Thursday, October 16, 2008

Elijah Conference - Day 2

It's late as I'm writing, and I need to find a way to calm my brain if I'm ever going to get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow starts early, and today's activities have left my imagination on fire.

Today was Minick Day at the Elijah Conference. Our first guest speaker was Johnny Minick, who spoke on "The Pastor's Perspective". His talk was so rich and dense that he easily could have go on all afternoon. I thought he would speak about the practicalities of working with pastors, but what he really focused on was the pastor's perspective on how to approach a music ministry. He has so much wisdom, and his words really expressed the need to take on the mantle of ministry with the proper intention, attitude, and authority.

This afternoon, Aaron Minick spoke about "Producing an Independent CD". Since Aaron did my project, I knew everything he said, but he still gave an awesome, detailed talk. It lead into a great discussion as well, which was cool. There are just so many different ways to make a record, and it was great to hear other people's approaches and ideas.

We continued with some of Allison's newer-style teaching today, but we also did a lot of performance training. We only have four days together, and I know Allison would really like to have everyone sing twice. Everyone in this group has a professional ministry which is either full or part-time. Most people have CDs, and most are touring. Because of all this, the level of performance training is much higher and much more focused than it can ever be at Stamps-Baxter. Allison is being tough on us, and it's awesome.

When 9pm hit tonight, most people wanted to keep going, so Allison, Brian, and all the staff stuck around for another hour ... and I volunteered to sing. I'd spent the day wishing I'd get picked and dreading getting picked, but at that point I was just too tired to be too nervous anymore. Besides, if I didn't go tonight, I feared I'd get picked first thing in the morning.

(Side note: Dante has curled up tight next to me and has fallen asleep with his little head tucked under my arm. Very cute, but very awkward for typing!)

I decided to go big and sing "Real Big Fan" for my critique. I was talking to Wess Adams today, and we both agreed that even though we perform a lot and we've both worked with Allison a lot, there's still a special kind of nervousness that happens in her class. Maybe it's because of all the talent in the room. Or maybe it's because you know you're about to placed in 'student' role, and that your precious, personal work is about to be critiqued. Either way, I had the nerves throughout my song. But I didn't fall off the stage, so that's always a good night.

When I finished singing, Allison walked up on stage and I said, "You can be tough with me". And I meant it. I'm not in this course to be babied and praised. I have people in my life who will tell me I'm beautiful and talented and ready to change the world, and I love them. But I'm at the Elijah Conference to stretch and grow, and that always involves a little pain.

She spent almost the next hour working on my voice and my physicality in very specific ways. It was very challenging, but amazing too. By the end, I actually felt a little out of sorts. We all have physical gestures we do at specific parts of a song, and certain vocal moments which become a part of our performance. In the critique, we adjusted several of these all at once. I shouldn't say 'several'. It was really just two or three changes all together, but they were significant and specific enough that they made a distinct difference in how I presented the song. It was great work to do, but it'll take a great deal of focused rehearsal before some of these things really start feeling natural. Allison was very positive about my music and my artistry, so that was very encouraging. I got great feedback from some of my peers, so that was also very affirming.

Today has just been awesome. The classes and training are so amazing, and in the gaps, we get to spend time laughing and joking and snacking and laughing again. Today, Johnny encouraged us to spend time with like-minded Gospel artists who will 'stir up' our excitement about ministry. I'm in the right place...

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