So after an incredible week I'm back home in Timmins. For those of you who didn't know, I had the amazing privilege of attending GMA Week in Nashville, TN. The week was amazing and truly one of the best in my life! If you're interested in hearing more details, keep reading...
Friday evening after flying a whole lot of miles, I arrived in Nashville. We checked into the beautiful Renaissance hotel and had a great view from the 14th floor!
While many of the artists were still making their way to Nashville, GMA was in full-swing for those in radio. All day Saturday was spent in seminars, training us to be better at what we do and reminding us all why we do what we do. It was amazing to meet many legends in Christian radio and to be taught by some of the most respected people in the industry.
After my final class on Saturday I wandered around downtown and took in the sights of Nashville. It seemed like no matter what store or restaurant I went into had live music, which was different, but really good. I even took in a country set at an ice cream parlour that I stopped in. It made the wait for the ice cream go by much faster! After I went back the hotel my roommate and I went to the Nashville Predators game with some fellow Canadians. I had never been to an NHL game before, so it was a lot of fun! Nashville even won the game against St. Louis which added to the experience.
Sunday morning I climbed out of bed nice and early for the chapel service. Lincoln Brewster led us in amazing time of worship (Southern-style of course) and he was followed by Joe Meyer who delivered an anointed message for the church.
Every day at GMA different organizations and record labels sponsored industry lunches (translation free food, great concerts, and lots of schmoozing). I skipped the lunch on Sunday to attend an artist Meet & Greet and had the chance to meet Krystal Meyers, Matthew West, Bethany Dillon, Brian Litteral (yes, the backstreet boy), Third Day, Rebecca St. James, Audio Adrenaline, Warren Barfield, and Building 429. At more than one point during the meet and greet I couldn't help but be amazed that I was standing in such company- it was a weird but amazing experience!
The afternoon was spent doing more Meet and Greets and a liner session. It was refreshing to see the hearts behind a lot of the artists and to hear in their own words the stories behind the songs that have impacted so many people. Sunday afternoon I also had my first interview of the week with Eowyn, who's new album will be releasing this month and let me tell you, it's a good one!
On Sunday evening we headed over to the historic Ryman for Sunday Evening Worship put on by the Passion artists. The evening started with worship lead by Chris Tomlin and was followed by Charlie Hall and one of my favourites: the David Crowder Band. Louie Giglio spoke on the different flavours of worship and how we shouldn't get so caught up when someone else's flavour is different than our own.
After the worship experience I went back to the Renaissance hotel for the Songwriters Showcase, which was hosted by Matthew West. This was the time for the writers of some of the top songs of the year to have the opportunity to perform their hits and explain the inspiration behind the music. Performers included Joy Williams, Matthew West, Mac Powell of Third Day, Bebo Norma, Christa Wells, Jadon Lavik, and Barlowgirl.
Monday morning I met up with Jason and Aaron of Hawk Nelson for an interview. We had a chance to talk about their new album Smile, It's The End of The World and what it was like to appear in the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours. Following the interview I went to hear Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, speak. I'd have to say I enjoyed his speaking even moreso than his writing. Much like his books, his message was both humorous and timely.
The rest of the day Monday was filled with interviews (The Violet Burning, Kids in the Way, DJ Maj, Paul Wright, and Superchick) and as many classes as I could fit in between. Monday evening I went to the World Vision Showcase where I say performances by The Longing, Anthony Evans, Third Day, Big Daddy Weave, Building 429, Joy Williams, Natalie Grant, Todd Agnew, Russ Lee, Avalon and Casting Crowns. It was an unbelievable experience to be hit with one stellar performance after another!
Tuesday morning I got up bright and early to attend a worship breakfast. It was great to start the day with a time of spiritual renewal and refreshing. At 9:30 I headed upstairs for my first interview with KJ-52, which was followed by an interview with Sanctus Real and Falling Up, then before lunch I got in on a class. After lunch I interviewed Starfiled, Skillet, Jonah33, Flyleaf, and then headed to my last interview with T-bone.
Tuesday night I went to a showcase hosted by BEC Recordings and Tooth and Nail. We saw performances by Run Kid Run, Mainstay, Seventh Day Slumber, Falling Up, and Hawk Nelson. After a quick break the Rock U night got underway with performances by CircleSide, Decyfer Down, Downhere, The Afters, Flyleaf, Disciple, and Skillet. It was a very loud, yet very amazing night!
Wednesday morning I was supposed to attend another worship session, but was so tired that I decided to get in another few hours of sleep instead (I know, I'm horrible!). After getting up I went to my final class of the week and then wandered around downtown for a while before lunch. Lunch was put on by EMI and included performances from Hawk Nelson, Sanctus Real, Kutless, and other great artists. Tobymac made a special appearance to introduce a Gotee artist and even sat down at the piano with her for one song!
Wednesday afternoon I had an interview set up, but it was cancelled because the artist was having vocal trouble so I headed back to spend some much needed resting time in my room (as you can probably imagine, there wasn't much free time this week). And pretty soon it was time to get ready for the Dove Awards.
The Dove Awards was another world all together. It was my first time attending an awards show, so I didn't know exactly what to expect and was quite surprised with the professionalism of the whole event- it was just like what you see on TV with the Grammy's and such! But the one big difference being that most of the glory at the Dove's was being given to God. I'd almost say that it was more a time of worship than it was a time of awards.
As far as who won awards, there were a few surprises. I was very happy to see that Christa Wells walked away with songwriter of the year for the song "Held" (performed by Natalie Grant). Chris Tomlin took home five Doves including: Song of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Artist of the Year, Worship Song of the Year, and one other that I can't remember at the moment. Mat Kearney won a Dove for his song Trainwreck. Tobymac and T-bone took home an award for The Slam. Switchfoot walked away with the honors in the Short Form Music Video of the Year. And KJ-52 took a Dove home with him for Rap/Hip-hop Album of the Year.
During the awards ceremony, Mac Powell, David Crowder, Jeremy Camp, and Mark Hall came on stage to perform a tribute to Steven Curtis Chapman. Steven won his 50th Dove Award that night and they honoured him, first with a video and then by playing a few of his songs. The tribute ended with them leading the crowd in "Dive" and Steven was visibly surprised by the tribute. The audience gave him the longest standing ovation that I've ever heard...
On Thursday we packed up and headed back to Canada. By the time we got to Toronto it was too late for me to catch the last flight out to Timmins for the night, so I stayed overnight as planned and returned home Friday afternoon.
To try and sum it up, GMA Week was an amazing experience for me, both professionally and personally. During my long bout with illness, Christian music was such an encouragement to me. It seemed like no matter how sick I felt or how bad the pain was, there was always the right song playing at the right time. So you can imagine how amazing it was for me to meet the people behind the music and to connect with many of them.
Professionally, I learned so much it's hard to believe! The instructors were incredible and it wasn't hard to see that their one desire to be teach people how to make great radio. Hopefully I'll be able to take what I learned and do their teachings justice!
I am very humbled by the investment that was made in me and the MAD ministry by sending me to this great week!
To see some of my photos from GMA Week, click here.