Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tap the Rockies

About a year ago I was flying home on a plane from Denver, exhausted and still reeling from all I had just taken in. I was coming back from a conference in Colorado put on by the Gospel Music Association called “Music in the Rockies”. I had heard about it from Aaron Rice, a writer who judged at a local songwriting event, during a Q & A session. The question was something like, “What can amateurs like us do? How do we get heard?” His answer was Music in the Rockies. I resolved at that moment that my next step as an aspiring songwriter was to be at that event. As it turns out, it was not the next step, but a giant leap.

It was basically 6 days of drinking out of a fire hose. There were more classes that I wanted to attend then I had slots in the day. There were more people that I wanted to meet than I had the time or opportunity. Then there was the overwhelming feeling of sitting down in a class with “industry professionals”- people who were living my dream- and listening to them share their wisdom and experience with plebs like us. I took in volumes of information. I met scads of great people from all across the country. I even had one of my songs critiqued by the author of “Crucified With Christ”, and he liked it. It was quite literally a mountain top experience for me as a songwriter, and well worth the cost.

But there was a dark side to Music in the Rockies. It’s a kind of disease- one that spreads like gangrene among the registrants. It can be seen in the dejected faces of those who were not chosen, wallowing in self-pity. It manifests itself in people huddled together over critique sheets, angrily arguing each negative point as ridiculous and unfounded. The worst case I saw was in my roommate, who simply went home early after discovering she was not a finalist. The disease has many names and many symptoms, but pure and simple it is none other than Pride. I came unprepared for its assault on my heart and became infected on Monday evening, along with all of my roommates and the majority of other registrants. But I quickly found the cure to be the same as it is at home- spending time with Jesus. An hour or so with the Savior renewed my heart and spirit, returned to me the perspective I had lost, and reminded me Who I was serving and Who I was writing for.

I went home without winning anything, but I did come away with pages of furiously scribbled notes, a new understanding of the industry, and, most significantly, another conference to sign up for. All week we had been wearing orange lanyards with emblazoned on them to hold our nametag and meal ticket, but nobody seemed to know what it was. It turned out that Sue Smith, one of the clinicians, ran a conference of her own out in St. Louis called Write About Jesus. I was in several sessions with Sue and got to hear a bit more about the conference and her heart with it, and before I left the Rockies I had decided to register for the October event.

Write About Jesus was even better than Music in the Rockies. Not only was it shorter and much more affordable, but it stayed true to its name. It was about Jesus. It wasn’t about winning competitions and impressing judges. No one showed up with six garment bags and a steam cleaner. It was about writing and being with other writers. The people were amazing. Some of my greatest memories from being there were not classes or competitions, but sitting around a table at Dairy Queen with like-minded people, sharing our hearts and laughing our heads off. The clinicians were much more accessible and approachable and there was simply a different atmosphere then in Colorado. I guess it all boils down to this: Music in the Rockies is something you go to. Write About Jesus is something you belong to.

In a few days I will be on a plane back to Denver to do Music in the Rockies all over again. While I am really looking forward to it, it now serves as more of the advent of “Songwriting Season” for me. Being in the Rockies means that Write About Jesus is just around the corner. It’s kind of like the appetizer, and Write About Jesus is the anticipated main course. Music in the Rockies will whet my appetite for writing and hopefully re-ignite my dreams, and Write About Jesus and the people there will satisfy my soul. I look forward with great anticipation to both events, eager to discover what great things God has planned, and what He will accomplish when my heart is all about Him.


Brian said...

I'm eager to purchase your new CD. From what I have heard so far the lyrics are amazing. Hope your time in Colorado is blessed and I know others who come in contact with you will be blessed to meet such talent with a humble heart and servant's attitude.

Bev Herrema said...

Someone told you to go to Music in the Rockies. That's what happened to me a few years ago as well. You met Sue, heard about WAJ, and headed to St. Louis. Ditto. Then back to Estes Park the next year and, of course, more WAJ! Ditto!

And a resounding AMEN to your "heart" in the midst of all that. Thanks for sharing and for so eloquently putting into words what others of us have experienced and learned as well.

Go forth with God! And may He bless you with the desires of your heart....

Sue said...

Thank you, Kristie, for the kind words about Write About Jesus. Even as I prepare to go to Estes, I am sad for the people who will feel defeated before the week has even started. I don't know that Write About Jesus changes all that, but I just think the emphasis is much less on winning than on learning.

