Wednesday, April 25, 2007

GMA Week - Day 4

This morning started bright and early with a session entitled "Still Standing". Bishop Paul Morton had a thriving ministry in New Orleans, until Katrina hit. His story of survival through the storms of life was nothing short of inspiring. He illustrated his talk with stories from the Gospels of Jesus calming the storm and walking on water. The Bishop is also a singer, and he sang his new song, also named "Still Standing". He has a wonderful voice, but mostly, he just has a wonderful spirit!

The next workshop was excellent! Called "Making the Cut", it dealt with many issues surrounding getting signed to a major label. I really have no desire to get signed to a major label right now, but I still found this workshop to be invaluable. It brought up the debate of indie artist versus indie label versus major label. The panel offered a check list of things the majors look for before they sign you, such as the number of dates you're playing, the publicity you're self-generating, your fan base, etc. Even if I never try to get on a label, this checklist is a great set of goals to work towards.

Just after this workshop, I got the call from the auto shop. My tires were repaired! Translation: I didn't have to buy new tires! Whoo-hoo! Answered prayers. Picked up my car and took a little break before...

"The Power of Personal Branding" with Phil Cooke, who is definitely the single best speaker I've heard all week. I took more notes in this session than I took in first year psychology. It was incredible! Phil deals with branding in all kinds of corporations. He describes branding as 'the story behind a person, product, or service'. He gave us tonnes of advice on discovering our own uniqueness, and then building our brand around it. There was so much information, but Phil is also a dynamic speaker with lots of insight and wisdom. I tried to buy a recording of the session, but this is the one class they couldn't record. Very disappointed!

We finished with a panel of heavy weights. "Behind the Music" featured some of today's top music producers, including people who produce for Yolanda Adams, Janet Jackson, and Prince. That was all very cool, but, admittedly, I was there for Wayne Haun, who is one of the top producers in Southern Gospel. The discussion was very industry focused (as opposed to artist focused). It gave me a new perspective on the production of the music and the artist, and how that feeds back into the whole music community.

On Sunday, I said that there were 2 shows this week about which I was really excited. Well, the second one was tonight - the Southern Gospel Showcase! The evening was hosted by Michael Booth of the Booth Brothers, and it featured a large line-up. Each artist performed 2-4 songs. It was different than a fan concert - no product table, no long patter, and the only things pitched from the stage were Jesus and Compassion International. This was actually a great show for me to see. In the past year, I've been able to learn about a lot of groups through Singing News Magazine, but I've never been able to see most of them. Tonight, I got to see several groups for the first time.

The opening act was one such group - The Skyline Boys. They have a traditional sound, with a super-high tenor! Next came Mark Bishop, another Singing News discovery. Mark has great songs, and an engaging stage presence. I've seen Crystal River on a DVD, but it was great to see this young quartet carving out their own place in the Southern Gospel world. Hope's Call was another group I'd only heard about. I love their mix of Southern harmonies with bluesy, pop rhythms.

Next came SG royalty - Janet Paschal. Janet has a new album coming out, so she was previewing some new songs tonight. So charming and beautiful on stage! I'd read about the Triumphant Quartet, but you have to see them live to appreciate them. Great sound, with a really fun, and sometimes goofy, stage presence. I'd also heard of Three Bridges, but I was not prepared for this trio. They mix Southern Gospel with 'black gospel', and it's awesome! Great harmonies, great voices, and killer fun songs. Love them!

Next came someone I just admire so much: Karen Peck and New River. Karen's song choice is always great, and she's a fantastic communicator. If I was a little more country, I'd be singing her songs all the time. And, of course, I'm always biased towards sopranos. The grand finale was the Booth Brothers. Their sound just gets smoother ever time I hear them. They did a few new songs, plus "He Saw It All".

Such a fantastic celebration of Southern Gospel music. I saw some friends too, including a Stamps-Baxter friend I haven't seen for over a year. What a great night!

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