Artist Preview: Christian Showcase 2018
Written by Liz Gresser
Amy Rochelle DeMint started performing at eight years old at the persistent persuasion of her mother.
“I had such severe stage fright, two lines into the verse I just started crying,” said DeMint. “I hated it so much, I said ‘Mom don’t make me do this!’”
DeMint’s mother bribed her with Barbie dolls to convince her to keep singing.
Her mother told her her voice was a gift, and if she didn’t use it, she would lose it.
Eventually, DeMint got over her stage fright and started leading worship for her church when she was seventeen.
“Ever since then, I’ve been doing worship and writing on my own,” said DeMint.
Though DeMint is a senior songwriting major, most of writing up to this point has been for church and her classes.
“I have always catered my music toward the situation. This is the first time I’m really digging into who I am as an artist.”
For DeMint, writing is therapy, but while she loves worship music, she can’t always relate to it, she said.
“It feels very polished, and it doesn’t speak to the darker parts of me.”
DeMint’s band, Amy Rochelle, wants to share a different message with their audience.
“A lot of Christian music is meant for getting you on fire for God, which is great,” said bassist Isaiah Kearney, “But there are more emotions out there, and I think it’s important to genuinely communicate with those people.”
Along with Kearney, DeMint will be performing with drummer Matt Wagner, guitarist Joey Corso and background vocalist Jenane McCulloch.
The band formed when DeMint made a post on Belmont’s Facebook page. Although she is headlining the band, she doesn’t want it to be all about her.
“It’s really cool playing for her,” said Wagner. “She lets everyone have their moment.”
Each of the members brings a unique energy to the band, DeMint said.
“I think this band really vibes well, especially for being randomly assorted,” said DeMint.
The band draws inspiration from Skillet, Flyleaf and Twenty One Pilots. The members describe their sound as edgier than most worship music.
The band says that students shouldn’t expect a quiet night of worship.
“We’re about expressing Christian values in an unexpected way,” said Corso.
Written by McIntyre Barnhardt
Ethan Thomas has become a familiar face around Belmont. He’s a resident assistant in Tall Hall and a member of Phoenix, one of Belmont’s top ensemble groups.
Before coming to Belmont, Thomas had only learned about music at church in his hometown of Acworth, Georgia. The junior commercial voice major didn’t even take his first vocal lesson until his freshman year of college.
What Thomas lacked in technical training he made up for in experience. He has been singing in front of people since his choir director realized his talent when Thomas was only 6 years old.
“The choir director heard me and said ‘Wow this kid can sing,’” said Thomas. “Two weeks later I’m singing in front of an entire congregation by myself.”
Thomas hasn’t looked back since then and sees music as a place of freedom, he said.
“My favorite part about the Christian genre, but also any positive and uplifting music, is that it’s all about encouragement and loving others,” said Thomas. “It’s very powerful.”
This emphasis on uplifting music is one of the things Thomas admires in one of his current musical inspirations, Tori Kelly. He admires how she blurs the lines of the pop and gospel genres in today’s music. Other influences include Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Kirk Franklin.
“I grew up with Southern Baptist choirs and hymns, as well as more contemporary styles,” said Thomas. “Then, as I got older, I was introduced to gospel R&B and I never went back.”
Thomas describes his own musical style as a blend of contemporary Christian and gospel.
Christian Showcase will be the first time Thomas publicly releases his own work, and he’s feeling very humbled, he said.
“I feel God telling me ‘I have given you these songs.’ I shouldn’t hide my light or the words I have to say,” said Thomas. “Your story matters, your life matters and you should never devalue that.”
Thomas also wants to emphasize the message of inclusivity when it comes to forgiveness and acceptance. He hopes Christian Showcase will be a great coming together of community and love, he said.
“There is no ‘if,’ there is no ‘maybe.’ It’s not a question mark,” said Thomas. “You can choose to accept God’s love, and it is given so freely.”
“Come ready for a powerful night.”
Written by Kendall Crawford
Isaiah Carrell and Brandon Billings, the duo behind the band Isaiah William, want to see worship music make a meaningful impact on people in the same way it inspired them.
“I want to be able to create an atmosphere and a place where people can worship to the music that we create and allow them to experience God in a different way,” Carrell said.
The band is excited to make its debut at the Christian Showcase, performing original songs they wrote together.
The two worship leadership majors worked as resident assistants together in Maddox, and they started writing songs together with the goal of sharing their message at the Christian Showcase.
The Isaiah William team is rounded out by its manager, sophomore Matty Jordan. Jordan believes something bigger and better comes out the band’s music.
“We all play at churches every single Sunday, and we seem to play the same thing,” said Carrell. “We wanted to make something different.”
At the showcase, Isaiah William will share Christian music with an 80s edge, combining electronic synth with the organic feel of contemporary worship music, said Billings.
Drawing much of their influence from scripture and theology books, the band uses music as an outlet to talk about faith honestly.
“We have these sounds in our heads, and we have these lyrics in our heart,” said Billings. “If people like it, and they can agree with it, and they can say ‘Amen to that,’ then that’s a double bonus.”
Jordan is immensely proud to watch his friends and collaborators create music that is both faith-filled and personal, he said.
“It’s fun to watch people that I know personally and have deep, intimate relationships with create deep, intimate songs out of their own lives that I’ve watched unfold,” he said.
At the heart of Isaiah William is a desire to connect with people and with God.
“Music will change throughout the years,” said Billings. “But I think that the thing that does stay constant are the people.”
By Christiana Green
For David Andrew Cistrunk, faith has always been a central part of his musical journey.
The senior commercial voice major, who goes by David Andrew, started his musical journey in the church, and he wants to give a special shoutout to his hometown of Detroit.
“What up, Detroit!”
Andrew was drawn to music from a young age, he said.
“One of my earliest memories is being in church, not understanding anything, but knowing the music was a strong point for the location I was at.”
He draws musical inspiration from artists like Jason Nelson and his all-time favorite, Tori Kelly.
“I think everyone knows my number one is Tori Kelly,” Andrew said. “She doesn’t allow people to put her in a box, and I think that is so cool and special. I think that is such a lesson to take for life in general — to not let the opinions of others stop you from where God is leading you to.”
For Andrew, performing in Christian Showcase is “a Belmont dream come true,” but it’s about so much more than an opportunity to demonstrate his talent, he said.
“I think it is more of a privilege to show Jesus to people who might not know who he is and to introduce the way I worship to people. I want to introduce a free environment to people where people feel open to hear from the Lord and just feel His presence.”
Andrew also has what he believes to be a bit of a surprise for many of his fans.
“I think people are expecting me to do ‘Letting It Go,’ but I’m not doing that song.”
Andrew hopes this attitude will affect the atmosphere at the showcase in a way that’s noticeable to people in attendance, he said.
“Expect fun, expect Jesus, expect freedom. If I can just capture one moment of forgetting everything that is happening and just focus on that one moment, then that could be the best thing I could do. I want to create that open environment. Just showcase Jesus.”
Photos courtesy of CEMB Showcase series. Taken by Taylor Simmons for Rugged Rose Productions.