Founded in the Spring of 1991, Full Measure was formed to bring a Christian message into the burgeoning a cappella scene on the Penn campus. The name “Full Measure” is derived from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV): “I pray that out of his glorious riches, he may strengthen you with power, through his spirit, in your inner being, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and high and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.”
Full Measure celebrated its 25th anniversary back in the Spring of 2016. A former member (and FM President!), Jabez Yeo, kindly initiated what he likes to call the “Full Measure History Project”. Please enjoy reading along with us about the fruitful, and very blessed, history of Full Measure A Cappella.
Full Measure Spiritual Journal (as of July 2015)
When I look back during my time in college, Full Measure memories are often at the forefront. Having been in the group for 4 years, I know that God used Full Measure tremendously to help me grow in my faith. Specifically during my first year serving in leadership, I saw God’s faithfulness to Full Measure in very real ways; which encouraged me tremendously as a young leader. Having witnessed this firsthand, I became curious about how God has worked through Full Measure and displayed His faithfulness to FM in the past. While older group members would talk about their past years in FM, there was no real record of the group’s history. Thus, some of us began contacting different alums so that they could give their perspective on God’s faithfulness to Full Measure. Our prayer is that as past, present and future FMers read this journal of alumni testimonies, it would be declared “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1)
Special thanks to the following alumni for their responses and help:
AY – Spring 1991 to Spring 1993
DM – Fall 1991 to Fall 1994
JK – Fall 1991 to Spring 1995
TA – Fall 1992 to Spring 1996
AC – Fall 1995 to Spring 1999
JS – Spring 1996 to Fall 1999
MH – Fall 1996 to Spring 2001
DY – Spring 1998 to Spring 2001
CC – Spring 1998 to Spring 2001
DW – Fall 1999 to Spring 2003
CT – Fall 1999 to Spring 2003
EC – Fall 2001 to Spring 2004
JM – Fall 2001 to Spring 2005
DB – Fall 2003 to Spring 2007
JN – Fall 2003 to Spring 2007
CK – Fall 2004 to Spring 2008
JY – Fall 2008 to Spring 2012
BK – Fall 2010 to Spring 2014
History of Christian a cappella
*From the concert program of the 1997 Gospel Jam hosted by Joyful Noise
The tradition of college a cappella singing started in 1909 when a group calling themselves the Whiffenpoofs started singing on the campus of Yale University. In 1979, so the legend goes, there was one Christian in the Whiffenpoofs who by the end of their annual tour; brought half of the group to know the Lord. The new believers decided they wanted to continue to employ their musical talents with the new goal of glorifying God. Thus was born Living Water, the first Christian student a cappella group. The idea soon spread and similar groups were born at Harvard, Brown, MIT, Smith and Mount Holyoke. In 1987, these groups decided that in addition to singing on their own campuses, they would meet once a year to spend a weekend together in fellowship and singing. The gathering would culminate in a “Gospel Jam”. Since the first Gospel Jam, the Christian a cappella movement has grown and thousands have been touched by this ministry of spreading Christ through song.
Full Measure History – Phase 1: Early Beginnings (Fall 1991 to Spring 1995)
Fun and random FM facts during this time:
- FM participated in their first Gospel Jam during the 1993-1994 year in the midst of a blizzard!
- FM had 2 members who met through the group and eventually got married! We’ll leave it to you to figure out who it was 😀
During the summer of 1990, AH, one of the founding members of Full Measure, sang in an a cappella group for the first time with some inner city church friends in New York City. Having had a great experience; AH returned to campus the following year with a vision and desire for a Christian a cappella group to be formed at Penn.
As the fall semester of 1990 progressed, AH began to have conversations with Joseph Sun, who at the time was the assistant dean for the College of Arts & Sciences. Through their conversations, the name “Full Measure” was determined from the verse Romans 15:29. Additionally, AH began to receive musical support in the form of sheet music provided by Living Water and One Voice (Brown University). In the spring of 1991, Full Measure officially began as a Christian a cappella group with nine members.
