Awestruck combines music with a spiritual message

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Jeff Jonusaitis, Paul Jenkins, Matt Simmonds, Graham Drummond

Shaun Ding

BAND PRACTICE ADJOURNED. Awestruck (L-R Jeff Jonusaitis, Paul Jenkins, Matt Simmonds and Graham Drummond; Greg Heywood absent) is set to host Awestruck 2009 this Saturday at The Spoke Lounge. The show starts at 8 p.m.

Why are five guys renting out The Spoke Lounge on Saturday night, with their own money, to put on a free concert?

That’s exactly what Western students Jeff Jonusaitis, Paul Jenkins, Greg Heywood, Matt Simmonds and Graham Drummond, the organizers of Awestruck 2009, want people to ask.

“Spirituality has been a cornerstone in our lives,” Jenkins says. “We want to express that and share it with others.”

Awestruck 2009 is a modern spiritual concert that will be performed by musicians Jonusaitis, Jenkins, Heywood, Simmonds and Drummond, featuring vocalists Sam Gardner and Lauren Pelley.

The first set will consist of mainstream music with a spiritual theme, including covers of Switchfoot, U2 and Lifehouse songs, and the second half of the show will showcase original material. Although it conveys a Christian message, the group emphasizes the concert is for everyone.

“We really want people to come and enjoy the show,” Jenkins says. “It’s for anyone who likes rock or pop music.”

Awestruck began two years ago as a residence-based concert in the Elgin Dining Hall. Jonusaitis has been a residence staff member for three years and helped organize the initial event.

“Part of the residence programming requirements can be spiritually based, but no one ever seems to tap into that,” Jonusaitis explains. “So we thought, what’s something that we can do to run a spiritually oriented program? It turned into this concert of contemporary Christian music.”

Instead of limiting the experience to first year students in residence, the group extended the event to the whole campus. They rented out The Spoke last year and advertised with posters and on Facebook. The positive response they received was encouragement to make this year’s event even bigger and better.

Jonusaitis, who writes most of the lyrics for the original material, comments on the process of writing spiritual songs and on the relationship between music and spirituality.

“I try to write about personal experiences that I’m going through,” he says. “Or I put myself in someone else’s shoes and try to write about how they’re feeling about spirituality " how they’re questioning things.

“Music is such a powerful medium,” Jonusaitis says.

Awestruck is about the music and the message.

“There are two main focuses,” Jenkins says. “One is to have a great show and for people to enjoy themselves. We also hope people leave the show with their own questions regarding spirituality. Maybe this can be a starting point for them to try to figure things out for themselves.”

Check out the free concert this Saturday from 8 to 10 p.m. at The Spoke Lounge.

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