"My teacher thought I was really rebellious and would not let me re-join again at any point in high school," said the singer of the incident during 9th grade. "So all the musical things I did was with stuff outside of school," she recalled.
In college when the hopeful singer first auditioned for the school worship team...she was turned down.
But Walker-Smith rebounded nicely. While in college she discovered Bethel Church in Redding, Calif. where she became an original member of a worship band known as Jesus Culture.
That was 17 years ago.
Now after nearly a dozen band CD's, four solo albums and several tours, the singer is increasingly finding a national audience.
Walker-Smith and Jesus Culture are part of the national OUTCRY 2017 tour of worship artists, which includes Lauren Daigle and Elevation Worship, coming to Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids on Mon. April 24 (details below). (Jesus Culture came with OUTCRY to Van Andel a year ago but Walker-Smith could not make that date).
A LARGE SCALE EFFORT
An arena-sized tour often dedicated to intimate moments of worship: the dynamics are both challenging and exhilarating.
"We're artists and for us it's part of the art," Walker-Smith offered of the tour's massive staging. "Having beautiful images on the screen and nice lighting is part of the whole experience we're creating. But as worship leaders we don't want it to go overboard to where it's a distraction. We want the focus to be on God."
All of the artists appear together for the opening, then each group does separate sets throughout the evening. Walker-Smith will sing one song from her new solo album, "On My Side" (several other band members have solo albums as well). She said Jesus Culture's best known anthems include "How He Loves" and "Your Love Never Fails."
The singer/worship leader also appreciates the behind-the-scene moments the tour provides. "You get to see a more personal side of the artists," she noted. "We have devotionals each evening back stage and take turns leading."
OTHER OUTCRY PARTICIPANTS
Lauren Daigle, 25, is one of the hottest names in Christian music. The title song from her debut album ("How Can It Be?) won a 2015 Dove Award as Song of the Year – the same year she also won the top artist Dove. Last year the album and a song ("Trust in You") were nominated for Grammy Awards and the Louisiana native won Doves for the year's top songwriter and artist.
Daigle's current radio single is "Come Alive (Dry Bones)." She helps lead worship at North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Ga.
Elevation Worship comes out of Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C. and has released several albums. Their latest is a live project, "Here As In Heaven," issued last year.
The main speaker for this date on the tour is Dharius Daniels, founder and senior pastor of Kingdom Church in Ewing, NJ.
THE DIRECTION IS WORSHIP
Jesus Culture – originally the name of the Bethel Church summer youth conference – is now a church on its own. Three years ago the artists and pastor Branning Liebscher moved to Sacramento, Calif. to begin a new work. The church currently worships 2,800 persons in multiple services at a local high school.
"It's a church with our unique expression of who we are," said Walker-Smith. "All of us in the band lead worship there and have co-leaders as well."
The artist said an emphasis for Outcry is to encourage people to become involved in a local church – for strength and community. And she has some advice for worship leaders – no matter the size of their churches. "Keep growing in your relationship with God because that's how you grow as a worship leader. Don't become stagnant, stay connected to your pastors, church leaders and people in the church because that's what's it's all about. Don't be a rock star. Connect with the people around you and take time with them."
OUTCRY 2017 – featuring Jesus Culture, Lauren Daigle, Elevation Worship, and pastor/speaker Dharius Daniels.
7 pm Mon. April 24 at Van Andel Arena, 130 W. Fulton St. Grand Rapids
General admission tickets are $33.95, group rate of $29.95 for 10 or more. Outcry "Experience" tickets include pre-concert Q&A, copy of Outcry book, and best seating options $64.95.
Available via www.outcrytour.com/events/2017-04-25-grand-rapids# or at the door.
(Note: 7 p.m. Tues. April 25 the tour visits the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center in Ypsilanti)
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