Friday, February 7, 2014

Retro SGM Radio: Ladies of Southern Gospel: Women of Substance - Kim Greene Hopper

{Editor's Note: This feature was part of a series on the Ladies of Southern Gospel, run from 2007-2008 on SGM Radio Website, written by Lorraine Walker.]

Last month, we began a series on the awesome women in Southern Gospel Music. Women like Vestal Goodman, Eva Mae LeFevre and Mom Speer in the past to current legends like Connie Hopper, Lou Wills Hildreth and Elaine Wilburn. Women who have raised the bar of talent, faith and substance for those in the next generation.

This “next generation” includes women such as Karen Peck Gooch, Kim Greene Hopper and Susan Whisnant, who are now becoming legends in their own time. These true women of substance have not only developed their own talents, style and sound, they are also known for their Godly walk and their personal standards of morality. This month, SGM Radio had the privilege of talking to Kim Greene Hopper.

Kim Hopper’s story has been told many times, about the little girl with the big voice who sang with her family, who captured America and Dean Hopper with her smile and sweet spirit. The girl who went on to bring the Hoppers sound into the present decade with style, passion and a strong commitment to their Lord and their music.

A beautiful lady with many awards and years of being on the top of her profession, Kim has a gentle nature and professionalism that combine to give her an air of self-confidence without pride. This is a lady who has come to know who she is and Who she belongs to and is living her life to be the best she can be.

Kim Hopper knows that singing Gospel music was her calling. “I was five years old when I started singing. My whole family were singers and I grew up in that. My Dad played piano. When I was five, my two brothers and I stood around Dad and we had three-part harmony instantly. My Dad was kind of blown away! I grew up in it, loved it, and had the talent for it. I knew it was a gift from God and that’s all I ever wanted to do. I knew in my heart by the time I was 10 or 12 that this is what I wanted to do for my life.”

With such a successful career in Southern Gospel, Kim often has young people that want to know how to get started in the industry. Her advice is simple: “Every event you can sing at, do! Sing at every opportunity. There will be someone, somewhere that will hear you. If this is truly the gift God has given you.”

“Now sometimes, honestly, people say, “Oh, God called me to sing!” Well maybe that’s not your calling, maybe you are not quite the vocalist that someone else is and maybe your calling has something else to do with the music. Be clear of what your calling is. Then every opportunity that you have to sing, do so. Some one will be there that at some point will say, ‘Hey, I want to put you on a showcase or I want to do this or do that for you’.

“And then: Promotion! Start buying ads in magazines and promoting yourself. Get a great, quality CD or do demos and pass them along to artists and say, “If you ever need someone to open up for you, or if you are looking for a tenor singer, here’s my demo.” Just pass those out and get your name out there as much as you can.”

Kim commented on the number of talented up-and-coming groups in Southern Gospel right now. “There is a great new group that we brought to the National Quartet Convention from Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. They are The Hunters and they are five brothers with their Mom and Dad. The Hunters are very new and they don’t even have a CD out yet but they are working on one. The boys range in age from 14 to 27, and they are all professional hockey players.”

“I call them the ‘Backstreet Boys of Southern Gospel Music’”, says Kim. “ They dance a little bit and they are incredible. The older people and the younger people are accepting them, they all seem to love them.”

Many of the young singers today look up to Kim Hopper as the epitome of female Southern Gospel Singers. Kim herself had those that she looked up to when she was learning the ropes. Reba Rambo, Joy McGuire, and Debbie Talley were among her favourites.

“Debbie made a real impression on my life, not just as a spiritual lady but vocally as well. When I first started singing, I didn’t have a real high voice. When my brothers’ voices changed and I had to go to the real high part, I didn’t know how to do that. I tried and I was killing myself. Every night I was getting more hoarse. So I would sit and listen when Debbie was singing with the Hoppers… I would listen to their records and cassettes for hours and hours. I’d think, ‘She talks in my range but she sings really high, how does she do that?’”

“I would sit and mimic her tone placement every night and figure out how she was doing that. That was the only vocal coaching I ever had, just Debbie’s records and cassettes. So she made the most difference in my life, vocally, of anyone.”

Just as Kim had people like Reba Rambo and Debra Talley as role models, Kim comments on those of her generation who would be “legends” to the next generation.
“Karen Peck Gooch, Debra Talley and Sheri Easter, all these ladies that have been devoted to this and have done this so long. They are here all these years because of their integrity and their walk with the Lord. I think as each of them ages, there will be a lot of people that say, ‘I remember when I saw them when I was little’, and now they’ve grown to respect them as spiritual leaders and forces in our industry.”

The idea that Southern Gospel is a more challenging industry to thrive in for women than it is for men has been bandied about for some time. Kim disagrees with this notion. “ I think a lot of people love and admire the men, but when a woman walks on stage, it’s like sudden respect. Boys have grown up listening to their mommas teach them to respect women. And women respect other women.”

“I think there is a lot of grace when a woman walks onstage. People think, ‘You know what, she’s up there as a woman, doing what she is doing in front of all these crowds of people, and I want to hear what she has to say’.”

Kim Hopper has some specific advice for the young female artists coming up in the industry. “Don’t ever do anything that would offend anyone. For some people, it’s all about ‘You can’t wear pants to church, you can’t do this, you can’t do that’. What I’ve found out is that some things may not convict me, such as to wear pants onstage, but that is me personally. However, I grew up where we never wore pants to church. My Mother and Dad always said, ‘Why don’t you just play the safe side in every situation’. That would include the way you dressed, because if you do offend one person, then you will never reach them for Christ.”

“So I’ve always tried to dress modestly and I like to be fashionable and I work at that. But I always try to be fully covered and I always sing in a dress. I just think that to be a lady is the biggest thing.”

Kim Greene Hopper is involved in many aspects of Southern Gospel, as she has been doing some promotion as well as her traveling, singing and studio work. This busy wife, mother, sister, and Gospel icon has a full life. She has heard the Lord speaking to her lately about this very thing. “I’m a Mom and I have to devote so much time to Southern Gospel, and so much time to my children, and a lot of times I’m really torn. For me, the Lord is saying, ‘Slow Down! Slow down and listen to Me and know that I am God. Rest in what I have for you.’”

“I hope that my schedule can slow down a little that I can be more of a Mom. I feel like when I’m on the road, I’m neglecting my children, and when I’m home, I’m neglecting what I need to do out here to minister to people. So the Lord is speaking to me about finding the balance and finding rest in Him.”

Kim Greene Hopper struggles with the same issues that many working wives and mothers deal with, and it is her ability to face challenges with grace while in the spotlight of the stage that has brought her the admiration of so many. Truly a woman of substance, Kim Greene Hopper will be another of the lovely women whose name will be listed as a legend of Southern Gospel.

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