Supporters at the Young Life Banquet Monday night were treated to songs and stories from Grammy-nominated Nashville recording artist Brandon Heath, who was named the 2014 BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) songwriter of the year, and is a two-time Male Vocalist of the Year and Emmy award winner.
Heath is a Nashville native who says he was “adopted into Owensboro by marriage.” His wife, Seibe, grew up in Owensboro and graduated from Apollo High School. Heath is currently on tour with Third Day, but used a rare day off to fly home to Nashville and drive up to Owensboro for the Young Life Banquet.
“In my high school years, my only real mentors were Young Life leaders,” Brandon said before the banquet, explaing how his now twenty-year connection to Young Life began. “Young Life reached me at a time when I was experimenting with everything. And I found what I was looking for. Young Life kids tend to be from all different backgrounds, and that’s one thing I love about Young Life.”
Young Life is an organization that reaches out to middle school, high school and college-aged kids in all 50 states and more than 90 countries around the world. The goal of Young Life is to place caring adults with students through school visits during lunch and sporting events. The adults are screened, selected, and trained to interact with students by starting conversations and being consistently present to students. Today, Young Life is active in 8,000 locations.
“We have kids from all backgrounds involved,” Greater Owensboro Young Life Director Chris Dillbeck said. “From solid families and single parents. Wealthy and working class. High achievers and apathetic. Athletic kids and kids with disabilities. In both the high schools and middle schools. Every kind of kid benefits from being involved because we help kids experience life and set them up to become leaders among their peers.”
The annual banquet largely raises the operational budget for Greater Owensboro Young Life, which was started four years ago at Apollo and has since grown to several other high school and middle school campuses.
After sound check, Owensboro Living had a chance to talk with Brandon Heath about Young Life, his connection to Owensboro, and life on the road.
What was your first impression of Owensboro?
Owensboro really reminds me of Waverly, Tennessee, where my mom is from. So I immediately took to Owensboro and felt right at home. Owensboro is close enough to Nashville that it still has similar topography as Tennessee. You’ve got some rolling hills but also a flat area downtown. But my first impression of Owensboro was really from Windy Hollow, because of Siebe’s granddad (Hal Miller).
What impact did Young Life have on you?
When I was invited to a Young Life club, I think like every high school kid, I was trying to figure out who I was. What do I belong to? And what am I about? When you’re in high school, you’re trying to find your identity. You’re trying figure out your place in life. You have that first little bit of freedom. Young Life was my first experience of truth about who I am. I went to a Young Life camp that summer, and I stayed involved through high school. When I went to college at Middle Tennessee State, four of us and a professor tried to start Young Life on campus and it eventually flourished in Murfreesboro. Young Life is still like a family to me. They were my first cheering section. So when my audience grew beyond just Young Life, I always wanted to share the message about Young Life any way I can.
You flew from Colorado Springs this morning, and you are flying back tomorrow. Has life on the road become easier or more difficult now that you’ve been touring for several years?
Touring is a fun life. There are difficulties, just like with any job, but the traveling is definitely what can turn into the not-so-fun part. I enjoy culture, so I try to make it fun by going to museums and coffee shops and eating at local places. I want a flavor of that city. For one, it helps me keep my sanity because I feel like I know where I am, rather than just feeling like I live on a bus. So it’s good to get my bearings. But also, when I get on stage I know who my audience is and I can tell them where I ate that day or whatever and use a little humor during the show. I try to be present to where I am as much as possible. When Seibe and I heard about this banquet, we knew we wanted to be a part of it. Especially since it was a chance for her to get back to Owensboro. Tomorrow I’m recording vocals on a project for a friend of mine. Plus, we’re building a house, so it’s good to check in on things. So I’m trying to pack as much into this quick trip home as possible.