Thursday, October 20, 2005


I'm here! I'm in St. Charles, Missouri for the Write About Jesus workshop. I was sitting in the restaurant this afternoon, marveling over God's way of guiding our lives. A year ago, I would never have imagined my life taking this direction. I'm here today because of a chain of events set in motion at a Gaither's concert...

For those who are new to the story, I've been singing gospel music for ten years, when I was first introduced to southern gospel by my choir director, Boni Strang. We went to a Gaither concert last year, and Bill Gaither and Ben Speer said something about a gospel singing school. A what? A gospel singing school? I'd never heard of such a thing! Could such a place truly exist?

Well, it does. This summer, I attended Ben Speer's Stamps-Baxter School of Music. I've never worked so hard in my life! I kept a blog every night so my parents and fiance could keep up on what I was doing. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, other people found it and read it. Joel Lindsey thought I sounded so cool (hee hee hee!) that he tracked me down and we hung out together. He told me about the Write About Jesus workshop and suggested I go.

And here I am.

Today started early with a morning flight. Seven a.m. at the airport with tonnes of people in line. What are all those crazy people doing up so early? The flight went well. At least I think it did. It was actually nap-time for me. I was met at the airport by John Smith, husband of Sue Smith who runs the workshop. They are both so welcoming and friendly.

My hotel is okay. It's not exactly "up to snuff". If you lie on the bed and look at the ceiling, there's a little bit of water-stained-modern-art up there. But lots of other participants are staying here, so that's nice. They have a complimentary shuttle service to the workshop and the airport. And a Dairy Queen next store!

The afternoon was another nap to get rid of the headache brought on by the early flight. Really, I don't know how Morning People do it.

Tonight was registration for Write About Jesus. I got my t-shirt, which is pink! Yay! They obviously knew I was coming. Our binder for the weekend is full of lots of great info, including interviews with the staff. There are lots of workshops to chose from. I'm going to take some time to look over the schedule tonight so I make the best choices.

One awesome thing is that they've dividing us into small groups. Each group is lead by two of the staff members, and we meet several times over the next few days. In the binder, it says it's so no one "slips through the cracks." I appreciate that! There are over 100 participants this year, which, apparently, is quite larger than other years. Everyone is very friendly, but when all the classes are lecture style (which I'm guessing these will be?) it can be hard to get any one on one time with people.

But I am getting to meet some of the other participants. Everyone is at very different levels of writing and/or performing, and I'm finding that to be a great comfort. I will admit, I felt really intimidated about coming here. I assumed everyone would be very skilled and accomplished, and I would be the lone beginner in the crowd. I have tonnes of confidence about my performing, but I'm still pretty shy about my writing. But there are all levels of people here, and it's proving to be a very supportive atmosphere. There are lots of returning participants, and I always think that says great things about a place.

We only had one session tonight, but it was a great one: We got to observe a live co-writing session. Yes, I've participated and observed co-writing in my own living room, but this was different. For one thing, there was no puppy trying to co-write the song! And more importantly, these are people who are full-time writers. They do these sessions on a regular, professional basis.

We could choose from one of three sessions, and the one I watched was with Joel and Sue. There was a piano in the room, and they both had Apple laptops. It's odd to create in front of an audience, so they started with the "this is so weird" stuff. Then they chatted a little about their parents. You could tell that helped them both to settle into the room and to remind them that they know each other. Finally, Sue threw out an idea, and the dance began. Sue gave the hook, and the style. Joel started writing a chorus. Sue started writing a verse. Joel turned to the keyboard and started to play chords. They discussed a Bible story to use, and how to put a new perspective on that story. Within the hour, they had created an almost-complete song! They both admitted that this was much faster than usual.

One thing I thought was really interesting thing was, before the song was even started, they spent time discussing which group they could hear singing it. They used this to determine the style of the song. In singing, we really try to avoid styling ourselves after other singers, but I guess in trying to create songs that are commercially viable, you want to have something that can reflect the style of the singer.

After the session, we all gathered for a Q&A, and to hear bits of the songs that had been created in each session. Really interesting to hear the different things that could happen in the same amount of time. I, of course, asked a question. I was wondering what you usually bring in to the session with you. Joel answered that he usually brings in at least one idea, but that sometimes that idea isn't even used.

We ended with prayer by John. Tomorrow will be very long, so I'm going to try and settle in and get a good night's sleep. I'm just so excited to be here, and I want to make the most of everything.

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