FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) recognized a star-studded lineup of top Christian music artists at their 35th annual Christian award show in downtown Franklin, Tenn., on Monday night. Among those honored at the historic Franklin Theatre were guitarist extraordinaire Phil Keaggy, singer-songwriter Matthew West and songwriter Ben Glover.
ASCAP's Michael Martin and LeAnn Phelan, who co-head the group's Nashville membership office, presented the most performed song awards to the writers and publishers on the stage of the newly renovated theater and in front of some of the industry's most notable performers and executives. The list of honored songs included "Carry Me to the Cross" by Kutless, "Trust in Jesus" and "I Need a Miracle" by Third Day, "The Hurt and the Healer" by MercyMe, "The Light in Me" by Brandon Heath, "Good To Be Alive" by Jason Gray, "Love Come to Life," and "Redeemed" by Big Daddy Weave.
Earning song of the year was "10,000 Reasons," a song that won two Grammy Awards this year and was written and recorded by Matt Redman, who drew inspiration from Psalm 103. Redman was traveling and unable to attend the ceremony, but accepting on his behalf were representatives from publishers Sixsteps Music, Thankyou Music and Worshiptogether.com.
The songwriter-artist of the year award was presented to Grammy nominee Matthew West, who has penned such songs as "Jesus Friend of Sinners," recorded by Casting Crowns, and "Forgiveness," a track off his current CD and inspired by thousands of letters he received from fans across the globe.
West's songwriting credits include four number one hits recorded by Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Diamond Rio, among others.
"When I started my music program in college I looked around and noticed I had half the talent of most of my fellow students, but what I knew was that I had twice the drive to succeed," said West. "And the half the talent part is still the case after looking around this room tonight. But I also know is none of this happens unless God lets it happen."
West dedicated his award to the fans that sent him letters of their personal triumphs and tragedies.
Ben Glover, whose songs have been recorded by both Christian and Country artists, won ASCAP's Christian songwriter of the year for the third time. Glover, a native of Loveland, Colo., dedicated his award to his mentor and best friend, Brad O'Donnell, who believed in Ben even when the young red-haired artist had doubts that he would make it in the rough-and-tumble music industry.
"Brad stuck with me and believed in me when no one else was there," said Glover in accepting his award. "But most importantly, I want to thank God that He lets us all do this."
Yet it was Keaggy who stole the show in front of a capacity crowd with his breathtaking performance and amazing guitar licks in "Salvation Army" prior to receiving the prestigious Golden Note Award, given to an artist who has achieved extraordinary career milestones. "I do love to do this," a smiling Keaggy said before striking his first note.
"From now on my nickname for you will be 'soul catcher,' because you catch our souls," noted ASCAP board chairman and fellow songwriter Paul Williams at the conclusion of his performance.
"Phil is one of the most admired guitarist in modern history and I am honored to salute him in this honor tonight."
Keaggy, who has recorded over 50 albums in his career, found Jesus Christ in 1970 while in the early years of a career that would propel him to stardom. Soon afterward, he met and married his wife, Bernadette. The couple has since celebrated 40 years of marriage and the Dove Award-winning artist shows no sign of slowing down in his marriage or in his on-stage artistry.
"Thanks to God for the wonderful grace he has shown me through Jesus Christ," Keaggy said in accepting his award.
In a red carpet interview with The Christian Post prior to the show, Keaggy recalled the beginning of his career as one of the early Christian instrumentalist and performers who would achieve international recognition.
"The bridge God provides between people and music is amazing," Keaggy said. "I am truly honored to be receiving this award tonight."
Joel Taylor with Bethel Music Publishing was one of those blown away by Keaggy's performance. "He seems to keep getting better and better with time."
Added relative and Christian music artist Cheri Keaggy, whose new top-ten single "There Will Be One Day" is currently climbing the Christian Music Weekly charts, "I was praying that Phil would feel loved tonight." And loved he was.
Georgia-based band Find Favour opened the show with their song, "Slip on By," penned after front man Blake NeeSmith's emotional conversation with his grandfather. The group releases their self-titled project today, including their new single "Shake the World."
Others performances included Daniel Bashta and Jon Egan, and another notable artist attending the show was Chris August, whose song "Center of It" and "He Said," were honored. The Afters, a young group whose musical roots are Texas-based and who just released their new project "Life is Beautiful," were also on the red carpet.