When Shawn Degenhart was studying music at ISU and performing in local musical productions, he assumed he was headed for musical theatre, and maybe even Broadway. But, a funny thing happened on the way to Broadway – he went to hear the Bill Gaither Homecoming Tour and fell in love with southern gospel music, and that turned his music career in a whole new direction.
Growing up in Central Illinois, Shawn was exposed to both faith and music at an early age. Shawn attended Highview Church of God in Washington and he became a believer at the age of nine. Since his father played and taught guitar, music came naturally. Like many of us, Shawn took piano lessons in Junior High. But for him, it was just the beginning of his lifetime love for music. He also performed in choirs and musical productions, and continued to perfect his musical craft while attaining a bachelor’s degree in music theory/composition and music history from Illinois State University.
After graduation, Shawn attended the Stamps-Baxter School of Music. While there, he was able to meet and work with many of the people who were involved with the southern gospel traditions, such as the Speer family, Jake Hess, Glen Payne and many others. In 2004, Shawn joined the faculty at the school and began teaching music theory, sight-singing, ear-training and advanced part-writing.
Shawn met his future wife Anne Twitty while both were in the graduate music program at ISU. After receiving his masters in music, Shawn began working at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria as a video editor and graphic designer and later became the assistant music minister. Feeling the call to full-time music ministry, Shawn joined Hands of Love Ministry as Director of Programming.
It was while he was with Hands of Love that Shawn began a daily, hour-long GospelFest Hour radio program on Peoria’s local Moody affiliate and also began cultivating the GospelFest concert series. Today, the GospelFest Hour is nationally syndicated and can be heard on 130 stations in 32 states and nine foreign countries.
2012 was the 14th year for the GospelFest Summer Concert. This year’s GospelFest Jubilee featured the GospelFest Singers along with a 50 person choir and a live seven-piece band to recreate a 1940’s style radio music show. During October they’ll produce their annual Harvest of Thanks dinner concert, followed by a Branson-style Christmas concert in December.
For more information about Shawn and Anne and the GospelFest Ministries, visit their website at www.gospelfestminstries.com. The GospelFest Hour can be heard locally on WBNH 88.5 FM radio at 7:00 PM Monday through Friday and at 6:00 PM on Saturdays.