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Along with writing papers and reading books, first-year Eastern Mennonite Seminary student Jessica Crawford has been busy producing a recording. Her first solo CD, "Shine," is a mix of acoustic rock and folk with a Christian message.
“Just before entering seminary I completed this really intense season of song writing,” said Crawford. “The songs on this CD are all connected to my life experience and faith journey I’ve been on.”
Crawford has been involved in music most of her life and started writing songs in 2001. Her mother, Teresa, is an elementary school music teacher. In fifth grade she was a charter member of the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir (SVCC). She was frequently involved in music at Bridgewater (VA) Church of the Brethren and was in the Turner Ashby Singers in high school under the direction of Debbie Wampler.
“The Turner Ashby Singers and the SVCC really helped to develop my voice,” said Crawford. “We performed all kinds of music, and I found both groups quite challenging.”
Crawford attended Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, Va., her freshman year and then transferred to James Madison University for the remaining three years.
While in college, she and Katie Grove Swartzentruber began singing together. She learned to play guitar on her own, and the duo started leading the Sunset Service at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren. Crawford produced a CD with Swartzendruber in 2003.
Crawford decided to enter seminary to explore her call to ministry and how music might fit with this.
“My faith and my music are completely connected,” said Crawford. “So many of my songs were composed quickly. I feel like they were God-inspired.
“I so glad to be able to process my faith through music,” she stated. “I recognize my music as a gift that God intends to be used for God’s work."
Crawford said that one of the ways the CD project felt like an inspired work is the way that it was produced.
“I had just finished an intense period of song writing and was preparing to enter seminary when the sound engineer from Harrisonburg's Alive Studios, Robbie Meadows, called me.
Crawford had worked with Alive Studios twice, once in 2007 when she won some recording time there in the "Voice of the Valley" contest at the Rockingham county fair, and again this summer when she won recording time in a Gospel showcase.
“Robbie said he just felt prompted to call, and he asked if there was any reason he should be calling me," Crawford recalled. "I said 'Okay, God, I hear you. I’m supposed to record this music.'
“Seminary has been helpful in discerning my place in ministry,” said Crawford. “I’ve had opportunities to work with music in chapel and to write a song for my class on prayer. It has helped me redefine myself as a musician and reaffirm a call to ministry with music.”
Crawford’s CD will be available for purchase on cdbaby.com in January, 2010. She hopes to begin performing locally for churches, youth events, conferences and retreats.