In the fall semester of 1991, Full Measure accepted five new people from auditions. AH admitted that the audition process was the first major challenge for the group; as it introduced elements of popularity, not offending friends and realizing that being Christian was not enough, musicality had to be considered as well. As it has always been the case in Full Measure history, the initial group found it tough to “find the right balance between talent, personality, and spiritual suitability”. In particular, there was one audition in which the group couldn’t decide between two altos; and after much prayer, they decided that it was biblical to draw lots! (Acts 1:23-26). But as another alumnus shared, “ultimately we trusted in God to make the most of our humble decisions. We took some risks… all we knew was to keep moving forward with the vision we had of what FM was meant to do.”
The second major challenge for the group was keeping people. As one alumnus succinctly shared,
“Obviously, at a university we have a lot of necessary competition from academic needs. There were also plenty of other outlets for people’s spiritual energies, and quite often a member’s sense of calling would lead them to focus on some ministry. The worst was when we lost people to illness or injury. Many have had to bow out due to mental illness. In one semester we actually lost both of our sopranos, one to a debilitating neck injury, and one to liver disease that spiraled quickly over a couple of months until she needed a transplant. Again, having a clear vision of what we were about, and Whose hands were ultimately responsible for our success enabled us to press forward.”
At the beginning of spring 1992, Full Measure had established regular practices two times a week but had not performed yet. One alumnus described this semester as the semester where “we decided to figure out who was serious” and as a result, the group membership went from thirteen to seven by the time of fall 1992. However, Full Measure continued to push forward and their first concert was in fall 1992 at the rooftop lounge in what was then known as Highrise East (now known as Harnwell House). The first concert incorporated songs as well as short evangelistic skits; and this combination would continue to be part of Full Measure concerts to this day.
It was during this early period that members had a sense of what this group could be. As one alumnus mentioned, “During my time, I sensed some disunity occurring among the various Christian fellowships on campus – Intervarsity, Crusade, Living Water. FM oddly represented a mixture of individuals from the different fellowships and we were coming together to sing.” As well, in terms of outreach, the same alumnus mentioned,
“The group (FM) was a great encouragement to Christian outreach. We were a small group of students, but increasingly we had requests from area churches to come and sing. Our evangelical skits were often told to be a catalyst for conversation later in the dorms… I am incredibly thankful that a group of students with just a love for song and the Lord could come together and make a presence on a secular campus. During my time with FM, I sensed an evangelistic revival/surge on campus. I am thankful that FM during our time; was not any para-campus ministry’s proprietary use but was for the simple mission of proclaiming the Gospel through song. I’m thankful that we sang not only on campus, but also to the local university area churches.”
This vision of Full Measure being not just an a cappella group but a ministry became more solidified in the next phase of FM’s history.
Full Measure History – Phase 2: Ministry Focus (Fall 1995 to Spring 1999)
Fun and random FM facts during this time:
- Although no one confirmed for sure when this happened, a certain alumnus noted that the alumni song “Say Once More” was definitely used by Full Measure prior to when he joined in Spring 1996
- It was during the year of 1995-1996 that FM’s verse changed to Ephesians 3:19, which is FM’s current verse as of today
- The notorious week before a concert was first termed “Hail Week” in 1997
- The corny tradition of calling for FM to give an encore at concerts first started in 2000
- There were 2 more couples who met through Full Measure during this time and got married (and yes, we’ll leave it to you to figure out who it was :D)
Full Measure’s first years were filled with trial and error as the group sought to establish itself and what it stood for. In the following years from 1995 onwards, Full Measure took significant steps in solidifying its purpose as a ministry to share Jesus Christ across different campuses in Philadelphia. While talking to several alums from this time period, many mentioned a certain AC who helped to lay the spiritual foundation for the group. One alumnus mentioned that AC was the bridge between the initial groups of Full Measure and his first group in fall 1996. Another alumnus described AC’s role in starting the “Ladder of Love”,
“Back when we joined, AC was leading the group, and one of the things he wanted to impress on everyone was that we weren’t just an a cappella group, but we were one with a mission, one with members who were invested in each other’s lives. That’s how the “ladder of love” started. We would each be “assigned” to meet up with another FM member sometime during the week, and learn more about one another and become parts of each other’s lives through the simple act of sharing a meal. This forced us out of our comfort zones, and forced us to break bread with people that we may not have normally hung out with. In the end, it made us a more cohesive group, and not like the other a cappella groups on campus who just performed together.”
