Lee Alumni Duren And Nitz Win GMA Dove Award

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - by Charity Parris, Lee University
Cliff Duren
Cliff Duren

Lee University alumni Cliff Duren and Phil Nitz have received a Gospel Music Association Dove award for musical/choral collection of the year for their work on “For The Sake Of Love.” 

“For the Sake of Love” is a short Easter musical written by Lee Black and published by Daywind Records. In addition to Mr. Duren and Mr. Nitz, Camp Kirkland and Steve Mauldin contributed to the project. 

“I still can’t believe I get to do this for a living, much less get an award for it,” said Mr. Duren. “I love going to the Dove Awards because of the unity I see across the room—Christian artists of all genres celebrating our great God together. Winning a Dove was completely unexpected!” 

Mr. Duren and Mr. Nitz arranged songs so they could be performed by choirs and orchestras. They used recordings of Mr. Black playing and singing his original songs to create the structure of each song, write the choral arrangement, and orchestrate that arrangement. 

Mr. Duren received a master’s degree in church music from Lee in 2004 and is currently the worship pastor at The Church at Station Hill in Spring Hill, Tn., a regional campus of Brentwood Baptist Church. This year, he wrote his first film score for the faith-based film “Champion” and orchestrated on the Michael English and Larnelle Harris 2017 album releases. 

Mr. Nitz contributed “Did The Angels Shout?” to the project, which is the final song of the album. He was commissioned by Daywind to arrange the song for choir, rhythm band, and orchestra, and he oversaw its production in the studio. 

According to Mr. Nitz, the song is written as a commentary of the possible feelings and thoughts of angels during Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. 

“The award was a total surprise to me,” said Mr. Nitz. “As far as I knew at the time of the project’s conception, I was just doing my job. I attended the awards ceremony simply because I was invited. I really had no expectation of winning. Of course, I am thrilled and honored beyond words to have been nominated and win this award.” 

A freelance arranger, orchestrator, and vocalist, Mr. Nitz graduated from Lee in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in music business, then returned to Lee to earn a master’s degree in church music. He is currently the staff arranger and worship leader at Christ Church Nashville. Additionally, Mr. Nitz recently contributed arrangements for the upcoming Voices of Lee Christmas record. 

According to Mr. Duren, he had not orchestrated before coming to Lee, and he regards his studies as a defining time in his career and ministry. Similarly, Mr. Nitz attributes his accomplishments in the music business to the education he received at Lee. 

“My time at Lee most definitely influenced any success I’ve had,” said Mr. Nitz. “I don’t expect to gain any further accolades or work from the award, but rather it’s just an affirmation that I’m doing what God has called me to do.” 

Since 1970, the GMA Dove Awards has celebrated rich musical diversity and honored excellence in Christian Music. Awards are presented to individuals representing genres spanning styles of modern rock to contemporary pop to southern gospel. 

For more information about the GMA Dove Awards, visit doveawards.com.

Phil Nitz
Phil Nitz

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