Kristie, your writing always moves me and entertains me! Thanks.

Guy Hufstetler said...

When we went to Estes Park as a family back in 2003, we had spent a lot of money on three demos. We knew that Julie's songwriting abilities would finally be "discovered" and that she might even get a chance to go out and sing her own songs. She entered the artist competition, too.

After all, Julie had been writing songs since she was fifteen. We had a piano bench full of them. Also, she was one of the best female Christian vocalists in our part of Ohio. Churches were always calling asking her to come and sing. She had even been called upon to be a "Sandi Patty stand-in" with Larnelle.

But, family came first. Now was the time for her to shine! The kids were older now, and she could really go out there and take the world by storm!

As a protective husband, I can't tell you how disappointed, aggravated, upset and angry I was when NONE of her songs got past the first round and she didn't move on as an artist either. It is not an exaggeration to say that it RUINED the week for me. She was better about it than I was. I knew she was good and I thought these people were all crazy and it was just a money-making scheme. You can tell, I still have bad feelings about it.

WAJ changed all that.

Julie attended WAJ in 2003 after our "bad experience" in Estes Park.

We went (again as a family) to St. Louis. I spent the days with the boys seeing the arch and all. Julie went to WAJ. In the evening, she just kept saying, "These are MY PEOPLE."

She won in her small group competition, which was really cool and was akin to a God-ordained affirmative hug.

She also learned that talent is important, but not everything. There is a bit of a science to the art of songwriting. Writing is re-writing, as they often say. She came home with pages of notes, and her songwriting process was different.

She went home and started "crafting" songs. Before that, she would write a song in one brief hour and throw it in a file. Now, she took those songs and began doing surgery on them. Writing songs is now a several day process.

In 2004, she went back to WAJ and was able to win the overall competition. Without a doubt, that was the highlight.

Although Julie is a Mom first and can't commit full-time to writing yet, she has been able to pursue it now with some of the best in the business. She has an open door with some really great folks thanks to WAJ.

So, as a protective husband who was "not so impressed" with Music in the Rockies, you can understand why I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to Sue Smith and Write About Jesus.

One more thing...I know that there are artists out there who were "discovered" through Music in the Rockies. On the other hand, where are the "winners" from recent years? I think the most important thing at Estes Park is NOT the competition, it's the learning and the relationships. That's what I would tell anyone who's headed to Colorado.

Thanks, Kristie, for another great blog. Thanks for letting me vent a little, too.

(Someday, I really need to go back to Music in the Rockies and replace my bad experience with a good one!)

Kara Smith said...

I can't wait to see you in Estes and hear your new CD. I'm so excited to see what God will bless you with this time around. LOVED your comments re: Estes vs. WAJ. Face it, the PEEPS meet in St. Louis!

Ray Kayanek said...

Kristie, I was a little bummed about not getting to go to Estes until I read your BLOG. Thank you for writing a reminder my heart needed to hear and have a great time this week.

Brian said...

WOW, wonderful CD. God has blessed you with such a talent of writing and performing. To Him be all the praise for the wonderful gifts he blesses his children with. Thank you for using your talent to make Him known and His truth heard.

Heather said...

Keep it up and let those who are moved by your music and the desires to bring God glory continue to move you. Your lyrics as well as sound are great. I think we all have that desire to be greater, to be bigger but I often think of why. I can't not play music, but I can dance to it. That desire of wanted to be the best or be better drives me, frustrates and can lead me away from God. You have a gift that can allow people to glorify God. I pray that will stir you no matter where you go in life and what you do. Know that songs are not easily forgotten and seem to be implanted and ingrained in minds. I still sing songs from when I was so very little and they still encourage me. I may not know who they are by so the artist gets little to no credit for the broken lines that run through my head and drive me to love my save harder, farther, deeper and longer. Keep it up knowing you can bring Him glory by it. Your awesome girl.

Lisa said...

CONGRATULATIONS !!!! I'm so happy for you and Bo!

Lisa Q.

Anonymous said...
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Junko said...

Hi Kristie!

Congratulations on your win this year. You've worked hard during the past few years and you deserve to be recognized for it. You're so humble, and I so enjoyed meeting you. I want to stay in touch with you, so please write me back off-line.


Anonymous said...

I say briefly: Best! Useful information. Good job guys.

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