The 2022 BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards were held in Nashville on Thursday (March 31) at the National Museum of African American Music. Hosted by BMI president/CEO Mike O’Neill and BMI VP, creative-Atlanta Catherine Brewton, the night was a celebration of music, faith and joy.
There was a four-way tie for BMI gospel songwriter of the year involving Aaron Lindsey, J Drew Sheard II, Kierra Sheard and Jeshua “TedyP” Williams. Lindsey was recognized for two songs — “It Belongs to Me” (co-written and performed by Juan and Lisa Winans feat. Marvin Winans) and “Thank You for It All” (co-written by Jarome E. Davis and Martin Sapp).
BMI’s gospel song of the year was “Speak to Me,” co-written by Troy Taylor and featuring samples from Donnie McClurkin’s 1996 single “Speak to My Heart.” Performed by Koryn Hawthorne, “Speak to Me” spent 41 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Chart and was nominated for song of the year at the 2021 Dove Awards.
BMI’s gospel publisher of the year honor went to Be Essential Songs for a repertoire including “In Spite of Me,” “Movin’ On,” and “Never Lost.”
J Drew and Kierra Sheard were honored for co-writing “His Love” and “It Keeps Happening,” which was Sheard’s her third No. 1 on the Gospel Airplay chart — and her first as a solo artist. Jeshua “TedyP” Williams was honored for his work on “Hold Me Close” and for co-writing “Trouble Won’t Last” with Keyondra Lockett, who won her first BMI award for the song.
Mali Music kicked things of with the Grammy-winning “Movin’ On,” which was co-written with Jonathan McReynolds and Terrell Demetrius Wilson. Natalie Grant performed Donald Lawrence’s hit “God,” which she is featured on. Meanwhile, CeCe Winans offered up a stirring performance of “Believe for It.”
The evening additionally featured performances from BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Icons Marvin Sapp and Kirk Franklin, in addition to rising artist DOE. Sapp performed “Thank You for It All” shortly after earning his sixth BMI Gospel Award for the song. DOE offered a rendition of “Brighter” from her 2020 self-titled EP, while Greg Cox joined Franklin onstage for a rendition of “Strong God.” Franklin also picked up his 19th BMI Gospel Award. Franklin also honored Dr. Bobby Jones, who earned a standing ovation for his decades of supporting gospel music with his BET show Bobby Jones Gospel.
The evening also celebrated the top 20 gospel songs of the previous year. A total of 27 writers received their first BMI awards, including Byron Cage, Emerald Campbell, Quennel Gaskin and Juan Winans.