Gabe Reynaud Award recipient on bringing peace through healthy music
A singer/songwriter making a living from her music is one of two recipients of Manifest’s most prestigious award this year.
The Gabe Reynaud Award recognises excellence in faithful creativity. It honours the pioneering Seventh-day Adventist filmmaker and is an initiative of a church in the South Pacific-led movement exploring, encouraging and celebrating faithful creativity.
Melissa Otto receives the award for her long-term commitment to full-time music ministry. The Novocastrian released her first EP, Patio, at age 20. Three albums—Opened (2007), Blue Sky (2011) and The Journey Home (2014)—have followed over the past 13 years, the most recent supported by a six-month tour of the United States. Donations and sales not only helped Otto and husband Jason Hinze—and their two young daughters—cover their costs but invest in their ministry.
Otto is the first solo singer/songwriter named as a recipient of the award. Manifest Co-Convenor Brenton Stacey asked about her music and her ministry.
You’re a woman who writes with the vulnerability of a child. Do you find courage and strength as, through performance, you relive the experiences from which these songs come?
It’s such a blessing singing the same songs, which may sound strange. Most of my songs have come from darker days struggling with anxieties and depression. As God helped me see who He really is and who I really am, I felt so much relief, so much happiness. So having the privilege of sharing His beautiful truth through song helps me. But it seems I need to be reminded of it everyday.
Your use of instruments such as acoustic guitar, piano and ukulele gives your albums a soothing, organic sound. What does this style of music say about your understanding of the character of God?
I try to make music that is healthy, so I try to make it in harmony with how I understand the laws of nature. And because my songs are mostly about God, I feel a responsibility to rightly represent Him through the words and the music.
The journey home was a long one this past year—you toured the United States. Spending six months on the road is a calculated financial risk—all that petrol, all those meals. Did it pay off? If yes, do you have an example of how God blessed?
God adventures are always the best. We went over to the US on this tour with only about 20 dates booked for concerts, but by the end of the tour we’d performed 70 concerts. God blessed and led. The right person would be there ready to help us when our old van broke down and a beautiful family would welcome us into their home when we needed a rest from being vagabonds. The tour strengthened our trust in God.
What role does your family play in encouraging you to practice faithful creativity?
Jason is amazing, driving me around the US for six months so I could share what God has put on my heart. I couldn’t minister through my music without his support. He is the driver, literally and figuratively.
Gabe Reynaud’s vision as a faithful creative: for the church to recognise the power of art to testify of God’s wonder and awe and mystery. How would you define your vision?
My vision is for God to use my music to help people understand His immeasurable love for them. He is the best Dad you could ever hope for. You can find peace and rest in His arms.