rock concerts, where “often great, inspiring and uplifting things” happened.

Kelman developed an interest in worship music through his research on synagogues. He discovered that when he asked Jewish people about their music, they would often reply, “It’s spiritual” or “It’s so meaningful.”

However, personally, the music didn’t impress Kelman as “particularly interesting or innovative.” So he began thinking, “Who in the world is asking questions about music and spirituality in sophisticated ways?” This, Kelman explained, “led me to church.”

Kelman did not set out to debunk any widely held myths about evangelical culture. However, he encountered some, nonetheless.

“Lots of people have said to me, ‘Oh, you must have to listen to such terrible music,’” he said.

But he maintains that “much of the music is really good.”

Kelman’s research on evangelical worship music culture will be presented in his forthcoming book, tentatively titled “Shout to the Lord: Music and Worship in Evangelical America.”

Ashley Walters is a doctoral student in Jewish history at Stanford University. For more information on the humanities at Stanford, visit humanexperience.stanford.edu.

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