‘Amazing’ Canyon Worship album released
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
As manager of the Center for Worship Arts at Grand Canyon University, Dr. John Frederick’s mission is to mentor young Christian songwriters. Clearly, he’s succeeding — just take a listen to the first Canyon Worship EP last year.
But given Frederick’s background in music and his considerable candidness, you have to pay attention when he gets absolutely lyrical about the CWA’s first full album, which has been released on iTunes, Amazon and Rhapsody.
“I’ve done music my whole life. I’ve worked with songwriters from every neck of the woods, every level,” he said. “And some of the best songs I’ve ever heard are on this album.”
The album folds in seven new songs produced by students in the spring semester of 2014-15 and the fall semester of this academic year, plus the three songs that were in the EP last year. While he was in the process of helping to produce it — he even played some bass with the band during rehearsals — he found that, as much as he’s a mentor, he’s also a fan.
“I’m not their peer in terms of my position, but I consider them peers in terms of their ability,” he said. “I didn’t feel the necessity to say, ‘Listen, young one, let me instill my knowledge on you.’ I just kept saying, ‘This is a great song! This is an amazing song!’”
The competition was fierce to narrow the list to seven new songs, and only one of the artists who contributed to last year’s album made the cut this time: Sophomore Maddison Harris, who sang a cover track to “Christ in Me” last year, is back with “Break Me Down,” which she co-wrote with Thaddeus Johnson and David Sviontek.
Only one student appears on two tracks this year — freshman Graham Harper, who wrote “Wholly Loved” on his own and collaborated with Kylie Foster to get “Beloved” to the finish line.
The way “Beloved” came together is special. Foster had written some verses but couldn’t get them to where she wanted, so she asked Harper for a little help. What happened next was amazing.
“I just started playing the piano and gluing it together,” Harper said. “Basically, it was all of Kylie’s ideas and just me setting music to it and breathing into it a little bit. In that moment, Kylie was overcome. We just knew right then that it was something special.”
Foster said, “I just was bawling. It was so embarrassing. It felt like I was watching my heart get played on the piano.”
Getting two songs on the album also was a high note for Harper, a freshman from San Francisco who plans to graduate within three years (he calls himself a “froshmore”). Coming to GCU has been a great experience for him, and now this.
“It’s hard to encapsulate how much I feel grateful for it,” he said. “It’s been validating. It’s been gratifying. It’s probably been one of the best weeks of my college experience, maybe rivaling one of the best weeks of my life.”
The other four new songs on this year’s album are:
● “With You” (Katie Brown)
● “Peter” (Angel Morris)
● “What It Means to Me” (Toni Crippen)
● “Scarred” (John Rowe and Kaitlyn Price)
Besides Harris’ “Christ in Me,” the other two holdover songs from the 2015 EP are:
● “Follow You” (Desiree Aguilar and Jessica Sams)
● “Christ Be All Around Me” (a cover song performed by Tanner Krenz)
“I feel really strongly about the songs in the album,” Frederick said. “I feel really strongly about the collaboration. The four tracks that we (Frederick and Eric Johnson, the recording studio manager, and John McJunkin, the studio’s producer and engineer) recorded, the students were playing all the instruments. The band was just incredible — it was a band that had never played together, had never even rehearsed the songs.”
And there’s no doubt that they also should be thankful the opening of the new recording studio last September. Worship Arts students have made it their home, especially the roomy area where they can relax and talk and create.
“I would definitely sleep on the couch if I could,” Harper said. “I think all of us in a heartbeat would spend every day here if we could, just working on music and sharing meals and having fun.”
And this still is just the beginning. Frederick dreams of what this will be like years down the road, with each year bringing the program to new levels. What’s happened already is so stunning, such optimism is only natural.
“The album release every year is not so much about pointing to itself, it’s about pointing to the program and the artists being developed within the program,” he said. “This album is like a snapshot of the highest achievements of the previous year.”
They were pretty high, obviously. Last year, the song “Follow You” reached No. 37 on the iTunes Christian singles chart.
“I think people will take away that there’s a family of artists who all have different styles, come from different backgrounds, and it’s reflected in their music, but we all follow Jesus steadfastly,” Harper said. “We want to bring that kind of hope and inspiration to younger people, to people our age, and thank the people who have taught us and grown us.”
Frederick is thanking them even more.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected]