Sixth grader wins songwriting, poetry competition

Staff Reports • Updated Feb 8, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Local songwriters are preparing a special night of entertainment in Wilson County, and it will be particularly special for one Mt. Juliet Christian Academy sixth grader.   

The Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Fine Arts Booster Club will play host to local songwriters Darryl Worley and Friends for an Evening with the Arts, an annual fundraising event at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. This year’s event, ‘An Evening with the Arts: Writers in the Round’ is scheduled for Feb. 24.  

Sensing an opportunity to provide Mt. Juliet Christian students with significant experience, event coordinators created a songwriting and poetry competition in conjunction with the Writers in the Round event. The competition was designed to showcase the bright, young artists at the school.   

“The songwriters Darryl Worley has lined up for the Evening with the Arts: Writers in the Round event are a stellar crew of talent,” said program chairperson Dorinda Biggs. “Since these writers have such a heart for fine arts education in our community, I knew this would be a wonderful opportunity for one of our MJCA students to showcase their own writing abilities. The songwriting and poetry competition idea was formed out of a heart to allow our students the experience of preparing, performing and being evaluated by a panel of judges in an audition that would lead to one winner performing live with these professional writers. This type of audition helps to prepare and launch our fine arts students into the real world where their creative works will be scrutinized by the music industry and community. It only makes each contestant stronger for having taken the risk. We are so proud of each student who took this exciting opportunity to try out. They were brave, and they were excellent.”

The winner was 12-year-old Lauren Kleeberg, a sixth grader at Mt. Juliet Christian.  Kleeberg will perform her original song, “And If Only They Knew,” during the event.

“The fine arts are being cut in schools all over the country,” said Beth Davis, Mt. Juliet Christian fine arts department director. “We believe it is vital to give our students the opportunity to learn, create and develop their expressive talents for the purpose of being united. Hearing Lauren’s amazing, well-written song that is relevant to the struggles teens face is an inspiration and a thrill to be a part of. I expect great things from our fine arts students here at MJCA because they are so very talented.”

An Evening with the Arts:  Writers in the Round 2017 is an evening of music that will include songs and stories from Worley and other well-known Nashville songwriters. The evening will begin at 7 p.m. with a silent auction. The show will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased in advance at the school or online at mjca.org/fine-arts.

The Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Fine Arts Booster Club will use proceeds from the event to replace outdated theatrical curtains and lighting needed to support the fine arts students at the school. Mt. Juliet Christian has a thriving fine arts program that prepares students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade in the elementary music, band, choral, drama and visual arts.

Worley has scored nearly 20 hit singles and three chart-topping hits with the self-penned  “Awful, Beautiful Life” and the poignant “Have You Forgotten,” which spent seven weeks at No. 1, as well as “I Miss My Friend,” which came to him via a songwriter friends in Nashville. He also recognized the importance of giving back every opportunity that he can through his annual charities that has funded organizations such as the Darryl Worley Cancer Treatment Center in Savannah.

“We’ve managed to do a lot by the grace of God over the past 15 years,” said Worley. “We’re having the biggest years of fundraising now just because we’ve learned how to do it. It’s just a very positive thing that we’ve been able to accomplish.”

Next up on the charitable future for the singer-songwriter is breaking ground on a wellness center geared toward assisting youth battling abuse of drugs and alcohol. 

“It’s a labor intensive job, but it is a labor of love when you have a chance to really see how it affects human beings,” he said. “We’ve saved lives, and that’s what it’s all about.”

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