Local vocalists recognized at North American Country Music Associations Int'l.s
by Marie Nesmith
Apr 08, 2011 | 4946 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Katelyn Honea won the Horizon Award for Female Vocalist in the new gospel ages 8 to 12 category at the NACMAI competition. SPECIAL
view slideshow (6 images)
As the lead singer for Renewed, Brian Bagley is constantly amazed and humbled by the Adairsville-based trio's ability to connect with listeners around the globe.

Since the Southern gospel group started singing at Adairsville's New Life Ministries church five years ago, Renewed easily surpassed its initial goal of creating 50 CDs. To date, the trio -- consisting of Bagley, his wife Dena' Garland-Bagley, and Ann Hardin -- has given away more than 51,000 CDs, performed at more than 100 engagements annually and had their songs played on radio stations across the country and overseas.

"If I had to pinpoint it down to a certain message that I wanted people to actually realize from our ministry, it would be that God still saves," Bagley said. "He still gives hope to the hopeless, and there's not a battle that you'll go through especially in this economy [that He cannot handle]. We've seen it over and over and over, [there are] so many people that's lost their jobs and lost their houses.

"They always come up after a singing [and say,] 'We've been going through a rough time during this economy, and after we got done hearing y'all sing tonight and hearing your testimonies, now we've got some hope, knowing that God's still working out stuff for us.' It is [wonderful for us to hear]. It's great."

Among the group's many accomplishments include being recognized on a state and international level. Their latest milestone was at the North American Country Music Associations Int'l.s competition in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., last month. At the annual gathering, Renewed was presented the Vocal Group and Video of the Year awards in the Southern gospel category.

Bagley also was able to share a special moment with his son. Along with him winning the Male Vocalist of the Year title, he watched Brandon, 9, claim the Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year awards for the Southern gospel, youth 7 to 12 division.

"It was fantastic," Bagley said. "I wish I was a poet to be able to put it in words because of the fact that it's overwhelming. When you come from a small town you don't expect to have national recognition and then when it happens one time it's absolutely wonderful. But when it happens over and over and over and over again, it's just amazing. ... I wasn't expecting it. You always go up there hoping but you never know."

Held at the Country Tonite Theatre, the NACMAI award show featured four other Bartow County recipients in addition to Renewed: Ashlie Rae Cupp, Katelyn Honea, Morgan Taylor and April Wehunt. All of the participants advanced to the international competition by placing first and second at the Georgia Country & Gospel Music Association award ceremony Nov. 6. While the judging was based on the vocalists' taped performances at the state show, they sang live at the NACMAI contest.

Ashlie Rae Cupp

At the NACMAI competition, Cupp received the Rising Star Adult Female Entertainer of the Year award.

"I was elated," Cupp said about her achievement. "There were 30 in my category and to have placed at all was an achievement. There was a lot [of] competition in this category. ... Being in the presence of so many talented artists was a great experience. The state and national levels have a wide range of age groups and musical categories. It was a lot [of] fun to watch all the different categories compete."

A 2008 graduate of Woodland High School, the 21-year-old Cartersville resident is pursuing a professional career in country music.

"I am currently taking guitar lessons, writing, performing steadily with GCGMA and Sweet Southern Entertainment," said Cupp, the daughter of Ray and Leslie Cupp of Cartersville. "I just joined TCGMA, which is the Tennessee division of NACMAI, so I hope this will also give me the opportunity to do more in the Tennessee area.

"I will be performing on the Chattanooga River Boat Cruise April 16, The Lowell Opry House on April 30 and the Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville, Tenn., May 28. I have a few solo shows scheduled throughout the months of April and May. These dates will be available on my Facebook page under Ashlie Rae and Myspace page, AshlieRae89."

Katelyn Honea

After being named the GCGMA Female Vocalist and Female Entertainer of the Year for the new gospel ages 8 to 12 category, Honea won the Horizon Award for Female Vocalist in the same category at the NACMAI competition.

