Twenty years after she learned to play the guitar, Susan Bailey underwent a conversion experience and felt inspired to compose Christian songs.
Soon after, she was asked to sing at the funeral of a close family friend who had died of AIDS. Bailey composed a song for her friend and, at the funeral, heard the call to make music not just a side project but a ministry.
Today Bailey is publisher and editor of GrapeVine, a quarterly online and print magazine that covers the Catholic performing arts. She spoke with Register correspondent Eddie O’Neill from her home in North Grafton, Mass.
How did GrapeVine get started? What was the inspiration behind it?
The reason I started GrapeVine was because of a burning desire to support the Catholic artist community. As a Catholic singer-songwriter and recording artist, I knew how isolating it can be to do this kind of work.
It’s not just a hobby but a calling. It’s a passion that never lets you go. I had a hard time finding people who thought like I did in my local area, so I started searching for other artists when I first got on the Internet over 12 years ago. I wanted to connect with as many people as I could.
In 2000, I felt a call from the Blessed Mother to put together a newsletter to support the community. I remember quite distinctly sitting in my living room watching TV and I suddenly felt this strong urging, a call, and heard quite clearly in my mind, “You have everything you need.”
And I did! I am a graphic artist by trade; I owned a Macintosh computer and all the necessary software to create a decent-looking newsletter. I put it together, released it to the community and there was a very strong show of support. The newsletter quickly morphed into a full-blown PDF online magazine that came out about three times per year.
At first, GrapeVine was a means to support the Catholic arts community. Now I see it as reaching out to every Catholic to let them know that a wealth of wonderful music exists in almost any style that can encourage, nurture, feed and evangelize.
Tell me about the magazine. What are some of its regular features?
GrapeVine averages between 44 and 48 pages per issue. It is in full color and is professionally designed. On average, we run four feature stories about individual artists and bands. We have a section called “Happenings” that covers current news; “Artist Update” allows artists to contribute newsworthy items about their ministries. The publication is supported by advertising.
Not all the articles cover music, though the majority of them do. We’ve covered podcasting and theater, as well. We regularly review CDs, DVDs and, occasionally, books.
GrapeVine is available free online as a downloadable PDF file. The individual stories are also available to read online. There is also a print version available, printed through Lulu.com.
What has been your reaction from your readers or from those who have been featured in the magazine?
Reaction to GrapeVine has been very strong. I always receive very positive feedback from readers and artists who have been covered in the magazine.
The support from the artist community is extraordinary. I recall back in 2002, when I attended World Youth Day in Toronto, GrapeVine had not been published for a while due to computer problems. I met artists from all over the world. Over and over, I kept hearing about GrapeVine and how much the magazine meant to them.
What do you mean by ‘Catholic arts’? What is the difference between Catholic arts and artists who are Catholic?
In my mind, Catholic arts means art that promotes the Catholic faith.
Catholic art can include music, theater, TV, movies, DVDs, podcasts — you name it. There is a real grassroots effort out there by many individuals to proclaim the Gospel through the arts.
GrapeVine mainly covers music so I will address music in this question. Catholics are familiar with liturgical music, that is, music used at Mass. But there is so much more.
Artists are being called by God to proclaim the Gospel and encourage the faithful with songs that lead people in prayer, teach Scripture, share testimonies and life stories. Some are full-time musicians but most hold down day jobs and have families; they feel the same burning and passion that I do that they must dedicate their music to God.
What are your hopes for the future of the magazine, and how do you see the future of the Catholic arts?
The future of Catholic arts is very bright and the movement is just now beginning to emerge from grassroots efforts, which have been so tremendously aided by today’s technology and the Internet. Catholic music is getting noticed.
Franciscan University of Steubenville is hosting a Catholic media conference in April, and GrapeVine has been invited to participate on a panel discussing Catholic music.
Things like this conference, the appearance on Catholic TV — and this interview — are big steps forward in helping Catholics learn about Catholic music.
We hope that, ultimately, GrapeVine will become a full-fledged print magazine, available to the public in stores around the nation and the world. The Internet provides great opportunities for many to read GrapeVine, but not everyone has fast Internet access and not everyone is comfortable on the Web.
Music moves and touches the heart, softening it and preparing it to receive Jesus like nothing else. It opens the door to let him in. This is why the Catholic Church has deemed music to be the most important of all the arts and why it has such a prominent place in every Sunday liturgy.
My deepest desire is for more and more people to know how Catholic music can help unlock that door and lead people into a deeper personal relationship with their Lord.
Eddie O’Neill writes from
Green Bay, Wisconsin.
ON THE WEB
Podcast gvonline.net; click on the Podcast link