Bartow singers recognized by Georgia Country & Gospel Music Association
by Marie Nesmith
Nov 21, 2010 | 3187 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
During its awards show Nov. 6, the Georgia Country & Gospel Music Association presented Ann Hardin, an alto singer with Renewed, the Rising Star Entertainer award and formed a music scholarship named in her honor.
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For Ann Hardin, being a member of the Adairsville-based Southern gospel group Renewed has been a constant blessing. Since the trio started singing at Adairsville's New Life Ministries church nearly five years ago, Renewed has given away more than 45,000 compact discs, performed at more than 100 engagements annually and had songs played on radio stations across the country.

"To get to be a part of carrying the Gospel and the good news of the Gospel to people in song [has been very rewarding]," Hardin said about singing alto with Renewed, which also features Brian and Dena' Bagley. "We see people saved. We see people's hearts blessed.

"When they've had a bad day or some tragic thing [has] happened to them, we get to minister to them and let them know how good God is and what Jesus has done for all of us, and it's such a joy. Every mile that we travel is a mile for the Lord and for his kingdom and it's so awesome."

Among the group's many accomplishments include being recognized on a state and international level. Their latest milestone was at the Georgia Country & Gospel Music Association awards show Nov. 6, when Renewed won the Vocal Group of the Year, and CD and Video of the Year in the Southern gospel category. The group also received several individual awards, including Hardin, Rising Star Entertainer; Dena' Bagley, Female Vocalist of the Year; Brian Bagley, Male Vocalist of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, and two Songwriter of the Year awards for "I'm Taking My Flight" and "Covered in Blood." Along with his group's success, Bagley also enjoyed seeing his 9-year-old son, Brandon, win the Male Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year awards for his age group.

In addition to Hardin's Rising Star award, the GCGMA also named a music scholarship in her honor, with Emerson resident April Wehunt being its first recipient.

"I didn't know about the [scholarship]. It was a complete shock to me," said Hardin, a 69-year-old Adairsville resident. "When she called my name out, I couldn't move. I just sat there. It was such a shock but such a blessing and such an honor. ... I can't explain the feeling in my heart but I give God all the praise. I give him the glory and I give him the honor that he has given me a life that I can share with others. It's for his honor and glory. It was just overwhelming because I never thought of such an honor being bestowed upon me in my lifetime."

Like Hardin, the scholarship announcement was an incredibly moving moment for Wehunt as well.

"Being the first winner of the Ann Hardin Georgia Country Music Scholarship touched my heart," said Wehunt, a 2008 Woodland High School graduate who currently is majoring in Early Childhood Education at Kennesaw State University. "I have never been so honored. Ann Hardin is an inspiration and a talented, godly woman. She has been in the music business over 50 years. When they announced the name of the award, it was such a touching moment.

"After Ms. Ann's tearful acceptance speech, Ms. [Alisa] Asbury, the president of GCGMA, said some of the most moving things I've ever heard. When she announced my name, I had no idea what to think. It was the biggest honor I have ever received. I cannot put into words how touching it was to receive a scholarship in honor of such an amazing woman. After the awards show, Ms. Ann and I took a picture together and she turned to me and said, 'I pray God's blessing and anointing on you.' In that moment she reminded me of my grandmother who passed away in August. This entire moment is something I will never forget. I felt as if it was God's way of letting me know my grandmother was proud of me."

In her first time entering the new gospel category, Wehunt also won Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year in the female 17 to 20 age group.

"For my first two years with the GCGMA, I competed in the traditional country category," said Wehunt, 20, the daughter of Tony and Jan Wehunt. "This year, after performing and promoting my music at the National Quartet Convention, I decided to compete in the new gospel category. The National Convention was a wonderful experience.

"I consider myself 'inspirational country' in the new gospel genre," she said, adding she is in the process of recording two original songs and will perform at the Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville next month. "I'm still singing country music, but it all has a positive message. Winning Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year in the new gospel category was an amazing honor and a wonderful surprise. The gospel members of GCGMA have been so welcoming and are so great to work with. I'm very blessed to be supported by such a wonderful family, friends and organization."

Held at the NorthWest Georgia Trade & Convention Center in Dalton, the GCGMA awards show also featured two other Woodland High School alumnae: Ashlie Rae Cupp and Morgan Taylor. The top two award-winners in each category will advance to the North American Country Music Associations Int'l.s competition in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., in March. While the judging was based on the vocalists' taped performances at the state show, they will sing live at the NACMAI ceremony.

Ashlie Rae Cupp

Cupp was presented the Entertainer of the Year, Most Promising Vocalist of the Year and CD of the Year awards, all in the female adult, new country category.

"It is always great to win especially when you are part of such a talented group, " said Cupp, the daughter of Ray and Leslie Cupp of Cartersville. "I joined GCGMA in March 2010 so I wasn't expecting to win any awards this year since I am so new to the group. This achievement is a step in the right direction to fulfill my dreams and goals as an artist and entertainer."

A 2008 graduate of Woodland High School, Cupp is pursuing a professional career in country music. Presently signed with Lamon Records in Nashville, one of her goals is to perform at the Grand Ole Opry.

"I released an EP CD in June 2010 with Lamon," said Cupp, a 21-year-old Cartersville resident. "I am also a performer with Sweet Southern Entertainment and GCGMA and we do shows throughout the year at different venues. We have a wonderful president, Alisa Asbury, and she keeps us real busy. I recently participated on a charity CD for the Needy Child Fund in Chattanooga, Tenn. I also try to perform at community functions, fairs, rodeos throughout the year as well.

"As far as my future projects, I hope to get back into the studio next year to record. I am learning to play guitar now and writing songs. And I hope to keep doing what I love. I dream of being on stage at the Grand Ole Opry. I would love to make a career of singing, performing, entertaining."

Morgan Taylor

At the GCGMA awards show, Taylor received the Most Promising Entertainer of the Year in the female 17 to 20, new country category.

[Winning this award], it's really good because it shows that I've accomplished something," said Taylor, the 19-year-old daughter of John and Cindy Hasty of Cartersville. "And I get to go to a higher level and compete with other people that are in my category. It just helps me grow and learn more."

Performing for less than four years, Taylor currently holds the title of the NACMAI Future Star of Tomorrow. She credits the GCGMA for helping her develop her vocal and performance skills.

"Being with the association, it's given me a lot of exposure and I've met a lot of great people," she said. "I'm just thankful that I came in contact with the association because I've had so many great opportunities."

Her performance schedule in 2010 has been busy to date, singing at various venues from local festivals to Nashville shows. One of her most exciting opportunities was opening for Confederate Railroad at Lake Winnie. While Taylor plans to move to Nashville in the near future, residing in Cartersville has not kept her from the Nashville stage. On Dec. 19, she will be performing at Nashville's Hard Rock Cafe.