HERE IS OUR AWARD-WINNING 2020 FACULTY
...includes the top writers in Christian music. They devote the Write About Jesus weekend to sharing their knowledge and giving analysis and advice. They're with our registrants throughout the day, not just during classes, but chatting between classes in the hallways and joining them at meals.
Collectively they are…
— the winners of over 50 Dove Awards
— the writers of over 100 number one songs
— the writers of over 150 musicals
performed in churches around the world
— the writers of countless cuts by top Christian artists
More important than cuts, awards and number ones is the heart of each member of the faculty. Each one has been invited to Write About Jesus for more than their expertise, but because they believe in helping to open the door for others.
The WAJ faculty changes from year to year, but it always includes top writers who are currently getting cuts in Pop/AC/CCM, Southern Gospel, Worship, and Print and Choral. Representatives from several publishers, A&R directors, and producers round out the faculty, giving Write About Jesus a 8:1 registrant-to-faculty ratio. This gives our registrants lots of opportunity to connect with these music business pros.
SUE C. SMITH,
WORKSHOP FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR
Sue is a five-time Dove-award winning songwriter and the writer of 16 #1 songs. In July of 2020, she was given the Susan Unthank Award for the impact she has made on Christian music. She's nominated in 2020 for two Dove Awards: Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year ("What Kind Of Man," written with Kenna West and Jason Cox) and Musical Of The Year (Is He Worthy?, created with Russell Mauldin). She is the writer of an astonishing 100 musicals published by Brentwood-Benson Music. She is a staff writer with Capitol Christian Music Group, where she has their longest running staff songwriting contract, and with Daywind Music Publishing. Sue is the author of three books: 365 Of Songwriting Advice: The Best of the Write About Jesus Interviews, Adventures In Songwriting: A Guide for Kids—And Anyone Who Wants to Write Songs, and Every Hallelujah: A Songwriter's Journey Through The Psalms. Sue and her husband John founded the Write About Jesus® Workshop in 2000.
John Smith, Workshop Pastor. John is a widely-respected family and career counselor and motivational speaker. He has served as the president of the Board of Directors for MOHELA an organization whose mission is to assist students with low cost loans for college. As president of the City of St. Charles School Board as well as an administrator working with private schools, he developed servant leadership programs for school administrators, faculties, and students.
During his years as administrator of Living Word Christian Schools in Fallon, MO, the high school enrollment quadrupled under John’s leadership. He was the founder of One Accord Ministries, Write About Jesu® parent organization, and still serves as its director.
Lee is a full-time staff songwriter for Daywind Music Publishing, as well as the tenor for the popular quartet Legacy Five. He still spends time doing song demos and session work along with writing songs— lots of them. He’s enjoyed cuts by Brian Free and Assurance, Legacy Five The Booth Brothers, Joseph Habedank, Karen Peck and New River, Larnelle Harris, Michael English, Triumphant Quartet, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, 11th Hour, The Talleys, The Kingsmen, Gold City, and he even had his first #1 song in bluegrass by IBMA Hall of Fame member Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Lee’s musical For The Sake Of Love won the Dove Award for Musical Of The Year in 2018. Daywind Music Publishing (aka the best publisher in the history of the world ever, according to Lee) has been his songwriting home for three years. He says he is “truly happy as a clam there.”
Gina is a songwriter, artist, teacher, wife, mom, lover of songs, and a developer of people. She has over 25 years experience in the music business including 10 independent recordings, a Dove award, song of the year nominations, cuts by artists such as Mandisa, The Martins, The Talley Trio, Carl Cartee, Brian Free and Assurance, and many more, as well as several musicals for both children’s and adult choirs. As the Chief Creative Officer for EnCorps Music, Gina also writes and produces a variety of projects for organizations who use music to communicate their message. She recently released the first project from Kids Corps Music, whose mission is to raise up an army of songs for kids.
Jim Brady is a Dove Award winning, Grammy nominated, singer/songwriter. He’s enjoyed multiple awards for Gospel Music’s Favorite Baritone, as well as Songwriter Of The Year. For nearly thirteen years, he was a member of the award winning vocal group, The Booth Brothers, appearing on many Gaither Homecoming Tours and DVD’s.
