Women in Contemporary Christian Music

Women are taking the Christian music industry by storm, especially roles where men have traditionally been leaders, such as owners, producers, songwriters and singers.
Not just content to stay in the shadows, women like Jennifer Knapp, Jaci Velasqez, Stacie Orrico and Superchick are impacting women and girls in arenas that Sandi Patty and Amy Grant do not reach, although these two women broke barriers in the industry when they appeared on the scene back in the early 80s. Now a whole new generation is creating a whole new place for women the music industry.
Kathryn Darden, publisher of www.ChristianActivities.com, started a group called Women In Christian Music as a place for women who work in the Christian Music Industry to share news, info and leads and to fellowship and network, as well as encourage one another. This group is open to women who are currently involved in some aspect of the industry and include artists, managers, publicists, journalists and other professional occupations involved in Christian music.
“Women have always had a big impact on Christian music–in the beginning as artists like Evie, and now leaders of corporations,” said Darden. “The 80s and early 90s saw a lot of women launching their own companies.”
She points out that women also head many departments at major labels now. “Traditionally, women have been found in public relations departments–now the number of women taking leadership roles in this industry are too numerous to mention.”
Darden credits artist such as Amy Grant for shaping the way in the industry as a young girl in the 80s. “To this day, a new young female singer is frequently touted as ‘the next Amy Grant.’ who has become the measuring stick for any young woman entering the Christian music field.” Examples that Darden gives stretch from the inspirational operatic style of Sandi Patty to the rock of Margaret Becker to Leslie Phillip’s unique sound in the 80s.
“These women were among the pioneers that paved the way for future women to not only sing well but have a say in their careers. This helped pave the way for other artists like Crystal Lewis to open her own company and do things her own way and succeed.”
Crystal Lewis, Dove Awards winner and Grammy Awards nominee in the contemporary Christian music industry, runs her own company, Metro One Music with husband Brian Ray in southern California. “I think totally that men probably feel a little inferior sometimes because women get so much of the attention,” said Lewis. Singers like Evie and Amy Grant paved the way for her and many women in the
industry. She expresses her opinion that the Christian music industry in unique in that women have always had an equal share and equal say in what’s going on. She points out that people have gravitated to women singers as far as solo artists, more than men.
Shannon Walker, head of the media relations department at Integrity, Inc., states that women are definitely taking more active roles in the music and business sides of the industry. “At least that appears to be the case from my perspective. More women are involved in A & R and management than ever before. Also, there are numerous female artists representing all of the genres: gospel, pop, southern gospel, urban, praise and worship.”
Walker credits Darelene Zschech, one of Integrity’s own artists, as a groundbreaker in the area of praise and worship music. “Darlene is probably the premier female worship leader in the world,” said Walker. “And, as you may know, worship music and the music industry has been a male-dominated world until recently.”
More women groups are also appearing on the Christian music scene. Groups trying to break into the music industry have many stereotypes to shatter, especially if family and work are involved. But to Amber Aimen, Carrie Beth Young, Monica Hayes and Rana McIntyre of the local group Walking In Faith, this is only the start of a new and promising career in the ministry of contemporary Christian music.
Recently promoting their first CD by putting on a concert at the Paramount Theatre, a local theatre in their hometown of Anderson, Ind., the group showed their talent for harmonizing and ministering through the music. Clothes with bright, vivid colors and a local dance troupe, DFX (Dancers for Christ) to back them up, these women showed you could have fun and be a Christian, too. For a group that got together two years ago, doing church and social functions such as local fairs, they seem to have come a long way quickly.
“We are presently contacting a variety of record labels recently–we are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping someone will grab us and more doors will open,” said Monica.
Carrie, the only single one in the group, hopes that their audiences will first see God’s love through them. She points out they appeal to a wide audience, both young and old alike. The other three members of the group are married, two with children. This becomes a balancing act while the group seeks a career in music.
“Because we have four families, each one of us knows our families are first and set boundaries, putting the
Lord at the center of our priorities,” said Carrie. “It kind of works itself all out,” said Amber. If it’s in your heart, God will provide a way.”
Kim Ousley, “Women in Contemporary Christian Music,” “The Andersonian,” Apr 24, 2011

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