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Steve Lias composingCareer Profiles
Stephen Lias
Graduated: 1988
Major: Music Education
Music Theory Professor and Composer

Choosing a Major
When it came time to select a field of study as an undergraduate at Messiah, Stephen Lias was not afflicted with indecision. Unlike many first-year students, he did not anxiously scour the course catalog for any inkling of interest among the many listed majors. Instead, Stephen describes the process of choosing music education as a “foregone conclusion,” as he sensibly assessed his preferred pursuits and his talents: “That was where all my interests were,” he says, “and I had fairly limited skills in any other areas.”

The Messiah Experience
Embracing the abundance of musical opportunities offered to Messiah students, Stephen immersed himself in extracurricular activities that mirrored his passion for music. “I was in all the various choirs, sometimes serving as an officer,” he notes, elaborating, “I played in the Wind Ensemble and performed in the musicals and operas. I don’t remember being involved in any activities outside of music, but activities within my major kept me so busy, I don’t think I had time for anything else.” Besides fueling his desire for all things musical, Stephen's experience at Messiah also encouraged him to eventually realize his desire for “a career in academia.”

The connection between vocation and undergraduate studies can scarcely be more harmonious than what Stephen Lias experiences on a daily basis. “It would be difficult to imagine a more exact match,” he articulates. “I now teach many of the music courses that I took at Messiah. I perform regularly on the piano, sing in various situations, and teach theory and composition, as well as occasionally directing musicals. All of these are skills that I learned at Messiah.”

What to Do Next
Immediately after graduating from Messiah College, Stephen accepted a job offer which took him to the piney woods of East Texas. Leaving the relatively temperate Pennsylvania climate, he headed for the heat of the Lone Star State to embark on his career path.

Networking & Job Hunting
Stephen indicates that he has had numerous opportunities to network through former teachers and colleagues at academic institutions. Before he was introduced to his current job, he was an adjunct instructor for several years at both Kilgore College and Tyler Junior College. He notes that the most significant networking opportunity that he has utilized involves a former professor of the institution where he earned his master’s degree. Because his former professor notified him of the opportunity, Stephen was able to accept a teaching position at this institution.

Steve Lias posesA Typical Day
As the Area Coordinator for Music Theory and Composition at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, Stephen’s average day is full of activity. “My main responsibilities include teaching advanced music theory classes and private composition lessons,” he explains, “A typical day in my life includes teaching a few classes in music theory, a few composition lessons, grading lots of papers, organizing a rehearsal or performance of a student work, some university committee meetings and (if I’m really lucky) some time to actually compose something. Finding time to compose music is the hardest thing for me since all the academic demands take up most of my time and energy.”


• "Do what you love!"
• "Ask yourself, 'What makes me come alive inside?' and then find a job that allows you to do that ."
• “God made you for a specific purpose. Your inner passion is your greatest gift and the things that can make you the most effective in any field.”

A "Why" Moment
Stephen has never felt the need to question his current vocation. For him, every moment is a “why” moment; his constant interest in his field and the passion he continues to have for his daily tasks confirm that his decisions to study and then to teach music are paying off. “It has never occurred to me to pursue any field other than music,” he explains, “It is where my passion lies, where I get my greatest fulfillment, and where most of my abilities lie. Whether it is in helping a student understand a difficult concept, showing them how to shape a phrase of music, or exposing them to a new style or approach, it is all deeply fulfilling and exciting to me.”


Stephen believes that “in all of the arts we serve God and others by celebrating the human experience, capturing its joy and pain, glorifying God for the richness of color, sound, emotion, shape, light, and drama that surround us every day.” He goes on to explain that his constant aim is at “preserving these ephemeral things as best we can in a way that will continue to be meaningful long after the artist is gone.”

Dreams Still Dreaming
Stephen’s vocational goals center on maintaining his existing position at the university, but he also plans to focus more on composing and publishing.


Find out what paths other certified teachers are pursuing:

Katie Lebhar, high school theatre director

Judy Armacost, church planter/missionary

Ben Armacost, church planter/missionary

Todd Parnell, general manager, Altoona Curve (AA baseball)

Lyle Blackketter, financial advisor/performance ministry

Owen Byer, professor of mathematics

Discover the career journeys of other Messiah grads who work in higher education:

Fabienne Doucet, assistant professor of family studies

Robin Miller, head of slide library

Jon Benda, professor of foreign languages and literature

Kimberly Thornbury, dean of students

Tonya King, associate professor of biostatistics

Owen Byer, professor of mathematics


Profile by Brianna Davidson, June 2005


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