School of Rock: The Master Class

By Christa_Banister
Posted: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 21:33

Francesca Battistelli

By Christa A. Banister, senior music editor, gmclife.com

Imagine your favorite artists have taken a brief hiatus from making records and touring and are suddenly enlisted to teach everything from Guitar 101 to Advanced Vocal Performance to Non-Clichéd Songwriting, a la Jack Black’s character in “School of Rock.” Best of all, you are the students! Fun, isn’t it?

We thought so. Given that summer’s a wrap and classes are officially back in session, gmclife.com presents the 2010 “class schedule” – and which artists we’d like to see handing out the syllabi.

Beginning Vocals: Francesca Battistelli and Brandon Heath
When teaching vocally challenged students how to sing on-key while also helping those already blessed in that department make the most of what they’ve got, it’s helpful to have laidback, approachable instructors who aren’t intimidating. And while Francesca and Brandon both have gorgeous voices (they are the Dove Awards’ reigning Female and Male Vocalists of the Year, after all), their low-key, friendly demeanors are essential for building confidence.

Advanced Vocal Performance: Natalie Grant, Mandisa and Mike Farris
While it may seem like a curious pairing, there’s something all three of these artists share in spades, and that’s soul. After all, it’s not enough to possess serious pipes. There are plenty of great singers out there. But when those marvelous vocals are used to soulful effect, something Natalie, Mandisa and Mike are all masters of, well, that takes the performance to a whole new level.

Essentials of the Music Biz: TobyMac
Not only has TobyMac somehow tapped into the proverbial fountain of youth (see his live show and you know exactly what I’m talking about), but he’s managed to fashion a highly successful solo career after being 1/3 of supergroup dcTalk. And in the here-today, gone-tomorrow world of music, the ability to seamlessly transition from one gig to the next is priceless. And if that weren't enough to officially land the gig, he’s got some of the best ears for talent out there. If there’s a cool band worth hearing about, he’s probably already heard of them – and has an opinion. Plus, his label, Gotee Records, has had a great run as it has signed everyone from Relient K to House of Heroes to John Reuben (and it was once the home to GRITS and Jennifer Knapp, too).

Guitar 101: Phil Keaggy
This one’s a no-brainer. Frequently listed among the world’s top 3 finger-picking guitarists, there’s really no one better to learn from.

Piano 101: Michael W. Smith
While he definitely holds his own with a guitar, Michael W. Smith’s artistry shines brightest when he’s tickling those ivories. Guess it was a good thing his family always forced him to practice back when he was a baseball fanatic (even when he didn’t want to), right?

Storytelling From the Stage: Bebo Norman
Sure, his stories tend to go a little long...but that’s all part of Bebo Norman’s aw-shucks charm. Whether he’s going on and on about armadillos or the joys and horrors of being a daddy to two little boys, his storytelling is endearing and a worthy complement to his songs.

Prolific Songwriting: Steven Curtis Chapman and Nichole Nordeman
In terms of sheer output (more than 20 albums in 23 years) Steven Curtis Chapman’s career is remarkable. But the fact that he continues to reinvent himself from album to album and hasn’t run out of compelling things to say, well, that’s downright prodigious. And despite taking a step back from writing and recording songs, Nichole Nordeman is also a worthy teacher of all things songwriting. Not only does she avoid the usual clichés, but her lyrics always offer the listener plenty of food for thought, a welcome trait in the often-superficial world of pop music.

Keeping Your Band Together Even When the Going Gets Tough: Jars of Clay and Third Day
Some bands change their lineups like they change their socks, and it’s impossible to keep up. Considering how difficult and decidedly unglamorous life on the road can be, that’s understandable. But for more than a decade, both Jars of Clay and Third Day have successfully balanced career and family, put their friendships first and stayed together, not to mention while keeping their creativity intact, making them the
perfect teachers.


About the Writer

After graduating with a B.S. in Journalism from North Central University in 1998, Christa Banister moved from Minneapolis to Nashville, Tenn. and eventually started working at CCM Magazine/Salem Publishing in various editorial capacities as an editor, columnist and website guru for five and a half years. After that, she launched her own Dallas-based freelance writing company and writes for numerous clients including Salem Publishing, Crosswalk.com (she review movies for them each week), Christian Single, Christianity Today, Threads Media, Songs4Worship.com, PassAlong.com and also helped kickstart the first Christian music blog for MTV. In addition, she also writes bios for professional recording artists and authors and penned her first two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers for NavPress.

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