Big dreams are sometimes medium-size

By Rebecca Congleton As the lead singer of a Christian alt-rock band, with no label, no big city street credit, and no “band parents” waiting in the wings to buy my dinner and rub my feet after a long night of set-up, sound-check, break-down, repeat; I have experienced my fair share of performances I’d rather not relive, in locations I’d rather not revisit, with sound quality I’d rather not remember. Those are the realities of life as a weekend rock-star. Thankfully, there are generally more good experiences than bad, and every once in while there’s even a show that makes you forget all the rough nights. A few weeks ago my band and I took part in a special event at one of our favorite venues. Off the beaten path, outside a tiny town called St. Joe, Ind., there’s a concert venue unique from any other where I have ever had the pleasure to perform. ‘The Barn’ is just that. It’s an expansive, lofty, old crop shelter. Once a house for hay, a home for the harvest; this enormous white structure has withstood decades of spring storms and winter blizzards. But it is now a weekend destination for teens and twenty-somethings. Owned, operated, and managed by a young IPFW college student, The Barn is a laid-back, casual, hot-spot for local and regional talent. Clayton Baker built a stage in the barn, located on his parents’ property, when he was just 17. He added a well-equipped sound system, stage lighting, and enough cast-off couches and recliners to seat dozens of guests, very comfortably. The acoustics in the cathedral-like structure make sound quality tremendous, and the talent booked by Baker is a cut above the off-key, off-time norm you might find at your average venue. Friday, July 29, the musical experience was no less impressive than it always is at The Barn. In addition to my band, (pardon my shameless plug) theSurrendering, Baker had booked a couple of local solo artists with distinct sounds and a strong following among the regulars, along with two first-time Barn bands; 77 Times, a Christian hard rock band of young teens, and Miles High, a rock/funk/alternative band with a wailing sax player. Like always, the talent was first-rate and the atmosphere was relaxing, but there was a thread of purpose stitched into the evening’s festivities. All of the musicians who converged on The Barn that night were there without compensation, because every dollar of the proceeds from the show were going to benefit an organization raising funds to build houses for Haitians displaced by the January 2010 earthquake. Shelter 127 is made up of Ohio college students who have made it their goal to build at least one home for a Haitian family this year. The material cost for the home is about $4,000. The members of Shelter 127 will take turns sleeping in a tarp shelter (similar to what many Haitian families are living in) each night until the total amount is raised. Because of the show at The Barn, Shelter 127 is about $500 closer to their goal, and a family in Haiti is closer than they realize to having a real roof over their heads. While it would have been wonderful to see the total amount raised, progress is progress, and a place to call “home” is within reach for one unaware Haitian family. It’s funny how wrapped up in ourselves we small-time musicians can become. We can get so focused on where our next fuel fill-up is coming from or how long it’s been since we had a home-cooked meal, that we forget about the millions of people whose lives are so much more difficult, yet so much simpler than ours. Partnering with an organization like Shelter 127 in a humble, homey venue like The Barn, made me realize that the glitz and the glamour of performing in a stadium with a dozen or so big-shots, behind the scenes, making me feel important, just isn’t my thing. What do I want? I want to write songs that relate my insignificance and my God’s enormity. I want to sing them to people who have never heard them before, in places I might never visit again; and whenever I can, I’d like to do it in a way that helps somebody, somewhere. I’ve made up my mind. Give me a small stage (in a barn, a back room, or an alley) and I’ll prove that big dreams are sometimes medium-size.