Brown, Russell bid farewell at Songwriters Showcase

April 02, 2019 / by / 0 Comment

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Cole Parker
GCU News Bureau

Seniors Katie Brown and Harrison Russell are getting a sendoff befitting two of the most prolific talents to grace the Worship Arts program at Grand Canyon University.

Better yet, they’re going out side by side onstage.

Katie Brown performs at the Spring Songwriters Showcase on Monday at Canyon 49 Grill. (Photo by Cole Parker)

They performed together again – twice – Monday night in the Canyon Worship Songwriters Showcase for the spring semester, which featured 12 songs that will be considered for the Canyon Worship 2020 album. The songs on the 2019 edition were chosen from the previous two Showcases.

By then, Brown and Russell will have moved on to their next life adventures. But they won’t ever forget their GCU musical experiences, which will end with performances at The Gathering on Tuesday night and at the final Chapel of the spring semester Monday.

“It’s a great thing to be able to look back and be sad and be emotional about something you’re leaving because you know it was so impactful,” said Brown, who fought her emotions while addressing it onstage during her performance Monday. “I just feel so blessed that I’ve been able to be part of this community and have grown in the ways that God took me from a shy, insecure person, just very timid, and has allowed His voice to be spoken through me.

“It’s been a humbling four years, and I’ve made some of the best friends. It’s sad and it’s emotional, but I’m thankful for it. And because of the way He provided this community, I know He can do it in the future.”

Harrison Russell performs regularly at Chapel in addition to being part of the Songwriters Showcase. (Photo by Gillian Rea)

Said Russell, “This has been such a part of our life for the past four years. It’s been something that we look forward to and work hard toward. These are staple moments that we’ll remember about our college experience. This was our last Showcase – it’s crazy to think about. I’m going to miss it so much.”

Another big Showcase crowd at Canyon 49 Grill first got to hear them perform “My Father’s House,” which they collaborated on by accident.

Russell had written the verse for the song but couldn’t find the right words to complete it. He asked Brown for help, and as soon as she heard it she thought of a bridge she had written – a bridge that, like his verse, hadn’t gotten her to the finish line of a completed song.

“This is going to sound crazy,” she told him, “but that actually goes perfectly with my idea.”

The verse Russell had written:

I know that in my Father’s house

There’s a place for me

For all eternity I’ll be

Found within my Savior’s arms

Surrounded by His love

Here my soul has found its meaning

Brown’s bridge:

We were made to know You

We were made to know You

We were made to know You

And be known by You

Later in the show, Russell accompanied Brown for her “Eternal Song.” It was the culmination of quite a day for her – she also did a solo with guest artist/speaker Justin Unger at Chapel on Monday morning.

“I love leading worship with him,” said Brown, who visited Unger and his family at their Huntington Beach, Calif., home last year and performed with him at several concerts. “It’s one of the most special things because you know that he’s anointed and you know that the spirit is so present with him. It’s amazing. I love it and feel so blessed.”

“Eternal Song” is much more fast paced than most of Brown’s creations. Her work has been on every Canyon Worship album during her time at GCU, but she tends to write deep, soulful ballads. Not this time. This one moves.

Austin Koukal performs “Broken Rainbow.” (Photo by Cole Parker)

“When I write, it’s normally out of an emotional state, it’s normally something I’ve been moved by, so that tends to be slower,” she said. “But just the joyful part of the fast song came out this time. Not that my other songs are always sad or anything, but they’re slower. Even though it’s an emotional time in my life, moving on, there’s so much joy in it.”

Brown and Russell both found joy Monday night in watching how much talent has come into the program behind them. The 10 other songs performed at the Showcase featured a wide variety of genres, from contemporary Christian to rap, but all shared one trait: They just keep raising the level of talent.

Russell noted that GCU graduate Desiree Aguilar, another former Canyon Worship star, was there and was taken aback by how many fresh faces were performing. It got Russell thinking about what it will be like for him to come back in the near future.

“How crazy it’s going to be – maybe a different group of people but an improved group of people,” he said. “How the program is growing and how it’s thriving has been so, so, so cool.”

Right about then, the signature song of Canyon Worship 2018, Russell’s “Rhythm,” began playing over the loudspeakers. The crowd sang along, knowing the words by heart.

Mary Van Vleck showed her wide-ranging vocal skills while singing “Run Away.” (Photo by Cole Parker)

Yes, Brown and Russell will miss moments like this, but at least their best moments at GCU have been recorded and will live on – side by side.


“Already Know” by Don Carter

“Be Alright” by Amanda Riffe

“My Father’s House” by Harrison Russell

“Broken Rainbow” by Austin Koukal

“Trust Fall” by Chantelle Lankford

“Steadfast Love” by Austin Bratton and Alaira Leafgreen

“Run Away” by Mary Van Vleck

“Free Time” by Jaime Espinel

“Eternal Song” by Katie Brown

“All Things” by Daniel Stugan and Travis Hathaway

“Take Heart” by Emma Terlizzi

“How Long” by Elaina Marchegger

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


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