Music Fans 'Blown Away' by GMA Music Week

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Showcases featuring some of gospel music's hottest artists have been wowing thousands of Christian music lovers at the Gospel Music Association Music Week.

Monday kicked off with a luncheon sponsored by Word Distribution and hosted by artists Shelley Breen from Point of Grace and Mark Schultz. The audience munched away on pizza and candy bars while enjoying musical performances led by top Word recording artists including Building 429, Group1 Crew, Jeff Deyo, DecembeRadio, and emerging teen pop group PureNRG.

Over nine different showcases took place in the evening, with some 60 artists performing. A concert sponsored by World Vision took place in the RNH Ballroom with legendary artists Israel Houghton, Nichole Nordeman, and Avalon gracing the stage.

Other shows included The Dog & Pony show, which featured former dctalk member Kevin Max and Joanne Cash, sister of legendary musician Johnny Cash, and a special gig led by Sanctus Real and Jon Foreman of Switchfoot.

The GMA Music Week, which kicked off on Saturday and will wraps up today, has drawn in some 3,000 people for genre-specific programming such as seminars, workshops and showcases. Throughout this year's annual event, GMA offered programming specifically targeted to artists and industry professionals with black gospel and urban music affiliations.

Fiona Willis, a first-time GMA Music Week attendee, commented: "The showcases are simply amazing. I am blown away with the fact that gospel music can be so good!

"Some of my friends are like, 'Why listen to gospel music? It's boring,'" added the 24-year-old from Atlanta. "I'm gonna go back and tell them that they've got it wrong,".

Following an act by power-vocal group Avalon, 37-year-old concertgoer Marcus Trevor exclaimed: "What a performance!"

"The GMA experience so far has been life-changing, fun, inspiring …. I'm having the time of my life. I'm definitely coming for more showcases tomorrow," he commented.

GMA Music Week concludes Wednesday with the Dove Awards – also known as the GMA Music Awards – which is regarded as Christian music's "biggest night of the year." The awards show will be hosted by gospel legends Brian Littrell, Natalie Grant, and Donnie McClurkin this year at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville.

TobyMac, Kirk Franklin, Mandisa, Take 6, The Crabb Family, MercyMe and Chris Tomlin are among the first performers announced for the Dove Awards, while Michael W. Smith, Brenda Lee and Bob & Larry from VeggieTales are among those slated as presenters.