His music has taken him into 49 states, Europe, Israel, South Africa, Mexico, and Canada. His songs have been recored by The Booth Brothers, The Martins, The Talleys, Gold City, Legacy Five, Ivan Parker, Brian Free & Assurance, The Hoppers and many more. He’s best known for his chart-topping songs, Truth Is Marching On, Mountain Mover, Welcome To The Family, Homesick For Heaven, Peace In The Shelter, and The Little Things.
Melissa Brady is a singer/songwriter, with a love of words, music, books, and cats. Married to Jim Brady since 1993, they’ve traveled the world, singing in over 35 states, as well as Europe, Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Norway and many gospel music cruises.
She’s sung with her heroes, on Gaither Homecoming videos, and had the privilege of standing on the stages of Brooklyn Tabernacle, First Baptist Church of Atlanta, In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley, The Dove Awards, Gospel Music Showcase, The National Quartet Convention and concert halls all across the country.
She hosts her own women’s event, Something Beautiful, where women from all over the US and Canada come to join other like-minded women in celebrating faith, community and authenticity.
She earned a Master’s Certificate in Songwriting from Berklee College of Music, has had her songs recorded by some of the best voices of our day and has enjoyed success on the Gospel Music charts. More importantly, she’s enjoyed the honor of sitting in a writer’s room, crafting songs with the most amazing writers, who have become dear friends.
Jeff Bumgardner is an exclusive songwriter with Sunset Gallery Music where he has been since 2012. In that time, he has had over 450 songs recorded, seven GMA Dove Awards, a BMI Award, a Singing News Song of the Year Award, numerous number one songs in various genres along with awards and recognitions from several other organizations. Jeff is also co-author of the book Green Hearts: God’s Goodness in the Worst of Times. Serving as Worship Pastor and Digital Campus Pastor at First Baptist North Augusta, Jeff has led his Dove Award winning choir to produce three projects; Your Word, God of Our Praise, and Let the People Sing: A Musical Celebration of Christmas. Jeff resides in Augusta, GA with his wife, Jody, and children Caleb, Abby, and Ava. In 2016, Jeff lost his ten-year old daughter, Ella, to a sudden brain bleed from an arteriovenous malformation. This tragedy sparked their family to launch Ella’s Gift, which currently ministers to patients in Children’s Hospital of Georgia as well as promoting acts of kindness in schools and communities.
Carl wrote his first song at the age of 7, considering music more of a second language than an acquired skill. His catalog of songs and studio albums have garnered him a Dove award as well as tracks on the albums of artists including Elevation Worship, Laura Story, Aaron Schust, Selah, Jaci Valesquez, Big Daddy Weave, The Martins, NewSpring Worship, Finding Favour, LifeWay Worship, The Gaither Vocal Band, Rory & Joey, The Oakridge Boys, FFH, Travis Cottrell and over 150 songs cut by other artists.
A life that started playing music and leading worship in the local church fostered a deep affection for the Church and for writing songs for her to sing. No matter where the road leads, it’s never far away from a place to serve and give in the body of Christ. Carl has written and recorded thirteen albums over the last 18 years and performed with artists Third Day, Mercy Me, Steven Curtis Chapman but is most grateful to lead and serve on the staff of Fellowship Bible Church in Nashville, TN as Director of Worship Development and to found the Inspire Worship Conference, an annual event that trains and equips church worship leaders.
Dave’s songwriting credits include hits that cross musical boundaries from contemporary Christian music to southern gospel, including songs recorded by Larnelle Harris, Sandi Patty, Steve Green, 4HIM, Al Denson, Point of Grace, Phillips, Craig & Dean, Glen Campbell, CeCe Winans, and many others. Twenty-six of his songs have reached the #1 spot in the country on the Christian music charts. He is Director of Creative Development, A&R and Publishing for Lillenas Publishing Company. In 2009 Dave was awarded the prestigious ASCAP Living Legend Award
JOE DAN CORNETT
Joe Dan, a Nashville native, is currently Creative Manager at Daywind Music Publishing where he serves the staff writers and works within the Southern Gospel, Mainstream Country, Bluegrass and Americana markets. He has worked in several different facets of the music industry, which range from major market rock and country touring to the Film and TV department at BMI. His heart is to serve others and to help guide “creatives” towards their goals and aspirations.
