I canceled my church band rehearsal this past Wednesday night to go to a country music concert – The Country Throwdown Tour!
Before all you Pharisees grab your rocks, let me tell you why!
It was August of 1999. Tressa and I were living in Taylor Mill, KY. We were both music teachers in Kenton County Schools, me at Taylor Mill Elementary and her at Caywood Elementary. God brought us to Northern Kentucky to begin our life, marriage, ministry, and family at a church plant in Erlanger, Open Door Community Church of God. The six years we spent at Open Door were some of the best years of our lives. We learned so much and were very blessed to serve there.
The bonus of that season in my life was that I was bi-vocational. Not only was I serving as the Youth and Music Pastor at Open Door, a position that was part-time pay but full-time work, I taught elementary school music for four years at Taylor Mill Elementary School. It was a bonus because I loved teaching music to elementary school kids. And that’s where August of 1999 comes in.
As the school year began I started to hear from some of my students that there was a new girl in town and that I would really like her because she was a very good singer. I’m probably wrong for saying this but often when someone tells me about a really good singer coming my way, I’m skeptical. I like to hear them for myself. So I’m sure I smiled and said something nice and just waited to see.
Later that week, I met a future country music star! Carly Slusser walked into my classroom as a very tall-for-her-age 10 year old with a big smile and vibrant personality. Shortly after, I heard her sing and wasn’t disappointed. Not only was she a great singer but she had a country/bluegrass sound which certainly was rare for someone her age.
As I got to know Carly that year I learned that she was very smart, at the top of her class, and she had a great rapport with adults. She was very mature for her age. It was during that year that she became one of my favorite students of all time and I began to learn of her dreams to make it big in country music. She stuck out in class, in school performances, and won the talent show later that spring. She was driven to do big things.
The following year we grew closer as I got to know her family and used her in bigger roles in our 5th grade choir. I spent more time with her as she was one of a few kids who volunteered to come clean my classroom on Friday mornings just so we could hang out.
I don’t remember exactly what I told her but I know I encouraged her to follow her dreams. I sensed she was serious, even at 11 years old, and that she had the talent to make it big. We used to joke that when she did make it, and was featured on a “Behind the Music” show, I would get to come on and talk about her performances as a kid.
Shortly after her 5th grade year ended, my time at Open Door and Taylor Mill did as well. We moved our family to Rincon, Georgia to serve at another church. This was before text messaging and Facebook but somehow Carly and I stayed in touch. She would keep me informed about gigs she was getting in middle school and opportunities that were coming her way. She sent me demos and CD’s. When she moved to Nashville after her 9th grade year she let me know about it and once, during a trip to Nashville, Tressa and I along with some of our youth leaders, met her and her mom for lunch at Hard Rock Cafe.
After that lunch meeting I was convinced she would be in Nashville until she made it. With her mom as her biggest fan and support, she had moved to Nashville and was doing everything she could do to break through. As MySpace and Facebook came on the scene it became easier to connect with Carly and see what she was doing. I regularly looked up her performances on youtube and enjoyed watching her talent and abilities grow as she herself grew into a beautiful young woman. She spent two years in Pigeon Forge performing in the Country Tonight show and kept the petal to the floor in pursuit of her dreams. Unfortunately my schedule had never allowed me to see her perform live – something I had always wanted to do and something I think she had hoped for as well.
That was until this spring. When I caught the announcement on her facebook page that she was added to the Country Throwdown Tour that featured country stars such as Gary Allan and Rodney Atkins, I immediately looked up her tour schedule and discovered she would be in Richmond, VA on June 13. That settled it. I was gonna do whatever I had to do to see her perform. Thus the canceling of church band practice for a country music show!
I can honestly say it was one of the coolest moments of my life to watch her perform. Although I was only in her life on a daily basis for two years, my mind kept going back to this 4th and 5th grade girl who had a big smile and big dreams of making it big. And here she was. Stepping off a tour bus with her guitar in hand, signing autographs, taking pictures with fans, and singing songs she had written herself. I was so proud. It makes me feel good just writing about it!
No, she wasn’t the headliner. And most people probably won’t remember her. She was able to walk into the crowd and talk to us for at least thirty minutes and hardly no one recognized her. She told me she was the lowest one on the totem pole. I looked at her and said, “At least you’re on the pole.” She smiled real big and said, “You know, that’s what my Dad said!” How cool!
To say she did good would be an understatement. I’ll take moment just to brag on her and tell you how incredibly full and versatile her voice has become. She didn’t write her own songs a few years ago. She didn’t play guitar. But now she’s doing both. I listened to a lot of singers that night and I’ve heard a lot of singers in my time. But I think I can safely say that from knowing her voice from 10 years old to now 22, she has improved more than anyone I’ve ever known. I would buy her album. And I will . . . soon! She just signed with a major label!
So why spend a blog about all that? So I can brag that I know a future country music star? Yes! Absolutely. I know hardly no one who is famous so here’s my shot. But the main thing I want to share is how important dreams are.
It’s so funny how God speaks to us and how He has a way of saying the same thing over and over. I’ve been thinking the last few weeks about Carly and her dream of making it big. The day Tressa and I went to see her was filled with lots of “dream” moments
I sat in a 5th grade assembly that morning hearing a principal tell his students to never give up on their dreams. He cited Edison, Winfrey, Jordan, and others who were told they couldn’t make it yet they never gave up and became the best. I set my DVR to record the story of the Dream Team, the 1992 Olympic Basketball team that was airing that night. I received an email from a mentor quoting T.E. Lawrence . . .
“All men dream, but not equally.
Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds
Wake in the day to find that it was vanity.
But the DREAMERS OF THE DAY are DANGEROUS men.
For they enact their dreams with eyes wide open,
To make them possible.”
Carly Pearce was and is that kind of dreamer. She knew what God had put her on this planet to do and has pursued it with everything in her. She admitted that there had been many times she wanted to quit. That she got so tired at times and that she never realized it would take so long.
Yet, she keeps going. She keeps writing songs. She keeps making demos. She keeps riding on a tight tour bus waking up in a new city just to play a few songs for people who are waiting to hear the “main attraction.”
Why? All because of a dream. She’s closer now than she’s ever been to achieving it. She’s on tour, she’s signing autographs, and, like a bottle rocket that is waiting to be lit, is poised and aimed at the stars anticipating the moment when the right song and the right situation lift her to heights she’s only dreamed of achieving.
All because of a dream!
What’s your dream? You are never too old to achieve it. Take a moment today to blow the dust off of it, think through it, and give it back to God in prayer and see what He can do with it.
Genesis 37:9 “ Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”
Dream through your dreams today and then tomorrow, dream another dream!
As we were wrapping up our conversation that night Carly remembered our “Behind the Music” conversation. That was over 11 years ago. How cool!
Pretty soon I’ll be able to post to my facebook page, “That girl that just won new artist of the year in country music, well, I was her music teacher.”
And bet you’ll “Like” that! I know I will!