Mondello scores in 1st (and last) Canyon Worship try
Eighth of a series featuring the 10 student artists who wrote the songs for Canyon Worship 2021, scheduled to be released in September. Today: Emma Mondello.
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Elizabeth Tinajero
GCU News Bureau
“In Brokenness,” Emma Mondello’s song on Canyon Worship 2021, is like a pieced-together portrayal of her time at Grand Canyon University.
It starts humbly, which suits Mondello’s mindset, but, boy, what a finish. Before she graduated in April, she mused about how much the Worship Arts program had changed her.
“I came to GCU being really shy and not really wanting to put myself out there,” she said. “Walking away 2 ½ years later, I can say that I’ve made some friends for a lifetime and experienced some things that are going to live with me forever and have really built who I am.”
Who she is now gave her the courage to create a song that builds into a choir of voices. Eric Johnson, Manager of the GCU Recording Studio, compares it to “the church lifting its voice to the heavens.”
Mondello wasn’t feeling heavenly when she wrote it. Anything but. Like many of the songs on the album, it’s a demonstration that things weren’t hunky-dory for the student artists during the pandemic.
“It was written at a time when I was feeling just that – I was feeling broken and alone and like the world had just turned its back on me,” she said. “During that time, I was really forced to look to God because I felt like I had nothing else. The Lord really let me just worship Him – to lift my hands and lift my voice.”
It’s her first song on the annual album for a simple reason – she never had submitted one before. Talk about going out with a bang.
“I just felt like submitting it,” she said. “I was supposed to have someone record the guitar for me while I sang it, but I played the guitar myself.”
Imagine her surprise when her song was selected. Working with producers Geoff Hunker and Dave Willey made it that much sweeter.
“In working with Emma on this project, it became evident to me that she was truly humbled and honored to be included in the process,” Johnson said. “Her humble spirit and her sparkling smile lit up anytime she heard the production pieces that Geoff and Dave were adding during the recording process.
“It’s just one of those things that reminds me of what it is we are doing here. We are allowing students to glorify God and bless others through their songs of worship. Emma epitomizes the concept of a humble worshipper before a mighty God.”
Mondello’s beginnings in worship music were humble as well. The Lake Forest, California, native was involved in church and choir in high school but was struggling to figure out where she wanted to go to college until she went on a Discover GCU trip. One look at the Recording Studio changed everything.
“I was blown away. I was like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s legit,’” she said. “When I got up here, I was almost overwhelmed because it was so professional. Everyone knew what they were doing. I was like, ‘I do not belong here. What am I doing here?’
“The Lord said, ‘No, just trust Me, just stay, wait it out, make some friends.’ And now I am on the album, I’m on the Worship team. I’ve had a lot of great experiences.”
Serving on the Worship team at Chapel was particularly emotional. “I always would tell myself, ‘Don’t look at the students,’” she said. “I’m going to see someone crying, and then I’m going to break down.”
It’s similar to her feelings as she sets out in the hope of being a worship pastor at a church. The Worship Arts program thoroughly prepares graduates to, as she puts it, “get ready to get out there and fight the spiritual battle that’s going on with worship and music and prayer.” But she already has won a battle – she hung in there when the going was tough.
“I went in blind and I totally fell in love with the program, the people, the classes,” she said. “Everything about it has been so amazing.”
Especially her final verses. And don’t we all love a good ending?
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
Related content from Canyon Worship 2021:
GCU Today: The music of Canyon Worship is all grown up
Related content from previous Canyon Worship albums:
GCU Today: ‘Amazing’ Canyon Worship album released