Program Book Management in Tribute to Rich Mullins

 
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This is a special project story, one deserving a tone of reverence for a life taken suddenly, and a legacy left behind to admonish future generations. I was too young to remember Rich Mullins, but I quickly came to understand how much this songwriter and artist was dearly loved as he lived a life completely devoted to his creator. Sadly, he was killed in a tragic car accident on September 19, 1997.  

By the time I entered into the world of musical understanding, I had missed the surge of Christian artists in the 80s and 90s who were crafting their art beautifully; Artists like Rich, Caedmon's Call, Jars of Clay, and more. Though I missed experiencing it while it happened, I see their influence everywhere in the town that is home to so many of them. From attending church and worshipping with them, to working with and learning from them. These men and women were some of the first pioneers of the "Contemporary Christian Music" and "Worship Music" scenes, and having worked in that industry for several years, I have a great deal to thank them for. Not only for the systems their existence created (since it paid my salary), but more so for the whispers of their experiences and legacies that gave me perspective and respect for the reality of Christians creating art for a society en masse. Those lessons have proved priceless during my time in this community and have taught me more than I intended to learn when I first moved here to study music in 2008.

Artist and songwriter Andrew Peterson came into musical maturity during this time of fervent song-crafting that mirrored a genuine, self-less lifestyle. Andrew had never sincerely met Rich Mullins (except for a couple of happenstance run-ins, one of which was when he was the "food boy" backstage at a concert of Rich's), but the songs of Rich Mullins acted as "bookmarks" throughout his life and inspired a deep desire and call to pursue the same level of art and honest living. Rich's songs changed Andrew's life.

For this reason, Andrew (along with Bragg Management) developed a tribute concert to honor the legacy of Rich Mullins and one of his most highly regarded works: The Ragamuffin Band album. The concert coincided with the twentieth anniversary of Rich's death, and it was to be held at the Mother Church - The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. While most of those on stage weren't close with Rich, the room was sure to be filled with hundreds of those who walked closely with him at some point in his short career. A few special guest artists who knew Rich personally, or who were involved in the recording of the Ragamuffin Band Album itself were also invited to take the stage throughout the night. Thus, the entire concert was to be treated as if it were friends sitting in a circle talking about one of them lost too soon. 

Rogue Creative Marketing was brought in to manage the creation of a special program book that was handed to each person in attendance that evening. The creation, management, and execution of such a piece had to reflect the character of the one being honored, and it was a project I took great delight in carrying from beginning to end. From what I've been taught about him, Rich was known for his eccentric yet sold-out life. He has a great many quotations attributed to him that were (and I suppose, still are) radical in nature, but perhaps the largest proof of his dedication to a life without frills or "overage," was his choice to have all his finances entrusted to the church he attended. At his request, he was "paid" the average U.S. salary each year, and the rest of his earnings were given to charity. This isn't someone who cared about a number on a chart, or an album sales goal. This was someone devoted to the work and teachings of his God.

 

(book design by Brannon McAllister)

(book design by Brannon McAllister)

To complete such a significant project, we needed very special individuals. Those who knew Rich - or who were at least familiar with his legacy - and those who understood the importance of artistry in the book's presentation: from advertising to layout to paper stock. I was fortunate to have the best individuals to help me complete the project, which included Brannon McAllister's design work, Matt Klinedinst's pursuit of appropriate advertisers, Allen Printing for providing a gorgeous end product, and Andrew Peterson/Bragg Management/Rabbit Room for the creation and development of beautiful editorial content.

In the end, as I slowly and carefully made my way through the book, reading each page while admiring the beautiful photos provided of various recording sessions of Rich's, I felt an immense amount of gratitude. Gratitude for the honor of living in a geographical location that provides the joy of working closely with greatness. Gratitude for "greatness" being more raw and gutted than radio, TV, and other forms of mass media makes it out to be. Gratitude for every day I get to bask in the wisdom and life stories of those creating and establishing a legacy - especially when it comes packaged and delivered in honesty and humility.

 

(book design by Brannon McAllister)

(book design by Brannon McAllister)

Perhaps the most profound element of this book was Andrew Peterson's opening essay in honor of Rich. As I mentioned before, Andrew never had a friendship with Rich - though if the car accident hadn't happened, I would guess that he probably might have, as his path has since joined with those who were once very close with Rich. His essay speaks to the heart of anyone whose art has been deeply influenced and changed by the existence of a stranger that they have never met. I'll end with this bit Andrew wrote as he gazed at his life through the filter of Rich's influence:

"Looking back, I see a young man on the verge of a music career that would wound him in innumerable ways, even as it blessed him tremendously. I see a young man doing his best to follow a calling without having the slightest idea how—other than the example set forth by Rich, who at least seemed to be more interested in following Jesus than anyone’s advice...I’m older now than Rich ever was, but I still feel like that dorky twenty-year-old who has no clue what he’s doing, who most days can’t believe that Jesus loves him."

 

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To my team: Matt, Brannon, and Jon with Allen Printing - thank you for your work and dedication to the integrity of this piece. To Bragg Management (Christie and Ashley) and Andrew Peterson: thank you for the opportunity for THIS dorky twenty-something to be involved in Rich's legacy. And finally, thank you for your example and music, Rich. This fellow rogue is grateful for the ripple effect you created without even realizing.  

Back cover lyric feature  (design by Brannon McAllister)

Back cover lyric feature (design by Brannon McAllister)

 
Leslie Eiler Thompson