Pastor adds music producer to his resumé

David Cramer talks about his tribute to Starflyer 59

June 29, 2023 | News | Volume 27 Issue 13
Aaron Epp | Senior Writer
David Cramer with his copy of Major Awards. (Photo courtesy of David Cramer)

Pastor, professor and rock music impresario—David Cramer’s CV is diverse.

The Indiana-based 40-year-old divides his work life between Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, where he is an adjunct professor and managing editor of the Institute of Mennonite Studies, and Keller Park Church, a Mennonite Church USA congregation in South Bend, where he serves as lead pastor.

But last year, Cramer made a foray into the music business when he helped create a compilation album honouring the music of acclaimed alternative rock band Starflyer 59.

Cramer was one of four executive producers on the album, titled Major Awards. It was released on Dec. 16, 2022, to coincide with the 50th birthday of Jason Martin, Starflyer 59’s songwriter, singer, guitarist and only consistent member.

Cramer first proposed the idea in September 2020, in a Facebook group for fans of the band to which he belongs.

“The notion of time and aging and adulthood—all that stuff has always been part of his [Martin’s] work, and his lyrics are really nostalgic,” Cramer says. “I just thought his 50th birthday would be a cool time to honour him, even though most of us don’t know him personally.”

Cramer and his co-producers solicited cover songs from musicians who have been influenced by Martin. They received nearly 50 submissions spanning diverse genres. Together, they chose 15 to include on the album’s vinyl release and an extra 20 for the digital release.

Cramer was a teenager attending an evangelical church when he was introduced to Starflyer 59 in 1997, when he bought the album from a friend for $5.

“After a few listens, I was hooked,” he says. “To me they were charting new ground in the Christian music world.”

Founded in 1993, Starflyer 59 rose to prominence in the Christian rock subculture after signing to Tooth & Nail Records—a label that has been a strong force in Christian music circles for nearly 30 years.

Starflyer 59 distinguished themselves with a shoegaze sound that earned them comparisons to mainstream acts like My Bloody Valentine and Smashing Pumpkins.

After Martin’s father died, he stopped touring and took over the day-to-day operations of his father’s trucking business. The band has continued to record music, though, and released its 16th album, Vanity, in October 2021.

Martin’s Christianity hasn’t always been explicit in his lyrics, but it’s foundational to who he is. “I’m a man of faith, I believe in Christ,” he told NPR shortly after releasing Vanity. “I hate being too Christian and preachy,” he added, “but this is a new day that the Lord has made. I’m just trying to make the best of it.”

Speaking to Canadian Mennonite via email, Martin says it’s flattering that people took the time to create Major Awards.

“I think the record turned out really cool,” he says. “I had not listened to some of these songs in a very long time. I thought a lot of them were better than the originals, to be honest.”

“Just want to say thanks to everybody that was involved,” he adds. “I appreciate it.”

For Cramer, making Major Awards was a way to honour a musician who has had a big impact on his life.

“Outside of my wife and David Bazan from Pedro the Lion, Jason Martin’s is the voice I’ve heard the most,” he says. “I’ve been listening to Pedro the Lion and Starflyer 59 for the majority of my life, and I keep coming back to them, so to contribute something back was pretty cool.” 

The vinyl pressing of Major Awards is sold out, but digital copies are available to stream or download at


Launching pad

New to Starflyer 59? David Cramer recommends these five songs.

“Blue Collar Love”
“It just hits you right in the face with a wall of guitars.”

“A Housewife Love Song”
“There’s all this feedback coming at you.”

“I Drive A Lot”
“It was so mind blowing for people who had listened to the first three albums that this was the same band.”

“Gave Up the War”
“He doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve, but there are some times where the faith themes come out. This is one of them.”

“This song starts [out kind of depressing], but as with the sunrise, it comes out to a brighter place.”

David Cramer with his copy of Major Awards. (Photo courtesy of David Cramer)

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