Other small changes in the group started to happen during this time of ministry focus. One good example is that in 1996, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” was chosen to be the benediction song for Full Measure. It was also in the year of 1996 that FM first participated in Jesus Week, a week-long initiative between the different Christian fellowships and groups on Penn’s campus. FM also began to serve other Christian a cappella groups by hosting Gospel Jam for 2 years (1996, 1997). In particular, FM hosting Gospel Jam in spring 1996 was a miracle, as the group was down to 8 members after losing a handful over winter break. Thus, the group decided to hold auditions in the spring and eventually brought in eight new members! As one alumnus described, “we rehearsed like madness to catch us newbies up to the rest of the group and by God’s grace we learned all the songs”.
During this period, FM actually did two concerts every semester; as there were not too many a cappella groups on Penn’s campus. Concerts continued to have both evangelistic skits and songs and one alumnus mentioned that there was a girl who accepted Christ in a FM concert in 1997. Groups during this time period also took a bold step by starting to produce CDs. The first CD, Testify, featured songs performed during the 1998-1999 year. According to a certain alumnus, the songs recorded for that CD were from an all-night recording session from 8 pm to 8 am in a living room; with only two overhead mikes and a separate room for solos. The second CD, No Stopping Anytime, featured songs performed during the 1999-2000 year.
While the group experienced great fruit throughout this time of ministry focus, it was not exempt from challenges. One alumnus described a challenge that appeared in that Penn refused “to allow us to use certain school property due to certain stances we took as a group against permitting non-Christians to be in leadership positions within FM. That stance did take a financial hit for FM as we had to find other places to practice and rehearse”. Additionally, one alumnus shared that in the fall of 1999, he was kicked out of the group due to struggles he was having with his faith. While he did not agree with how this happened, he understood eventually that it was the right thing to be done and testified that “God used FM to bring me back to Christ”. Another challenge that first appeared during this period was racial diversity. As pre-dominantly Asian fellowships emerged on Penn’s campus, FM started to become pre-dominantly Asian. As one alumnus noted “I do wish FM could have diverse membership within the various Christian communities. The running joke was that FM was predominantly Asian…I strongly believe that racial diversity within FM would help it reach various communities at Penn a bit better”.
Full Measure History – Phase 3: Musical Revolution (Fall 1999 to Spring 2008)
Fun and random FM facts during this time:
- Wonder why FM says “fantabulous jorb” after every audition? The phrase was inspired from a certain cartoon
- The tradition of doing a shine before each concert started in 2005 because the guys in that group were bored; having learned all their music before the concert (?!). Thus, they decided to make a little shine that was eventually performed during the concert
- The term “FMily” came to be in 2006
- One more couple met through Full Measure during this time and got married 😀
In the beginning of this period, musical changes began to be made that would impact the group to this present day. One such change was in the fall of 1999, when the arranging software Noteworthy began to be used. Before that time, there were only hand-written arrangements :O As well, there was one alumnus, SL, who brought percussion experience from his prior time at PennSix. Before SL came, FM did not have a percussion section because they were not singing contemporary Christian songs. SL also started to arrange with different and more intricate syllables because of his prior a cappella experience. With Noteworthy, the increasing skill of FM arrangers (most of whom never arranged before joining FM), and the addition of vocal percussion, FM expanded its scope of arrangements to include contemporary Christian songs and the arrangements themselves started to become more complex and intricate.
During this time of musical change, FM also began to intentionally be part of Penn’s a cappella scene. In the fall of 2000, FM decided to share Dunlop Auditorium with Off the Beat; with each group getting one night for their concert and the other group guest-grouping during that night. That led to FM receiving more exposure and getting more gigs as a result. FM’s choice of gigs during this time was more outward focus for the purpose of evangelism, and intentional networking occurred with other groups through PAC and ACK. During 2001-2002, Full Measure also recorded and produced its third CD, Not for Nothing. One of the songs on the CD, “Be My Reality” was an original song written by one of the group members and it was first performed in spring 2002. Many alumni mentioned that this was the first CD that really reflected the increase in FM’s musical ability because of all the changes. The increase in musical ability was further displayed in FM’s fourth CD, “One Way”, which contained songs from 2002-2004.
