The University of Mobile has earned a reputation for musical excellence in the 53 years since it was founded, creating dozens of incredible ensembles and bringing talented students together to make unique blends of music that are heard around the world. UMobile musical groups have made appearances in international concerts, at the White House and the Pentagon, and even at the 2014 Olympic games in Russia.
Recently, one of these groups has extended its existence beyond its time at UMobile and is quickly climbing the ladder of success in the Christian music industry.
Veritas is a contemporary classical group that combines the sounds of operatic, jazz and pop music into performances that leave audiences encouraged and inspired. This five-man ensemble traveled across the United States on a two-week tour in October following the national release of its selftitled first album.
However, the story of Veritas began several years ago while four members of the group performed together as a new UMobile ensemble under the name “Shofar.”
From Shofar to Veritas
Andrew Goodwin ’10, Scott Lawrence ’10, James Berrian ’10, and Jordan Johnson ’11, all came to the University of Mobile to study and perform in various ensembles in the Center for Performing Arts. During their years at the university, the four secured different positions in many of the groups, including the award-winning barbershop quartet Ramtonz, the University Singers, Opera Workshop, Upper Room Theater, and Voices of Mobile.
Dr. Roger Breland, vice president for project development, was inspired to create a contemporary classical group that reflected the same style as Il Divo, a world-famous quartet with an operaticpop sound. Breland makes time to cultivate personal relationships with students involved in the CPA, so when it came to selecting members for this groundbreaking new group, he knew exactly whom to pick. Breland noticed the talent and potential in these singers, and was fully committed to developing their sound into a professional-caliber group.
The new quartet “Shofar” was soon performing at special events throughout the year, and promised to be another entertaining and successful ensemble for the university.
Since its inception, there was one distinct difference between Shofar and the other ensembles in the CPA: this group was made with the intent of continued performance after the students graduated.
“It was Dr. Breland’s ultimate vision to have the group continue on full-time after graduation,” said Andrew Goodwin, Veritas tenor. “We carried that same classical music concept with us as we graduated from UM.”
Shofar’s transition to Veritas began when Breland asked Goodwin, Lawrence, and Johnson to participate in the Truth 40th Anniversary Tour of 2011: a tribute to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame group Breland formed in 1971. On the tour, they met Jeff Anderson, a former member of the vocal group “Wings of Morning,” who was also singing with Truth. Anderson would soon become the next member of Veritas, and the only one who had not graduated from the University of Mobile.
“We went into the tour knowing that the ultimate goal was to launch a male vocal group once it was finished,” said Scott Lawrence, Veritas bass. “Once the tour ended, we decided to change the name to Veritas, which is Latin for ‘truth’ so UM could continue to use the name Shofar. That’s when we asked Jeff and James to go on the road with us and sing for Veritas.”
The Journey to Success
In 2012, the new group was preparing to put on its first concert under the name of Veritas. The five singers made their way to Albany, GA, to perform for over 2,000 people.
“I still get goose-bumps when I think of our very first concert at Sherwood Baptist Church in 2012,” said Lawrence. ”Regardless of the endless hours of preparation that went into that concert, we were still scared to death. Not because we were ill-prepared, but because we didn’t know what to expect or how people would receive our music.” Veritas members were excited and anxious to see how people would respond to their unique style; little did they know that their style would soon draw in fans from all across the country.
“The cool thing about our style is getting to take familiar songs that everyone knows and putting our contemporary-classical spin on them,” says James Berrian, Veritas baritone.
Their first concert was a huge hit and set the stage for the rest of the tour.
“That was one of the most receptive audiences you could ask for,” said Lawrence. “They truly encouraged us that night.”
Since then, the men of Veritas have travelled all across the United States sharing their unique and encouraging music with thousands. The ensemble has even performed at a University of Mobile Leadership Banquet for former President of the United States George W. Bush. Over the past year, Veritas has hosted more than 100 concerts over dozens of states. With each concert, the group gains a larger fan base and, more importantly, touches the hearts of hundreds.
This June, Veritas was officially signed
on the Fair Trade Services roster. Signing
with a record label is a major steppingstone
on Veritas’ way to success.
“Being able to have the opportunity to sign with a label and get recognition for all our hard work has been really neat,” said Jordan Johnson, Veritas tenor. The independent Christian record company has recruited several popular artists including MercyMe, Phil Wickham, Hawk Nelson and Audio Adrenaline.
In September of this year, Veritas released their first full-length album, selftitled “Veritas.”
“The CD has timeless classics like ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ but it also has some newer songs like ‘The Hand That Holds the Storm’,” said Goodwin. “One of the most exciting things that we’ve done is taken the hit Switchfoot song, ‘Dare You to Move,’ and put our own classical twist on it.”
The album contains 10 unique arrangements that perfectly showcase the appealing, diverse style that sets Veritas apart. Fans of the ensemble were not alone in their excitement for the CD; the men of Veritas were also ecstatic.
“The biggest accomplishment we’ve had as Veritas is the nationwide release of our first full-length album,” said Berrian. “Walking into Barnes & Noble or Lifeway and seeing our CD on the shelf is really kind of surreal.”
Just days after the album was released, Veritas was mentioned in CCM magazine, a monthly publication that serves as the No. 1 source for the latest news on contemporary Christian music. The small, five-man ensemble that started in lower Alabama was now being recognized on the national scale.
CCM magazine had this to say about the group’s latest album: “Possibly one of the most unique and intriguing projects this year, the self-titled album from vocal group Veritas stands out with its fusion of classical roots and contemporary favorites. Truly remarkable work from this ensemble.”
A Lasting Impact
One of the most noticeable things about each Veritas performance is the genuine desire to create an atmosphere of worship. From the selection of songs to their unique arrangements, every aspect of a Veritas concert is grounded in the effort to bring others closer to God through music.
“Veritas is the Latin word for truth,” said Goodwin. “Our desire is to share the truth with people: the truth that everyone is loved. At the end of the day that is why we do what we do.”
Throughout their last two years of touring, Veritas has experienced the positive effects of their music for the Kingdom of God countless times.
“We get to travel the country every week and meet people from all different walks of life. In all of that traveling, we’ve never met a single person who wasn’t searching for truth,” said Berrian. “In our concerts, not only do we get to share the music God has put in our hearts to sing, but we also get to share the message of Jesus who has changed each one of our lives.”
Each week, Veritas has the chance to share an experience of worship with hundreds of people. What makes Veritas unique from other groups is that they also take the time to share experiences with individuals in need.
Berrian shared one interaction in particular that reminds him of the impact that Veritas truly has: “We have people come to us every night after the concert who are always very encouraging and grateful for the evening. I remember we were doing a concert in Denver for the Volunteers of America, and a woman who had obviously been crying came up to us after the concert. We talked with her for a few minutes and discovered that she wasn’t a believer, but she kept saying ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but I can’t stop crying when I hear you guys sing.’ After a few minutes, we were able to share the Gospel with her. Those are the moments that make the countless hours of driving, travelling, and practicing all worth it.”
Veritas is quickly becoming known throughout the world of Christian music, and they are just getting started. Their recent tour ended in October, but they will be back on the road soon with the same passion and zeal that they had in their beginnings at the University of Mobile.
The newly released, self-titled album, is available for purchase nationwide, and can be found on iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and on the Veritas website. For more information about future tour dates, merchandise, or music, visit the group’s official website at veritasfive.com.