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This Canyon is Rock Solid
Posted April 09, 2015
By MarcusHathcock_NRT,

If there's one thing we at NRT have learned about Grand Canyon University over the past few years, it's this: They move quickly. Not an institution to twiddle its thumbs and get caught up in endless red tape, it's been encouraging to see the speed at which this college has grown and developed. 

One of the biggest developments--if not THE biggest development--the university has experienced over the past several years has been the founding of the Center for Worship Arts, a state of the art program that uses cutting edge methods and experiences to train up the Church's next generation of worship leaders. 

And the guy at the helm of the program knows a thing or two about worship, too. The center's director is none other than MercyMe frontman Bart Millard. 

Another testament to the speed at which GCU moves is the fact that before the first full year of the Center for Worship Arts has concluded, the program is releasing its first EP. Under the moniker Canyon, the student-led but industry-supported project seeks not to turn students into rock stars, but rather to give the world a glimpse of the worship that's breaking out in Phoenix, and to showcase the incredible opportunities that exist there. 

Sorry for the hefty introduction, but context is king.

The debut from Canyon, simply titled Worship EP, numbers a modest three songs, featuring two cover songs and one student-penned original. 

Quickly becoming the "it" song in Christian music, All Sons & Daughters' "Christ Be All Around Me" gets the Canyon treatment first, featuring freshman Tanner Krenz--a singer who has a soft, soothing tenor worship leader voice. It's immediately clear that the production quality of the record is industry standard, with instrumentation, mixing and arrangements standing up with Canyon's heavy-hitting contemporaries. 

I'm not sure what it is, but something about the way Canyon does this song that makes it feel more congregational than many of the other recordings of it. As a program dedicated to the training and furthering of worship, this is a great sign that indeed the program is training people to get congregations to sing, rather than to be Sunday morning soloists. 

Tim Timmons originally released the song "Christ In Me" on his debut record a couple of years ago, but it never became a radio single, and thus is probably unknown to most Christian music fans. That's a shame, as it's a good introspective song, but with Canyon breathing new life into the track, the song that asks "What if I believed in Your power?" soon will be on everyone's lips. Vocalist Maddison Harris has incredibly strong vocal chops and turns a song that seemed a bit melancholy in its original form into a hopeful anthem of discovery. This is the standout track on the record, and one that best showcases Canyon's musical prowess, arrangement skills and vocal talent. It deserves to be a radio single.

While "Christ In Me" is the standout track of the record, the one that will pull on your heartstrings the most is the original track, titled "Follow Me." The song's writer, Desiree Aguilar, sings on this very personal track about the forgiveness and restoration available to us through Christ. The pure and innocent message--clearly birthed out of a testimony--is equal parts personal and universal. It's a necessary part of this EP, and shows the tip of the iceberg of the songwriting talent at GCU.

Closing Thoughts:
It's pretty incredible what this program has done in such a short time: landing Bart Millard as its director, pulling together a talented first freshman class, and now, this EP, which can stand up with the "big boys" in the industry as quality material and spiritually authentic. If this solid effort is just the beginning of what's going to start coming out of GCU's Center for Worship Arts, then buckle up. They've set the bar high with their first outing, and we're excited to see what's next. 

Song to Download Now: 
"Christ In Me" (Get it on iTunes here).


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