During the spring of 2003, FM once again hosted Gospel Jam but because of the unavailability of venues, FM decided to use the Cathedral for the first time. This came to be God’s providence as in the year of 2003-2004; SAC and PAC officially cut off funding to FM and didn’t allow FM to use Dunlop during the time they wanted to. This was also a challenging time for the group because all of the leadership in the prior year had graduated. However, God was extremely faithful as He provided many new members and the funds necessary; in the end, FM was able to use the Cathedral as a concert venue for the first time in spring 2004. That concert was also a special and powerful concert because FM shared the Gospel using clips from The Passion of the Christ, which was released in February 2004. FM also had small group leaders from all of the fellowships to identify themselves after the concert by wearing name tags so that people would know that they were available if they wanted to talk or pray about what they saw and heard.
Throughout this time period, FM had many talented singers who went on to sing professionally in some capacity. Many of them left in the fall of 2005, which was why one particular alumnus mentioned that that year was his most stressful. With the increased focus and capacity for musical ability also came certain challenges. One alumnus mentioned that in one of his years, FM held practices on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and also had sectionals; after a while, the leaders began to realize that people were burning out and missing fellowship time and schoolwork. He also admitted that there was “an element of pride and performance as FM got better or started to get recognition from other groups”. One other alumnus mentioned that he had internal, philosophical debates about the excellence of music throughout his time in leadership and always had to check whether music quality was becoming an idol for him. Yet another alumnus, when asked what the group could have done better, said “I always thought we could do a better job of raising up leaders in the group. Sometimes, I thought we got so caught up with the madness of preparing for concerts that we didn’t always have an opportunity to meet one on one with one another and invest in each other’s lives beyond the music.”
A good summary of this time came from one alumnus, who noted “I think I put more emphasis on music than maybe I should have…the music is a vehicle for the gospel but I did not spend as much time in interpersonal ministry and ask myself “How am I living out the Gospel?” Another alumnus mentioned that through serving in FM, God taught him that “musical talent is not the most important thing in giving God glory in music and this is something that I still carry with me today as I serve on worship team”.
Full Measure History – Phase 4: Logistical Changes (Fall 2008 to Spring 2015)
Fun and random FM facts during this time:
- FM’s annual Halloween party, with prizes for best costumes, began in the fall of 2009
- In the fall of 2008, FM went through a big transition, with eight members of a twelve member group leaving due to graduation and other reasons. Each member on the leadership team was new and none of the remaining members had more than two years of experience in the group. While FM decided to take on eight new members, four of those members left within the first two weeks of the school semester, leaving FM with only eight members, the smallest the group had been in sixteen years. While that group did not have a concert that fall semester, God showed His faithfulness by providing four more members the following semester (many of whom stayed in the group for more than three years) and the group was able to hold a concert in the spring of 2009.
During the year 2009-2010, FM was able to release its fifth CD, Off Center, which featured songs from the 2006-2008 seasons. The CD release created an additional logistical burden for the group and as a result, some items needed for concerts were not taken care of. Heading into the fall of 2010, there were only five returning members from the previous year’s group. Like before, each member of the leadership team was new and none of the remaining members had more than two years of experience in the group. The leadership team decided amongst themselves that things should not be done just because it was the status quo but that FM would try to take more risks in making logistical changes so that a clearer presentation of the Gospel could be provided during gigs and concerts. One particular change was restructuring committees (skit, prayer, creative outreach and after-party/program) to divide the work more equally. Another logistical change was changing Hail Week by spreading the same amount of practice hours over a month so that last minute memorizing of songs and writing the skit would be reduced.