For over 30 years, Dennis Dearing, a two-time Dove Award nominee for production, has invested his professional life in the music industry in Nashville, TN. A graduate from Belmont University with a Music Business degree (BBA), producer, guitarist and writer Dennis has worked and performed directly with notable artists and Grammy Award winners like Natalie Grant, Mathew West, Mandisa (American Idol), Hillary Scott (Lady Antebellum), Jay Demarcus & Gary Lavox (Rascal Flatts), Joy Williams (The Civil Wars), Sara Evans, Kathy Troccoli, Travis Cottrell, Nicol Smith Sponberg, Todd Smith (Selah), 4-Him, Truth, Lisa Bevill, Charly McClain, Geoff Moore, The Martins, and David Phelps. Dennis lives in Franklin, TN where he owns his own production company and studio Menace Music.
Cliff Duren is the Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church Woodstock, GA. In addition, Cliff writes, arranges, orchestrates, and produces music resources for various church music publishers while also producing various artist recordings each year. He is a 3-time Dove Award winner for his contributions to church music. Cliff recently completed his first film score for the faith-based film “Champion,” which hit theaters nationwide in May of 2017. Cliff became a Christian at age seventeen and soon after pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Shorter University in Rome, GA and a Master’s Degree in Church Music from Lee University in Cleveland, TN. In March of 2002, Cliff married his college sweetheart, April. Cliff, April, and vocalist Heather Richardson recently released “You Reign Forever”, their 4th trio release, under the group name “Overflow.” Together, Cliff and April enjoy leading worship together and ministering at various churches, conferences, and workshops. They reside in Woodstock, GA with their 4 children; Mac, Sydney, Elijah, & Emma Kate.
Simon is an award-winning songwriter/producer and an Amazon best-selling author, based on the south coast of England, UK. He was initially signed with Brentwood Benson Music Publishing/Universal CMG, with 200 songs in his catalogue and cuts with Vince Gill and Sheri Easter (Livin’ in the Rain, #2 SOGO charts, long-listed for a Grammy), Mandisa (Truth About Me), Abandon (Known), Avalon (Destined), Gold City (Never Too Broken, #1 SOGO charts). Simon also received a Dove nomination for the musical LifeSong: The Musical, written with Sue C Smith. His modern hymn "He Is God,” won Integrity/Thankyou Music’s Search for a Hymn. He is now signed with Great British Music Publishing that represents his work. Simon’s book Song Maps - A New System to Write Your Best Lyrics is still a #1 best seller on Amazon, internationally. His new book is expected to be released in time for WAJ 2020.
Now in his fourth decade as a professional songwriter, Joel Lindsey has established himself as one of the most prolific and sought-after writers in the industry. With a catalog of over 2000 recorded songs to his credit, including over 30 #1 songs, 18 Dove Awards, 8 BMI Awards, 2 ASCAP awards, 4 Platinum records, 7 Gold records and 11 platinum videos, Lindsey continues to create new music in a wide variety of genres.
His songs have been recorded by such artists as Selah, Sandi Patty, Kristin Chenoweth, Avalon, Chris Mann, Gaither Vocal Band, Ty Herndon, TaRanda, Cana’s Voice, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Oak Ridge Boys, Point of Grace, Kathie Lee Gifford, Mark Lowry, Riley Harrison Clark, Dailey and Vincent, Todd Smith, Joy Williams, The Perrys, Triumphant Quartet, Karen Peck & New River, The Nelons, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Joseph Habedank, Larnelle Harris, 4Him, and many others.
His musical, Emmanuel: Celebrating Heaven’s Child is the highest selling musical in the history of Brentwood Benson Music Publishing company and is just one of over 30 musicals he has written for the church choir market.
In addition to writing songs, Joel is the co-founder and co-owner of Sunset Gallery Music and its subsidiaries. Sunset Gallery is the publishing home for exclusive songwriters Geron Davis, Scott Inman, Jeff Bumgardner, Marcia Henry, Mark Mathes, Jim Davis, Rachel McCutcheon, Donna King, Val Dacus, Gene Ezell, Adina Bowman, Barbara Huffman, Randall Garland, Jonathan Denney, Ed Stivers, Keagan Denney and Carolyn Cross.
