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Teen to sing at national gospel competition

The Gaither High sophomore says her goal is to use music to break down barriers between young people and their parents.

By JACKIE RIPLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2001


LUTZ -- Christina Sanders is taking it to the mountain. And she's only 16 years old.

The Lutz teen, who is making a name for herself on the Gospel music scene, recently won a regional gospel music competition and has earned a spot for herself in a national competition being held this summer in the Rockies.

"When they announced my name I literally just almost fell over," said the Gaither High School sophomore. "I didn't know what I was supposed to say. I was dumbfounded."

Sanders won the Kingdom Bound 2001 Florida competition, a regional contest held last month in Live Oak. She sang her signature song, Friend to Friend. scoring higher than 11 other bands and one male solo artist.

Kingdom Bound is a national Christian music festival, attracting Christian acts nationwide.

Now, bound for Colorado, Sanders will sing in a national competition July 29-Aug.4 in Estes Park.

"I'm excited and a little nervous," Sanders said.

The competitions are sponsored by the Academy of Gospel Music Arts, an educational program designed to educate, encourage and support the growth of new artists and songwriters. Each event includes seminars, critique sessions, and an artist and songwriting competition.

"I think she's got an awesome and God-given talent," said Jeff Yale, youth pastor of the Church of the Lost and Found on Waters Avenue. "It's incredible to see a young person go out and share their faith with other young people through their talent."

Sanders, a member of Idlewild Baptist Church whose ministry has taken her to other churches as well, said she began taking singing lessons when she was 7 years old because she was shy and her parents thought it would help raise her self esteem. Her next step was singing in recitals at school and at church. But it wasn't until surviving what could have been a fatal traffic accident two years ago that Sanders became serious about her singing.

"We were driving home after church and were broadsided by a drunk driver," said Sanders,who described how the force of the impact caused her family's car to spin out of control and into oncoming traffic on Florida Avenue. It was then hit by a truck carrying furniture.

"When the car hit the curb my seat belt ripped and I flew out," she said. "When I got to the hospital the doctor told me when you got ejected from cars it's almost always fatal, but I didn't even have any broken bones. Jesus spared my life."

Even though it was a terrible night, Sanders said it taught her that "God didn't save my life for any reason but to live it for his glory."

That's when she said she realized she needed to do something more with her singing, which led to a trip to Vancouver, Wash., to record a CD. And even though she has not yet been signed to a record label, she said she will keep singing and recording "with or without a record contract."

"Because mo matter what I want to do, God's doing what he wants me to do," she said.

In many ways, Sanders, who has a brother and sister, is a typical teenager involved in several clubs at Gaither. She admits that it's not always easy when she has to watch her friends head to the beach while she has to "go to this little church rehearsal with my dad."

"Not only do I appreciate her music, but I appreciate the way she talks the talk and walks the walk," said Dean Wild, youth pastor of Grace Family Church on Van Dyke Road. "She lives out what she sings and what she says. She's a great example for other students to follow."

And that, in part, is what Sanders says she believes her mission is: To break down barriers between young people and their parents through the universal language of music.

"My parents are people who stick beside me," Sanders said. "I know they'll be there no matter what. And growing up in this generation having that kind of support, that's awesome."

- Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 226-3468.

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