"My reaction to winning the Horizon Award was one of joy and excitement," Honea said. "While I didn't take first place, winning an award for my talent my first year was amazing. It means a lot to know that I competed against the best from all around the country and won. I love to sing and being recognized just makes it better."

An eighth-grader at Adairsville Middle School, the 13-year-old is the daughter of Kendra and Brian Honea of Rydal.

"I will be singing in May at Six Flags [and] in June at Hard Rock," she said. "While those are all exciting places and I can't wait, the most exciting is that I will be singing on Easter Sunday at my church, Grace Baptist, with my daddy. Singing to my Heavenly Father with my earthly father is an amazing opportunity. Also in July, I'll be going to Ukraine on a mission trip where I'll have the opportunity to lead music."

Morgan Taylor

Taylor was presented the Future Star of Tomorrow Entertainer of the Year award for the youth 17 to 20 new country category. Performing for about four years, she is the 20-year-old daughter of John and Cindy Hasty of Cartersville.

"In winning this award it meant a lot to me. Of course everyone is nervous because they want to win something so when I won this out of all the other people in my category [it] meant a lot to me. I was super excited. Winning this also shows I am improving in my performing, and it's just one step closer to reaching my dream. [What] I enjoyed most about the competition is just getting to do what I love and that people actually support me in what I do and also just getting to be around other people that do the same thing and that are so nice and supportive.

"Some of my future goals are right now I am learning to play the guitar, and I'm writing my own songs and someone is actually co-writing with me now. I hope to be going into the studio later this year to work on recording my own material. I am going to do my best and give it my all and I'm not going to stop until I get to where I want to be. I just thank God for all the opportunities I've had so far, and I just can't wait to see what He has in store for me in the near future. My next showcase is going to be at the Hard Rock in Atlanta on May 7."

April Wehunt

Wehunt won two NACMAI accolades: Female Future Star of Tomorrow Vocalist of the Year and the Female Most Promising Entertainer of the Year, both in the 17 to 20 new gospel category.

"I was probably the most nervous I have ever been this year at nationals," said Wehunt, 20, the daughter of Tony and Jan Wehunt. "Over the past year, my family as been through a lot of health issues and many different things inspired me to compete in new gospel this year. I think the meaning of the songs was so powerful that I was more nervous because I wanted to do the message justice. Overall my goal was to use the talent God gave me to show others his love. I feel that I accomplished that. Being honored with these awards was icing on the cake. It was a wonderful feeling.

"I knew I was up against very talented girls and it would be tough. Over the three years, I have worked with Georgia Country & Gospel Music Association and competed, [and] I have met some amazing people. Each of them have touched my life. About an hour before I was scheduled to compete I was a ball of nerves. Mr. Greg Finch, a fellow gospel member, sat down beside me and asked if he could pray with me. He prayed for my nerves and I just began crying. This is just one instance of how these people have affected my life. The Georgia Country & Gospel Music Association is like family to me. I am honored to walk away from nationals this year with two titles, but I am also grateful to share what God has done in my life with other people and have the support from my family and friends and the wonderful people of GCGMA to help me do that."

To advance to the national competition, Wehunt won Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year in the female 17 to 20, new gospel category at the GCGMA ceremony. During the state competition, she also became the first recipient of the Ann Hardin Georgia Country Music Scholarship, which is named in honor of Hardin -- a member of Renewed.

In addition to the award shows, the Emerson resident is staying busy with her musical pursuits.

"I am about to begin working with Sweet Southern Entertainment for bookings and promotion," said Wehunt, a 2008 Woodland High School graduate who currently is majoring in Early Childhood Education at Kennesaw State University. "I'm very blessed to be working with such a great group. I will be at the Calhoun Relay for Life on May 6, Chickamauga Down Home Days and Hard Rock Atlanta with Sweet Southern Entertainment on May 7. Also, I'm getting prepared to sing at the Opryland Hotel during CMA Fest in Nashville this June. I will be working on finishing my CD with two new original songs. All the proceeds I make from CDs go to the American Cancer Society in honor of my Papa, who has been cancer free for one year this past March."