Lindsey is also the A&R Director for the recently formed Club44 Records, a label which specializes in the American Songbook, jazz and cabaret music. Their upcoming first release, Christmas At Birdland, features well-known Broadway artists Jim Caruso, Billy Stritch and Klea Blackhurst on the studio recording of their legendary annual Christmas show at the world-famous Birdland Jazz Club in New York City. Joel Lindsey divides his time between Santa Barbara, California and Nashville, Tennessee and is an exclusive songwriter for Word/Curb Music Publishing.
Phil loves to lead God’s people in worship and mentor musicians, singers, and songwriters for the Kingdom. He has been a worship pastor for over 25 years. He has led worship at many conventions and conferences in the states and overseas. Phil is a past grand prize winner at Write About Jesus and a staff songwriter for Sunday Best Music, Nashville, TN, with over 30 songs released in musicals by Lillenas, Brentwood Benson, and Word. His songs have also been cut by the Nelons, The Old Paths, The Guardians, Steve Ladd, Ashes to Fire, Southern Salvation, and The Dixie Melody Boys.
Krissy Nordhoff is a professional songwriter and co-founder of Brave Worship. She has had 3 Dove Award Nominations, and also won the 2012 Dove Award for Worship Song of the Year for “Your Great Name,” a song she co-wrote, which has impacted the church worldwide. Her songs have been recorded by artists including Natalie Grant, Mandisa, Darlene Zschech, Lauren Daigle, Dustin Smith, Aaron Shust, Anthony Evans, Meredith Andrews, Charles Billingsley, Todd Agnew, Anthony Evans, Kerrie Roberts, Lacey Sturm, Joseph Habedank, Corey Voss, and Michael Farren.
Don Poythress was born in Meridian, Mississippi, but has lived and worked in Nashville since 1986. He has penned songs that have been recorded by Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Tim McGraw, Daryll Worley, Sir Cliff Richard, Brian Littrell(Backstreet Boys), Lincoln Brewster, Blake Shelton, Earl Scruggs, Kari Jobe, Philips Craig and Dean, Jake Owen, and Jason Crabb among many others.
His song “A Little More Country Than That” recorded by Easton Corbin went to #1 and was nominated for CMA and ACM song of the Year. And Kelly Pickler had a hit with “Things That Never Cross A Man’s Mind”. Other recent singles include Jake Owen’s “Tell Me” and The Henningsen’s “I Miss You”.
His Dove Award-winning Song "The Promise" as sung by The Martins, was awarded top recorded song in the Southern Gospel Category in 2004. He also won a 2011 Dove award for Jason Crabb’s version of “Joseph” in the Inspirational Song of the Year category. And his third Dove Award was for Karen Peck and New River’s “Revival” in the Southern Gospel Category.
Don is also known as a performer in his own right, appearing on such stages as the Grand Ole Opry, The Ryman Auditorium, The Louisiana Hayride, and a regular performer at The Bluebird Café.
He has also released his own solo project entitled “Wash Away” with guest appearances from Ricky Skaggs and Paul Baloche.
UPDATED BIO COMING SOON.
As a professional songwriter and publisher, James Tealy’s deep list of cuts across several genres includes BMI award winners, chart-topping Christian radio singles and songs on Dove Award and Grammy Award winning gold and platinum albums. His songs have been recorded by Lauren Daigle, Kari Jobe, Josh Wilson, Unspoken, Gold City, and more than 100 others. James’ songs have been featured in both film and TV globally including networks NBC, CBS, Fox Sports, ABC Family, UPN and more.
