The #forgecon11 Speakers - My Take

Where do I begin with the quality of the speakers and artists who attended ForgeCon 11? These are seriously some of the finest people I have had the privilidge of working with. Coming from a variety of traditions and backgrounds, each of them displayed grace, deep knowledge, and passion for the small church. In no particular order:

Joel Klampert is the driving force behind The Forge and ForgeCon. Joel kept a low profile this year, staying off the platform until the last worship session. But without him, none of this would have happened. He is the keeper of the vision. He is Moses.

Dunn & Wilt are two of the more interesting guys you want to meet. Dan Wilt - I don't even know what I can say about this guy. His deep voice resonates with a poetic beauty whenever he speaks, and he has an innate understanding of the role of worship and the worship leader. Plus he gives everyone "hammered-dulcimer envy." Jeremy Dunn is a brilliant musician, and in his quiet way, one of the most inspiring men you could ask to meet. Together, they are dynamite.

Rich Kirkpatrick is what I expected from a Californian... cool, laid-back and mellow, with an epic 'stache and equally epic stories. "I wore this hat in Ethiopia." Rich runs "Worship Mythbusters" and is driven to help people strip away the noise around the worship experience. Plus, he is a fantastic musician, and looked right at home in the Victorian architechture of Ocean Grove. Rich brought his daughter Emilie, who is an up-and-coming artist in her own right. It was a joy to watch her absorb everything going on around her.

John Voelz is scary cool. I look at a piano and see a piano. John looks at a piano and sees a multi-colored wall hanging setting the mood for a multisensory aesthetic that will astound you with it's coolness. Plus, John plays a mean, bluesy guitar.

Mike Kim is another kind of cool. He's a cool-cool. He's a perfectionist who doesn't take things too seriously. He writes beautiful songs, and preaches hard truth. I love how hard he laughs when he laughs at himself, and he has an absolutely spot-on sense of sarcasm. Which rocks.

Joe Day is kind of the other end of the spectrum. His songs are hauntingly stark. He speaks with a gentle spirit, and you believe every single word that comes out of his mouth. You feel like he really, really wants you to succeed.

Kris Castillo always has a smile on his face. Always. He seems to truly enjoy the company of whomever he is speaking with, and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Ditto for Doug Gould. Besides that, the man knows everyone. I mean everyone. From the presidents of audio companies and record labels to every artist imaginable, and he wraps his talks with real-life experiences and real-world examples. His wife Sheri has been such an important part of ForgeCon, being really the sole person handling the vocal track of training.

You'd have to look long and hard to find a more genuine person than Matt Boswell. He completely sells the concept that the family is the heart of the worship experience - he believes it, and you believe it, too when he is finished.

Jonathan Lee is surprising. To my old middle-aged eyes he appears too youthful to have the kind of insight that he has. But he does. Plus, as pretty much a full-time travelling worship leader, he's got some stories!

Steve Tice brings a gentle steadiness to every conversation and session he is in. I didn't get to his breakout, but I know that everyone that I talked to who did, was deeply touched by what he had to say, and was completely energized by his sessions.

Keith Minnick is one of my favorite people. The guy has Clapton chops (or better) but has such a humble servant's heart that it's hard to reconcile the two. Keith has done more personally for me with regards to my guitar skills than any other person, and I use stuff he taught me ever single week.

Darrell Harris is the kind of guy that when you walk away from talking to him, you just feel somehow smarter. It's like his incredible intelligence makes its way into your ears and wraps itself around your cerebral cortex. He rasies the level of the conversation wherever he is.

Shannon Lewis. What can I say about the man with three lungs? Whether he's channeling Joe Cocker during a late-night worship jam or regaling you with tales of the absolutely everyone he knows, Shannon brings a smile to my face every time.

Travis Paulding didn't speak this year, but he gave voice to all the others.  The man is a consummate professional when it comes to sound reinforcement. (He is also a beta tester for the Apple iBrain, I think.)

Emily Schiavi is another brilliant worship leader.  I was completely impressed with her set, and also with the fact that she seemed to be absorbing so much from everyone, even though she has plenty to offer herself.  Definitely check her music out.
Is there anything that Chris Flynn doesn't do? Sound. Lights. Setup. Teaching. Putting out fires. (Literally - he's on the fire company) Plus, he carries around a keyring that's about the size of the Keymaker in the Matrix. I really think he can unlock a door in New Jersey and walk through to Tibet or something.  And of course, Scott and Nancy Hoffman, our hosts, our encouragers, and so much more.

Finally, I didn't have any time to talk with David Harwood, but I heard him speak, and liked everything he said. I look forward to reading his book. I'd really love to spend some time with him someday. Maybe ForgeCon12?

Were you there? Who really stood out to you?


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