Kathy Horry has been singing since she can remember.
At just 3 years old, she could pick out melodies on the piano that she heard on the radio. At age 9, she was performing for events in her hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan, and recorded her first gospel single.
It helped that she grew up in a musical family. She was raised singing and playing the piano at family and church gatherings and school events. At age 18, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and began a professional music career. She recorded two R&B albums and her singles climbed the Billboard Top 20. But eventually, she came home to gospel and recorded five gospel CDs and a Christmas collection, The Gift, which features gospel renditions of traditional favorites “Joy to the World,” “Gloria,” “Silent Night” and more.
“Silent Night is so special to me because the lyrics put you right there in the action from the first note. It paints a picture and sets the scene for what Christmas is really about,” Horry said.
In 2006, she and her husband, Raymond, founded Ark of Safety Christian Church in St. Charles. In addition to being the church’s “first lady,” she is its music director. Recently, she released a new Christmas EP (extended play). Its title song, “I believe,” is featured in the movie, “A New Husband For Christmas,” which was released on Amazon Prime in November.
“The message in my music is one of healing, restoration and unity. If I can bring songs of joy or comfort right now, then that’s what I’m out to do. I believe we will see better days ahead and music is an answer. It’s easy to look at what’s right in front of you, but I choose to make a con- certed effort to look beyond,” Horry said.
It’s a choice she’s chosen to share with area children and youth.
After receiving an inspired message to influence future generations, Horry created G.I.F.T.E.D. (God’s Intelligent Fortified Talented Educated Dreamers), a nonprofit geared toward youth ages 8-21 who have a passion for music without the financial resources to pursue it. The program’s mission is to foster positive connections and intellectual growth in youth through education, quality music and mentorship. And, of course, provide an opportunity to perform.
According to DoSomething.org, children who study music are more likely to excel in all of their studies, work better in teams, have enhanced critical thinking skills, stay in school, and pursue further education. A June 2019 study in the Journal of Educational Psychology gives proof to that thought.
“The students who learned to play a musical instrument in elementary and continued playing in high school not only score significantly higher, but were about one academic year ahead of their non-music peers with regard to their English, mathematics and science skills, as measured by their exam grades, regardless of their socioeconomic background, ethnicity, prior learning in mathematics and English, and gender,” explained University of British Columbia education professor and the study’s principal investigator, Peter Gouzouasis.
According to Horry, music “is a gift that keeps giving.”
“I’ve seen children that have gone on and used their own gifts, which caused others to want to use their gifts,” Horry said. “To give my gift to the world and see it continue to give is the greatest inspiration there can be.
“Music is a wonderful tool that helps focus and ground us. When I’m going through something tough, I can sit down at the piano in tears but when I get up, I know everything is going to be OK.”
Horry, who holds a master’s degree in nonprofit administration and a bachelor’s degree in music/psychology, challenged the community to focus on what’s important this holiday season.
“When you think about the real meaning of Christmas, it will center you. It’s all about love,” she said.
Gift of music, gift of hope
Ellisville resident Kiersten Rose also wants to inspire the world one song at a time. Her song, “Your Love is Enough,” recently was selected from over 30,000 submissions as the Christian/Gospel Song of the Year at the Josie Music Awards in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The song won for vocal artist, audio production and songwriting.
Rose co-wrote the song with Drew Miller of Orlando, Florida. It was recorded by Kathryn Shipley, of St. Charles. Shipley had planned to record the song in Nashville but due to COVID-19 recorded her vocals remotely with Quentin Stephenson in O’Fallon.
Rose said Shipley brought the song to a new level with her vocals and timely music video that spotlights 2020 issues such as COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter against a backdrop of St. Charles County locations. The powerful video was created by Shipley and Peak Media, with the help of Nashville producer Daniel Dennis. It currently has over 10,000 views on YouTube and Facebook. The video premiered on CMT and Tennessee Country Network in July and made it to the first round ballot for the 2021 Grammy Music Awards.
“I am proud of where the song is today and how it’s helping people. People tell me my music inspires them and that pushes me to make more, because music is a healer,” Shipley said.
Rose, who is the Director of Modern Worship Arts at Manchester United Methodist Church, explained her motivation for the song: “In a strange season of pandemic shut downs, racial injustices, and political turmoil, we need to lean into what unites us instead of what divides us. In all seasons of life, God’s love will always be enough.”
Rose began playing piano at 6, composing at 10 and has produced four albums of original songs. She studied jazz at Webster University and obtained Master of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees. She has been a worship leader with various churches and headed the indie-jazz band Adonis Blue.
She and Shipley already have plans to collaborate on a new song in the spring.
“I love having another language that I can use as an artist to lend my creativity to the world,” Rose said. “Music helps us look beyond what’s happening right now and focus on what’s good and true. It inspires me to see how the power of music moves others.” She said her favorite Christmas song is “In the Bleak Midwinter.” The song could be a metaphor for our current pandemic predicament during the holidays and the challenge of trying to stay focused on the hope of Christmas.
“It’s a haunting melody that balances the hardship of wintertime with the joy of Christ’s birth. It just reminds me of the goodness of God, of people, and the beauty of life,” Rose shared.
A lyric from “Your Love is Enough” states, “Let hope come and rise up.” Rose, Shipley and Horry hope that is exactly what their gift of music is doing this holiday season – serving as a beacon of hope amidst the uncertainty of this tumultuous time.