What a long and incredible day!
This is the final day for the GMA Week seminars, and we started bright and early with "Sole Story, Soul Art". Al Andrews gave us the template of Innocence, Tragedy, Contending, and Resolve to study the story of the Bible, and then, the stories of individual people. All our lives can be told through this pattern, and when we understand this, it can help us to better understand other people. When turned on ourselves, it can also be used to improve and affect our art and ministry. Very intriguing workshop!
Next, came our keynote speaker - Max Lucado! This session started with a worship session lead by Joel Engle. Joel has a fantastic testimony of losing his parents early in his life, being raised by his grandparents, losing them, and then being adopted by a family when he was 16 years old.
Max Lucado spoke on the theme of his latest book, "Facing Your Giants". What a gentle and wonderful speaker! Some speakers like to bounce all over the stage to get your attention, but Max is passionate and calm. His theme was based on the five stones that David chose to fight Goliath, and how we have five "stones" we can use to fight our giants. Brilliant and wonderful!
Then it was home for a quick nap and a make-over, cause tonight was...
The Dove Awards! The Doves are the Grammys of Christian music. I've seen the awards on TV, but this was my first ever chance to see them in person. Tickets are pricey, but we discovered we could go for free if we volunteered as seat-fillers. In retrospect, this was a win-lose situation - 'win' because we saw the main show for free, but 'lose' because we had to wait outside for a long time, so we missed the whole pre-show.
The pre-show has some performances, but most importantly, this is when the bulk of the awards is given out. And these are the kind of awards that really interest us, such as 'Song of the Year' and 'Album of the Year' in different genres like Southern Gospel or Inspirational.
The main part of the show is the stuff filmed for television. As seat-fillers, it was our role to fill unsold seats on the main level, or to fill seats for artists as they went on stage to perform or give out awards. At first, we were seated right in the back. But the people next to us (also Canadians!) had a writer friend who was nominated for an award, but she didn't want to sit up front. So they asked us to switch! We got to sit in Row F, which was one row away from the Crabb Family, across the aisle from David Phelps. Whoo-hoo!
The show started with a huge performance featuring Toby Mac, Kirk Franklin, American Idol's Mandisa, and a killer gospel choir. Awesome! But as soon as the song was done, we took our first 'commercial break', and the tone of the evening was set. Since the show is taped for TV, it runs just like a TV set. There would be a relatively short burst of excitement while we'd have one song or one award, and then we'd take a break for them to reset the cameras and set pieces. As a live show, it was hard to build on the excitement because we were stopping so much. The pre-show started at 5:30 and the show finally ended at 11:00. But in between, we had some awesome performances!
With only a few exceptions, I'd never seen any of these people perform live, so each performance was a real treat. Steven Curtis Chapman, Mark Hall (Casting Crowns), Mac Powell (Third Day) and Brian Littrell (former Backstreet Boy) performed as a group. Mercy Me was fantastic! Newcomer Aaron Shust held his own as the only singer-songwriter on the bill, and walked away with several awards.
Gerald and I were both blown away by acapella harmony group Take 6. Brian Free and Assurance raised the roof with James Cleveland's "King Jesus". (Love that song!) Chris Tomlin and friends did an incredibly moving performance of his version of Amazing Grace, from the film of the same name. Chris was introduced by teenage activist, Zach Hunter, who is working to abolish slavery in our modern world. Did you know there are 27 million people still living in slavery today? How can that still be happening?
The show ended with gospel music history. As we all know, the Crabb Family has decided to retire this August. Tonight was their final Dove Award performance as a group. They did a rocked up version of "Power in the Blood", with great solos by Jason and all the instrumentalists in the band. Such a great group!
How do I feel about my GMA Week experience? Well, before I did this, I was told I would see the best and the worst of the gospel music industry this week, and that was true. I met people who were incredibly genuine and passionate about spreading the Gospel though music. And I met people who have read their own press and become seduced by the glamour of the music industry.
But overall, I'm so glad I went. I think I got a really good sense of the music industry in Nashville. I learned a lot about the business of touring, promotion, and digital music. I met some wonderful people from all around the world. I learned that Southern Gospel really is the smallest part of the Christian music industry. And I heard many words of brilliance and wisdom.
But most importantly, I have been reminded that the industry must be a tool and not a goal. For...
I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause.
I rather be faithful to His dear cause.
I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame.
I'd rather be true to His holy name.
(Rhea F. Miller, 1922)