HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State Community College hosted a pair of guest speakers during the spring semester. John Archibald, a columnist for The Birmingham News and Al.com, and Kurt Heinecke, an award-winning musical composer for the “VeggieTales” series, each visited campus and shared their professional experiences and career advice for Wallace State students.
Archibald, who has been with The Birmingham News since 1986, discussed his journalistic career and explained how the newspaper industry has rapidly and drastically changed over the last 10 years.
“I don’t think anything could have prepared me for this place and this world. I also don’t think anything can prepare you for what’s out there for you. The world is just moving too fast. You can’t prepare for change. You have to embrace it and capitalize on it, especially for the young,” Archibald said.
Upon graduating from college, Archibald joined The Birmingham News as a correspondent, covering the Cullman and Walker County beats. A little more than a year later, Archibald then started covering the Birmingham city beat and assumed that role until becoming the paper’s lead columnist in 2004.
As a long-time journalist, Archibald has witnessed first-hand the massive transition the newspaper industry has experienced, whether it be the reduction in printed copies, the internet takeover, or the new avenues of how people receive or read the news.
“Most people get their news on their phone. It’s the first place they go,” Archibald said. “How we receive news changes all the time. Our job is to adapt to it.”
Archibald said one of the first places he goes to receive news each morning is Twitter, focusing on what his fellow Al.com colleagues have penned in addition to national news from publications like The New York Times.
“It’s a great buffet of news,” Archibald said. “It’s a very useful tool for a news consumer.”
Archibald writes three columns a week for the printed editions of The Birmingham News and additional pieces on Al.com. He focuses a lot on popular political or social issues affecting the Birmingham area and the state.
“Alabama is a great place to do work because every time you turn around there are things like politicians sticking their hands in the cookie jar. You can’t make some of it up. It’s a great place to be because of the stories. That’s what life is really all about,” Archibald said. “Every once in a while I hope to make a difference with what I write. I still hope to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Even if people don’t agree with what I’ve said, it’s a gratifying and amazing feeling if anyone bothers to read what I have to say. That’s why I do what I do.”
A couple of weeks later, Heinecke followed Archibald’s visit to campus and discussed his unexpected path to become the award-winning composer of the “VeggieTales” series, which debuted in December 1993 and was developed by Heinecke’s Big Idea Entertainment.
Heinecke, 50, was born in Wisconsin and moved to Cullman by the time he was in junior high. Heinecke’s family was always very active musically at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Cullman, and he continued that musical pedigree onto the University of Montevallo, where he obtained a degree in music education. After more time collegiately in Iowa at Luther College, Heinecke became a choir director at a contemporary church in Chicago, where was approached by “VeggieTales” creators Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki about the possibility of providing music for the series before it debuted.
“I didn’t know Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber were at my church. Little did I know, but as choir director, my audition for the job was ongoing,” Heinecke said.
Heinecke has been the musical man behind the scenes for “VeggieTales,” earning six Dove Awards for his work. The Dove Awards are the Christian and gospel music equivalent of the Grammys. The “VeggieTales” series, which ran on NBC’s Saturday morning children’s programming block from 2006-2009, has sold 55 million copies of DVDs or CDs since its inception. “Veggie Tales” uses computer-animated vegetables to convey important Christian moral themes and Biblically-based values and lessons. Along with touches of humor in each episode, “VeggieTales” follows these vegetables, including the popular Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, through stories beginning from a kitchen countertop.
Heinecke never dreamed his career would skyrocket the way it has.
“I never had a five-year plan or a 10-year plan. I’ve always told myself to do absolutely the best I can at that current position. I always pursued doors that were opened. I’m not wise enough to know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so I’ve tried to learn as much as I can today,” Heinecke said. “God has given me a talent, and it’s my responsibility to do the best I can with those talents.”
Heinecke encouraged Wallace State’s students to pursue their respective passions.
“You’ve got to have that passion to fight yourself hard enough to work the longer hours and get further ahead than the next person. There’s always someone else right there wanting to do the same things you are,” Heinecke said.
When Heinecke composes music for an animated series like “VeggieTales,” he takes the theme or idea of a scene and builds a song around it, adding chords, melody or harmony to productively complement the mood. He said voices in an animation production have to be recorded first before he can write the music for each scene.
Heinecke emphasized the three C’s: craft, character and connections, as tools to help one successfully pursue their passion or chosen careers in life.
“You’ve got to be good at your craft and love what you do and present yourself in the proper manner, especially when no one is looking,” Heinecke said. “Never stop connecting. Socialize with the right people and learn how to engage people. It opens doors.”
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.
Wallace State Community College
P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077
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Wallace State Community College
801 Main Street NW | Hanceville, AL 35077