Amanda Vernon views her passion for music as a gift from the Holy Spirit. For 10 years, she has been able to see the fruit of that gift through her music ministry that has touched people across the world. The 25-year-old married mother of two is on a coast-to-coast U.S. tour, taking her soulful pop music to the masses, including at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis Nov. 21-23.
Part of the tour includes songs from her newly released CD, Interior Gaze (AmandaVernon.com), with elements of jazz and gospel. Inspired by soon-to-be-canonized Pope John Paul II, informed Catholics will pick up on the theology-of-the-body themes.
"In concert, when I explain the inspiration for each song, I’m able to start a conversation about the Lord and how we image him as male and female," she says.
Start at Church
Her calling started while growing up in St. Francis Xavier Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. Vernon was inspired by her father, who was part of the music ministry at their parish, while she sang in the children’s choir. At age 15, the parish financially backed her first recording project. Soon, she started booking concerts locally and nationally, including the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec, as well as 2008’s World Youth Day in Sydney and WYD 2011 in Madrid.
"Growing up, I always loved music. My family encouraged me to know music and faith," she says. Her father’s African-American cultural background gave her an appreciation for enlivened, spiritually infused music and sharing it with others.
"I really love meeting an entire parish community. That’s how we thrive as a Church — when we’re all together," she says. "Some people understand the beauty of our faith best through music. There’s something really beautiful about the joy that can be transmitted through music. What I’m finding with music — because I’m branching out into mainstream venues — is that people want to know what we (Catholics) have. They want to know about the joy of our faith."
Faithful Folk Music
Folk music is surging among younger generations, according to Hope Schneir, who has been writing songs since she was 12 and is now performing with her husband, Justin, whom she met at Franciscan University of Steubenville. The Camarillo, Calif., music duo just released their second CD, Eastern Bound, on CD Baby (CDBaby.com/Artist/HopeandJustin).
"I’m a home-schooling mom of six children, and I do this for enjoyment," Hope Schneir shares.
One of their more popular songs is St. Michael’s VW, written by Hope for Justin and their miscarried child. The song is about Justin getting into St. Michael’s VW van after his death and meeting their child along the road, who tells him, "I knew you’d come."
Another song, Uncle Sam, has a significant pro-life message, giving verse to the black slaves, Cherokee Indians and the unborn, who have all been dehumanized. "We keep on hoping, praying to Jesus, who loves them best," the lyrics say, in part.
The musician-mom says, "The people who enjoy our music the most are those who have faith. We’re coming from the mindset of: Make good music that people will listen to, and throw some snippets of pro-life or Christian themes in there. It’s a way of evangelizing."
Celtic Call to Evangelize
The band Scythian has been inspired by Archbishop Charles Chaput, who encouraged members of the St. Philip Neri Oratory in Philadelphia to do more to reignite the faith at the ground level.
"We felt as though a place where Catholics can meet for the sake of celebrating their Catholicity — the old sense of the village-square dance — has been lost in the culture," says Alexander Fedoryka, who started the band with his brother Danylo in 2002. "Our music is Old World music from an era when music was directed toward dances and community gatherings."
Their Celtic-style music (ScythianMusic.com) is mixed with folk traditions from around the world, including from their Ukrainian heritage. The classically trained brothers are joined by band members Josef Crosby, Ben-David Warner and Tim Hepburn.
Scythian has done more than 1,200 shows across the nation and is a headliner for the Celtic festival circuit. They are committed to helping other artists showcase their talent.
"There are good young people out there fighting for the faith who are articulate and talented; we want to provide a village square for them," Fedoryka says of the aptly named Village Square effort.
The effort provides a touring circuit that combines almsgiving with good music — where half of the money goes to a charity and the other half goes to the artist, such as what happened recently when Scythian played at a Little Sisters of the Poor charity event.
Fedoryka says: "If we can get people exchanging in generosity, then God always outdoes us in generosity."
Barb Ernster writes from