The year of 2010-2011 was a special one for FM in many ways. Despite having only ten members to start off the year, leading to less delegation and more musical challenges, the group was still able to hold a fall concert. In particular, that concert for the first time weaved the skit and songs together in a musical-like fashion with the goal of creating a more coherent Gospel presentation throughout the concert. In the spring of 2011, FM accepted three more members to bring the total number of members to thirteen. However, because of the audition process and also because of the early Easter season, FM only had 2/3 of its regular semester time to prepare for the 20th anniversary concert, which had many returning alumni coming back to celebrate. Thankfully, God pulled through for the group and both the skit and songs went as well as it could have despite the lack of preparation time. Over 2010-2012, FM also became more involved with other Christian a cappella groups after a brief period of absence. FM attended its first Gospel Jam in years, “Jam More in Baltimore”, in the fall of 2010 at John Hopkins and also attended “Gospel Jam” in the fall of 2011 when it was hosted at William & Mary. FM also attended its first Break It Down Boston (“BIDB”) in years during the spring of 2012 when it was hosted by Boston College.
Probably the biggest logistical change that occurred during this time was the use of Kickstarter, a crowd-funding platform, to raise funds for CDs. Though FM consistently hovered around the break-even mark, FM was able to release two CDs during this time, As We Wait (featuring songs from 2009-2011) and Reason to Sing (featuring songs from 2012-2013), through God’s provision of funds using the Kickstarter platform. Through Kickstarter, FM was able to provide rewards such as mugs, concert lifetime passes and sweaters to many people who financially supported FM. Additionally, FM continues to carry the spirit of making changes to help better promote the group’s goal of sharing Christ. In the spring 2015 concert, FM used video for the first time to record certain scenes for their skit, which helped them to effectively share the Gospel in a powerful and succinct way. It will be exciting to see what God has in store as FM continues to grow and evolve through the years.
Full Measure History – Phase 5: Looking Forward (Fall 2015 – ?)
As Full Measure enters its 25th year of worshipfully compelling others to know more about Christ through music and their lives, a look back to the past can be helpful in order to be more effective in the future. Some recurring themes while talking to alums include:
- Need for an available spiritual advisor – Many alums mentioned that there were certain years in which there was group tension/interpersonal conflict that resulted in fall-out or people leaving on bad terms. While this hasn’t happened in recent years by God’s grace, it could be helpful to have godly people who are familiar with FM’s ministry to be available in case such situations occur in the future
- Need for funds – A constant theme throughout interviews is that FM could have always used more funds. Thankfully, God has provided every step of the way and the recent use of Kickstarter has been a great means of God’s provision. However, running a successful Kickstarter campaign became the equivalent of managing a small business, which detracts from current members’ other commitments such as schoolwork and church fellowship. Other creative fundraising avenues should be explored to ease the burden. Raising funds should also be seen as a means to further FM’s reach so that more people will be able to hear the Gospel message proclaimed through song
- Need for diversity racially as well as among fellowships – This was definitely a common theme among many alumni, as they noted that often times, group membership was mostly Asian-American or from a certain fellowship. Hopefully, current members can think about how they could reach other fellowships on campus during the first weeks of each semester in order to increase diversity
- Need for outreach – Some alumni mentioned in the past that they were intentionally engaging other a cappella groups and non-Christian groups for gigs so that they could share about Christ through music. Indeed, FM has a tremendous opportunity to minister to those the church does not ordinarily reach or those who are spiritually interested but will not read about faith or listen to a pastor’s sermon. Hopefully, current members can think about how they could integrate more intentionality into FM’s ministry so that the heart for evangelism does not rise or fall depending on the members involved
- Need for mission focus – Because of the need for funds, certain FM groups in the past contemplated changing FM’s mission statement to be less missional in order to receive funds from bodies such as PAC/SAC. While those changes thankfully did not occur, history has shown that faith-based institutions, such as many of the Ivy League schools and prominent NGOs/foundations, can quickly go down a slippery slope and lose its original purpose. Addressing the need for funds will help with this particular need but there should also be checks and balances in place so that FM will not lose its original, God-given purpose
Ultimately, we thank God for His faithfulness and His sovereign hand guiding FM through every season. As FM enters its 25th year, let’s pray for even greater things to be done in His name through this ministry!