As an educator, James Tealy has taught Commercial Songwriting in the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business at Belmont University, as well as music industry, songwriting and worship ministry leadership courses as an adjunct faculty member and curriculum design consultant at Lipscomb University, Delta State University, Trevecca Nazarene University, and Truett McConnell University. You can join a songwriting course with James right now at KingdomSongsUniversity.com
EMI/Capitol Christian Music Group as Director, Artist Development working with Steven Curtis Chapman, Elevation Worship, Hillsong, Third Day, Amy Grant, Matthew West, & TobyMac to name a few. Currently, he is an Artist & Brand Manager with The Fuel Music (Pat Barrett, Vertical Worship, Red Rocks Worship, Chris McClarney, Lydia Laird & more). In his ‘side job’, he has performed on stage beginning 5 years old trying to impress his elementary school teachers all the way to performing with Amy Grant in front of 60,000 people trying to impress his parents. Bryan has also been a worship leader for over 15 years and has a deep passion for seeing songs connect with people. He has worked in every side of the music business and says he is ‘always a student’ of the music business because it changes daily and that is the best job in the world.
Kenna Turner West is a multi-Dove Award-winning songwriter and five-time Songwriter of the Year—co-writing hit songs such as “Say Amen,” “Even Me,” “Revival,” and “Small Town Someone.” With twenty-five “Song of The Year” wins and eight BMI Awards to her credit, Kenna’s songs have been recorded by artists such as Jason Crabb, Hillary Scott (of Lady Antebellum), Michael English, The Martins, Finding Favour, The Isaacs, The Booth Brothers, The Crabb Family, Triumphant Quartet, The Collingsworth Family, Brian Free & Assurance, Joseph Habedank, Marty Raybon (of Shenandoah), Karen Peck & New River, Jeff & Sheri Easter, The Nelons, Selah, Gold City, The Talleys, Gordon Mote, 11th Hour, Legacy Five, and many more. She has also penned six musicals, including Word Music’s best-selling Easter release, “We Are Witnesses.” Earlier this year, Kenna signed a record deal with Crossroads Music.
For over thirty-five years, the author and board-certified counselor has blended music, devotional teaching, and humor into a ministry that has reached across the nation and around the world. Whether she is writing songs on Nashville’s Music Row or ministering alongside noted Christian leaders at venues ranging from The Pentagon to NASCAR chapels to the local church, Kenna’s life has a singular call: to creatively communicate the Living Hope found in Jesus Christ.
Touring artist, #1 Songwriter , Producer, Recording Artist, Award Winner. These are just a few of the words that describe Brian White. One of Nashville’s most sought after hit makers, his songs have been recorded by such Christian artists as Danny Gokey, Mandisa, Kutless, Avalon, The Martins, Point of Grace, Larnelle Harris, 7th Time Down, Michael English, Karyn Williams, and many more, earning him 14 #1 Songs and 2 Dove Awards.
His successes in the Country market have landed him songs recorded by Jason Aldean, Trace Adkins, Rascal Flatts, Gary Alan, Steve Holy, Neal McCoy, The Swon Brothers, Kix Brooks, Charley Pride, Blackhawk, to name a few. He is the writer of the 5-week #1 smash, "Watching You" for Rodney Atkins, which was named SESAC Country Song of the Year and Billboard’s "Most Played Country Song of 2007" as well as being nominated for the ACM SONG OF THE YEAR.
Recently “Watching You” was named the “Most Played Country Song of The Decade” and landed at #37 in the “Top 100 Country Songs Of All Time.”
A man of faith and conviction, White currently lives in Nashville with his wife, Christian recording artist Karyn Williams. He writes and produces for SB21 / Anthem Music Publishing.
UPDATED BIO COMING SOON
Tony Wood is a five-time Dove Award winner, nominee for Songwriter of the Year and writer of 32 #1 songs. Artists recording his songs include Michael W. Smith, Francesca Battistelli, Matt Redman, Zach Williams, Mandisa, Micah Tyler, Austin French, Big Daddy Weave, 7eventh Time Down, We Are Messengers, Point of Grace, Big Daddy Weave, Sandi Patty, Gaither Vocal Band, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs and many others. Tony is a staff writer for WORD Music Publishing. You can follow him on Instagram at: tonywood_exit71.
Holly is Provident Music Group’s Vice President of Publishing for Essential Music, working with such writers as Jason Ingram, Mia Fieldes, Matt Maher, Zach Williams, Jonathan Smith, Tauren Wells, Casting Crowns, Elevation Worship. Vertical Worship and others. In both 2019 and 2020, she was named BMI Publisher of the Year. Holly was Creative Director for Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing for eight years, and before that the Membership Director for the Gospel Music Association.