In a career that has spanned more than four decades, Sandi Patty has become the voice of Christian music around the world.
Patty was born in Oklahoma and raised in Arizona and California, but she attended college in Anderson, Ind., and first began to establish herself there. Patty’s deep roots in the Hoosier state will be keenly felt when she returns to perform her Salute to America with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.
Although her career may have officially launched during her years in Indiana, Patty has been singing her whole life. Born to a family of musicians, she sang in her church and performed with her family throughout her life. But despite that wealth of experience, music wasn’t her plan when she began her college studies.
Drafted by the Gaithers
“My plan was to teach school, and I was very excited about that,” Patty said in an interview with Whatzup. “But I was approached by Bill Gaither and his wife, two wonderful alums of then Anderson College, now Anderson University. They had heard me sing and asked if I was interested in doing a little bit of traveling. I told them I’d have to pray about it, but yes. It wasn’t a hard decision.
“After my year with them was done, doors started opening for me, and there were more and more opportunities where I was singing by myself. I had to make the decision that this was more than a part-time, fun job, that it was something I was going to give my best to. God was opening these doors for me, and I was willing to walk through them and see what He had planned for me.
“But yes,” she continued, “I was all set to be a teacher. I love teaching still. I had zero idea, I didn’t in anyway conceive, that I would be singing for a living. I grew up in a musical family, and there was the realistic aspect of it. Music was fun, but it’s hard to make a living in music so you better have another plan for making a living and do music for fun.”
Although she has since moved back to Oklahoma City, the place of her birth, Patty still considers Indiana home, and she enjoys visiting whenever she can.
“Indiana was my home for many wonderful years,” she said. “I raised my kids in Indiana, and I still have family in Indiana. So it’ll always be home, and I enjoy going back whenever I can. The Yuletide Celebration with the Indianapolis Symphony is a highlight for me every year. My parents are still in Indiana, and a couple of our kids live in the Indianapolis area. So even though I live in Oklahoma City now, I still call Indiana home.”
Long preparation, short rehearsal
Patty looks forward to her upcoming Salute to America performance with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, an evening that will also feature the Indiana University Singing Hoosiers chorale.
“I love to sing with a symphony and cannot wait to perform with the orchestra in Fort Wayne,” she said. “Salute to America features such wonderful music, and I love the fact that when you sing with a symphony, not to mention with the great chorale from Indiana University, that you get something magical. It’s also terrifying, but to be on the same stage creating live music with each other, it’s just wonderful. There are so many things that can go wrong, but there are so many things that go so beautifully right. It’s just a joy to make music with them.”
Although there are so many aspects to such a show, and so many logistics involved in bringing it together, it would seem to require lots of rehearsal and preparation. While there is lots of prep work, the rehearsal time is remarkably short.
“The orchestras are unbelievable and have such amazing musicianship,” Patty said. “They bring everything they have to work each day so I won’t rehearse with the orchestra in Fort Wayne until the day of the show. They are such great sight readers and are so good at interpreting music that, as long as they do their homework and I do my homework, it’s going to be a glorious, glorious evening.”
Finding balance in life and career
Patty now has three grandchildren, and she said she “agrees with everyone who said how awesome it was going to be. There is something about grandchildren that remind you how great your capacity to love a lot of people is. No matter how many people there are, you find that you have plenty of love for all of them.”
That new role in life may have played a part in Patty’s decision to retire from touring, as her upcoming appearance in Fort Wayne indicates, but not from performing altogether. She has found a balance in her life and career, one she has earned after sharing her talents with us for so many years. And at long last she’s getting to enjoy a teaching career.
“I’m still singing here and there, but for many years I was probably touring 275 days out of the year. I consider this a semi-retirement because I’m home a lot more than I used to be. Then, from time to time, I still get out and do some singing with symphonies and churches which is such a joy for me. It’s also been a joy to really land at home, though, and spend some time working in my church.
“I’m the artist-in-residence in the music department of Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City, and I love to nurture and mentor the kids coming up. I love teaching them that music is more than just showing up and singing on Sundays. You have to listen to the lyrics and see how they resonate in their life and work with them to find themselves in the music. I am truly, truly loving that. For me, not being on the road more than I’m home, genuinely unpacking my suitcase and developing relationships in my community, has just been awesome.”
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