CMT Artist of the Year Awards
Kimberly Schlapman...Amazing Lady!!
Kimberly Schlapman (pictured on the right at the recent Stand Up to Cancer event) totally surprised me one day in our South Habersham Junior High School Choir (I was the choral director)...she told me she was going to audition for the All-State Choir!! What? Kimberly was so shy and soft-spoken that she rarely could be heard, and when she told me her name was "Kimberly"....many voices in the choir came forth with a boisterous "Her name is 'Kim!'" Whereupon, Kimberly just looked at me, shrugged her shoulders, and mouthed, "Kim." I thought to myself, "Isn't this sad. This child would like to be known by her entire first name, and she is acquiescing to the demands of classmates." I would have been happy to call Kimberly anything she chose, but she knew that to respond too strongly against some "vocal" classmates would have caused an uproar.
Well...Kimberly is causing an uproar these days...an uproar of thunderous applause, cheering, awards beyond belief, and absolute admiration. Oh...and Kimberly did audition for the All-State Choir, and she was successful not only that year, but every year she auditioned! Yes...she surprised me then...and a few other times as well. The next year, our choir sang for the Southern Division ACDA convention in Atlanta as a demonstration choir, and Kimberly was the soprano soloist for the Kyrie of Schubert's Mass in G. In the "Christe" section, I told her there was a certain passage that only professional singers could "hold over" and not take a breath.Well...don't you know...she had never made that phrase without a breath in our rehearsals...but come the performance, and Whammo! Done! What????!!!! Okay...at that point I knew we had someone really special in our choir.
So...Kimberly went on winning international singing competitions, continuing her study of voice, and quietly doing just as she "jolly well" chose to do. She kept on achieving, achieving, and achieving. One day, I received a call from Bobby Ivey, her choral director for her senior year in high school, and in the phone call, he told me that "Kim wants to be a singer." Well....I totally didn't "get it." I said, "Okay...that's great...she is a singer"....but...I didn't know what he meant.
Later on, to my surprise, I was singing with the Lexington Singers here in Kentucky, and I was on my elliptical exercising one day at lunch before a rehearsal that evening. I heard where a group called Little Big Town was singing in a Christmas concert with us. I thought that was the group Kimberly had in Nashville, but because the name was so "unique," I had been trying to find the band "Big Little House" on the internet. Well...nothing turned up....Ha Ha.😩 I went to the Little Big Town website, and though I hadn't seen Kimberly in many years, I could tell it was she. I couldn't believe it! I had no idea!! Since it was a city-wide event with the orchestra, it seems that they frequently invited groups to share the stage with the orchestra and choir. Okay....this was somewhere around 2003. We re-connected, and it was so, so enjoyable to see her having a great time singing professionally.
Well..."the rest is history," as they say. I have watched Kimberly's achievements with great admiration and knowledge of her incredible courage and work-ethic. Her bandmate Jimi said it well, " She is one of the most "compassionate" human beings on the planet. Yes...I know first-hand. When my husband passed away, I receive texts from Kimberly, expressing her condolences, giving me strength for the journey ahead that was all-too-familiar to her. It was such an encouragement for me to see Kimberly smile, and know that I, too, might smile again one day.
So...to see Kimberly receive one of the CMT Artist of the Year awards Wednesday evening was a joy beyond words. I know she has worked like a trojan to get where she is at this point. Life has not been easy at times. She has more inner drive, courage, determination, love for music, love for people, and appreciation for the good things in her life as compared to anyone in the world. Yes...I am proud of all of my former students. Many of them are living beautiful lives, enjoying music, singing, directing choirs, encouraging their children (and grandchildren) to sing...so many are products of the best facets of our music education philosophy. Kimberly has delighted me in that she gracefully, lovingly, and beautifully embraces an international platform to "change the world." For many of us who do not have that opportunity, we are grateful for her voice as she spreads joy and light in a dark, dark world.
I am so thrilled to know that I might have contributed just a bit to her being able to experience life in all its fullness, and Kimberly, I want you to know that you have earned the right to be called exactly whatever you choose...by everyone...for the rest of your life. Congratulations, Dear Heart! Enjoy these days of musical bliss and all the wonderful ones to follow. Love you!!!