NASHVILLE – Broadcast Music, Inc., one of the nation's leading music rights organizations, recognized the top Christian songwriters and publishers at their annual awards dinner on Tuesday evening. The star-studded, invitation-only event, held at BMI's offices near Nashville's famed Music Row, included top artists such as Steven Curtis Chapman, Building 429, Matt Maher and Brandon Heath.
Jody Williams, BMI's vice president of Writer/Publisher Relations, told The Christian Post during the pre-event reception how important Christian music is to the industry and its fans.
"We're in the business of making sure songwriters and artists get paid when their songs are played," said Williams. "But tonight we are going to honor the top 25 songs in Christian music in five different genres that make up Christian music. What's special about this evening is we get to put the songwriters on a pedestal and make sure they are honored. Sometimes the artist is the songwriter and that's even extra special."
Williams said he believes Christian music has a bright future, mainly due to its diversity in terms of being inspiration to so many people. More importantly, Christian music tends not to experience the highs and low that others types of music often see.
"There [are] all types of great music coming out of Nashville but Christian music is leading the way here and we're proud to be a part of its success," explained Williams.
Building 429's Jason Roy brought home song of the year honors with "Where I Belong," (Harvey Publishing and Sony ATV Tree).
Roy, along with band members Michael Anderson, Jesse Garcia and Aaron Branch, is touring and playing a heavy schedule of festivals and showcases this summer. When asked what inspired his songwriting and the group's success, he was quick to point out their 14 years together has molded them into the group they are today.
"It's tons of up and lots and lots of downs, but the hard times have inspired us to write better songs and allowed God to inspire our creativity," noted Roy. "The songs are not about applause but about congregational worship and we didn't know that when we started."
Christian Songwriter of the Year honors went to Carroll L. McGruder, whose recent hits include "I'm Going Home with Jesus" and "Saved by Grace."
Matt Maher, whose recent single "Turn Around" (EMI CMG Publishing and Valley of Songs Music) was honored, emphasized the important role of worship leader that many artists fulfill in their home churches.
"The best instrument in the world is the church singing," Maher said. "But I put songwriting above everything else. David was a songwriter but we don't have any recordings of his singing, dancing or how well he played an instrument. What inspires and blesses us are his words. We're bringing people to Christ through our words and songs and it's having a great impact on our society. First and foremost, I want to be seen as a worship leader who is bringing people to Christ."
In addition to the performance by Chapman and Heath, industry veteran Jim Van Hook was recognized for his decades as a worship leader and publishing entrepreneur.
Stacey Willbur and her team with Capitol CMG took the stage multiple times with songs that received awards.
"It makes me proud," said Willbur. "It's about the songwriters and the writers. It takes a village to make things happen so not only are the writers writing the songs, we're out there working hard to promote the songs. "
Willbur said she too was excited about the future of Christian music, whether it is worship, gospel or inspirational. "There is so much out there it fits the needs of everyone interested in Christian music."
Others songs that received awards included "10,000 Reasons," "Be Still," "Carry Me to the Cross," "Courageous," and "I Thirst."