A visiting Grammy nominated gospel singer is so excited about an upcoming local gospel singing talent competition, he has agreed to provide his own band and backup vocalists.

The Divine Voices singing competition is being held this Sunday at City Hall to find Bermuda’s top gospel singer. The winner gets to perform at the Gospel Festival 2011 in Dockyard in August.

“I was so excited to hear about the Divine Music Competition, we work to support all local singers,” VaShawn Mitchell, 34, said during a telephone interview with The Royal Gazette. “My band and singers will play for the Divine Voices competition on Friday which will be a great, great experience. And I am looking forward to seeing who is going to win.”

At the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards held last February (2011) Mr Mitchell received two nominations, one for best gospel performance for his single ‘Nobody Greater’, and the other nomination was for the Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album for his album ‘Triumphant’.

“Nominated for two Grammys was a great experience,” said Mr Mitchell. “We work so hard at our music. Just to be nominated was the greatest experience in the world. To know that the world is recognizing VaShawn and his music is wonderful.”

In both categories the winners were gospel legends BeBe and CeCe Winans. When we spoke with Mr Mitchell he had just completed an international tour with the Winans and gospel sensation MaryMary, who will also be performing Bermuda at the gospel concert, so clearly, there were no hard feelings.

Mr Mitchell has several albums out including ‘Promises’ released in 2007, ‘Triumphant’ released last year, and ‘My Songbook’ released this year, among others. Mr Mitchell is not only a gospel singer, he is also a dedicated minister at the Higher Living Christian Church in Jonesboro, Georgia.

“I come from a local church and minister to church on a weekly basis,” said Mr Mitchell. “I am Minister of Music of my local church and have been doing that over ten years. I have learned to prioritize and I try my best to be home on Sundays.

“With my music, I try to reach everyone. We have members of the congregation from children to ninety-year-olds. We want to do the same thing (reach people) across the world. We want anyone who picks up the music, to be inspired and uplifted from listening.”

Like most people around the globe right now, many members of his congregation are feeling the effects of the economic recession. Mr Mitchell tries to take this into account in his music and ministering.

“I purposefully wanted to write, produce and sing music that would take people back to the source and not the resource,” he said. “I believe that the world at large is going through hard times, but there is a shift happening right now and people are realizing people they are triumphant and they will get over it. Hard times are taking a turn right now.”

Mr Mitchell grew up in Chicago in a neighborhood lacking in positive male role models.

He discovered the church as a teenager and eventually became assistant music director at St Mark Baptist Church under Pastor Lonnie Hunter.

He later became the youngest music minister ever at the Sweet Holy Spirit Church in Chicago, where he launched his gospel music career.

While many musicians choose to forgo a college education, this was not Mr Mitchell’s path. He became a communications student at Columbia College, Chicago but quickly found that music was more his calling.

“I thought that music was my passion, but it took going to college to realize that music was actually my purpose,” said Mr Mitchell. “I was in college for communication and public relations and music was my minor. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gone to school for music administration and music business classes.”

He now has a degree in therapy and youth work from Columbia College. “I have not been to Bermuda before,” said Mr Mitchell. “I have been to the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos. This is my first time in Bermuda, and I am looking forward to coming.”

For more information about Mr Mitchell, check out his Facebook page or see him on Twitter.

Auditions for the Divine Voices Vocal Competition are being held this Sunday, (July 31) at 4pm at City Hall. The competition is open to people of all ages. There is no audition fee. The winner will be decided by a panel of overseas judges including music producer Demmette Guidry.

The 2011 Gospel Festival will be held in the Victualling Yard at the Royal Naval Dockyard August 25, 26, and 27.

Tickets purchased before July 31 are $75 per night or $200 for three; VIP tickets are $150 per night or $400 for three.

Tickets purchased after July 31 are $90 or $245; VIP tickets are $180 or $500. Tickets can be purchased online,

For more information about the concert or competition telephone Kevin Bean at 504-8790.

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