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Jaime Jamgochian

With Reason To Live this gal is living large! Jamgochian is well on her way to being North America's answer to Darlene Zschech. 

With singer / songwriter Jaime Jamgochian (pronounced Jam­go­she­an), subtle changes are not her way of life. Although still in her late twenties, she has gone from preparing for a career in pop music to becoming a worship leader for several thousand youth each week to her present status as one of the brightest young stars on the music industry's landscape. That journey has also seen her move from Massachusetts, where she attended Berklee College of Music, to Seattle while on staff at the non-denominational City Church, to her current resting place, Nashville, Tennessee. 

Reason to Live  represents Jamgochian's second major project. While her self-titled debut album offered a lot of promise, this reviewer felt she was in for a tough challenge in the competitive Inspo market. Well, look out, everyone, because with Reason To Live this gal is living large!  Jamgochian, who also plays the keys and piano on this CD, has successfully raised the bar. She said, "I think the biggest difference (between the two albums) is lyrically it (the most recent one) is a much more vulnerable record. I went back to when I first came to know the Lord at twenty-one. Christ gave me a reason to live and a reason to hope. He gave me a sense of direction. I feel like there is a little bit more of my heart in this record."

This scribe would like to suggest that Jamgochian is well on her way to being North America's answer to Darlene Zschech. Her music has the same vitality. She possesses the same humility and God centered lyrics, while her life choices to this point have been squarely focused on ministry rather than career. Jamgochian has left the comfortable confines of a large church where she served as worship leader for several years but you can hear the hunger and passion for serving in her voice as she talks about the direction her music has taken the songstress / composer to date. It would not be hard to imagine Jamgochian firmly establishing her career and then following in the path of esteemed artists such as Zschech, Reuben Morgan, Mark Hall and Chris Tomlin who all remain actively involved in the worship aspects of their churches while successfully engaging in a music career. 
The comparisons to Zschech should not be surprising when you learn of Jamgochian's (why is it the guys have the easy names to spell?) early influences in Christian music. "When I came to know the Lord, one of my first CDs was one of Darlene Zech's. It was the one with "Shout to the Lord" on it. I just wore that thing out. That's when I discovered the love for the worship style of Christian music. I really believe the Lord healed me emotionally and spiritually. I was so drawn to it."

Jamgochian teamed with David Zaffiro and Gary Sadler to write many of the songs on her most recent disc. "I absolutely love writing with them both. Gary has become like a mentor to me in writing worship songs. He has written some of the great ones. A lot of the times when writing with Gary we will just sit down with a cup of tea and talk about what the Lord is doing in our lives and where we are at. Gary is a great guitar player. He usually pulls out his acoustic. I'll be at the piano or keyboard. We usually start with the lyric first and then we will write the melody. The other thing I like about writing with Gary is he always reminds me to keep it simple. You always want it to be a simple melody and a simple lyric that a church congregation can hear once and be able to sing it. (You don't want) them to be distracted from worshipping the Lord. He challenges me to dig deeper lyrically.  I love his production. He is a little more organic and edgy. I think David is a little bit more produced sounding.

"Reason to Live," the single which was charting in the top twenty when this piece was being penned, is a pop driven tune written with Zaffiro. The song talks about a low time in Jamgochian's life and how she emerged from it. While she was in early twenties she was crushed when a relationship came to an unexpected and sudden end. Shortly afterwards she was introduced to Christ by a friend and she says she felt a new awakening.

The title for the song was suggested by Zaffiro's wife. "I just feel God used Susan that morning to come out with that title. It just vibrated so well in my heart, " said Jamgochian. 

She speculated on the reasons for the single's success, "Really, Christ gives us the hope each day to live. I hope it is because that theme resonates with people's spirits. It's a fun upbeat song. It's the kind of song (that may prompt) you to roll down the windows." 

I asked her what it was about her friend that made the Christian lifestyle attractive. "I was really attracted to this girl's spirit. It was a really hard time. I just got over a three-and-one-half year relationship. I thought I was going to marry the guy. He left to work on a cruise line. It was a big long mess. She heard me sing at Berklee. I sang a song that had some phrase in it about strength from God so she assumed I was a Christian. She was so excited to walk into class and see me there because at Berklee, there weren't too many Christians. She walked up to me and said, 'Hi I'm Stacey you are a Christian right? I looked at her, like, whoa, who are you? We just became friends. I was so attracted to her spirit. She had such a quiet confidence about her. She was this beautiful blonde with blue eyes who really shone."

Jamgochian said, "While we were getting to know one another she discovered that I really wasn't a Christian. She really pursued me for the Lord. She gave me a Bible and prayed with me. Over time it just evolved and finally I said, 'I want what you have!'"  Jamgochian's friend told her how she could invite Jesus into her heart. "Those days were just so beautiful.   When everything finally clicked I said, 'Oh this is what it finally means to serve God and to be a Christian," she recalled.

Giggling, she reminisced about her desire to be the next Tiffany or Debbie Gibson. "That is when (while at Berklee) I started writing pop songs. Still giggling she said, "I was writing these hopeless love songs hoping they were going to be the next big hit." She paused to laugh before saying, It never happened."

Her first two years at Berklee were spent studying jazz piano when the lady with--despite her own perception--the awesome vocals was convinced by a professor to switch programs and become a vocal major. Jamgochian downplays her vocal abilities to the point where she actually downgrades her talent, "I don't have the coolest voice." Not true! Heresy we say! In this case the proof is not in the pudding but it certainly is in your music Jaime. 

So imagine, if you will, how startling it was for her family to first learn that she had switched from being a jazz pianist to a vocal major and then upon graduation promptly informing her family that not only was she moving to the West Coast but she had accepted an intern  position at a church. Did you catch that? With all her natural ability and education she accepted an intern position so she could serve.

"I never forgot the day I told my mom and dad. They just looked at me like, what? I said, 'I'm going to learn about the Bible and learn about Jesus.' They were thinking, 'We just put you through four years of the top music school, what are you talking about?'  I knew this was the next step for me. I had never led a worship service but at the time the youth group was 200-300 every Wednesday night. The first year that grew to 500. The next year it grew to 1,000 and the following year to 1,500. There are over 2,000 kids now every Wednesday night. I became the youth worship leader and the church hired me. I ran all the bands. I did that for about eight years. It was an awesome and incredible time in my life."

She credits the time spent as an intern and later on the staff of City Church as turning her focus from just being on music to using her talents for ministry. "He put a passion in my heart for young people and for leading people in worship. Even in writing music I used to be so caught up in form and structure. He took me away from everything I knew. I moved from Boston, Massachusetts, to Seattle, Washington. He really stripped me of everything I was to show me who I am in Christ. Getting saved at twenty-one, there are a lot of things I needed to change, a lot of patterns."

"In all those worship services I just remember thinking, 'God, I hope it just continues to grow.' Then I started to get hungry for getting out of the church and into other churches to minister. I started getting invitations to lead at big youth conferences. I think it really prepared me for Girls of Grace because it feels like such a natural thing to do."  Jamgochian spent this fall touring with Point of Grace, Mark Schultz, Nancy Alcorn and others to bring a vital and much needed ministry to teen girls.

"I really love seeing young people's lives changed. One of my favorite things off stage is getting the opportunity to pray and talk with the young girls. It is what excites me more than anything else," she said.

In speaking with Heather Payne of Point of Grace earlier in the fall, Payne raved about Jamgochian's heart for ministry and how well the teen girls responded to her testimony and music. 

With a sense of awe that comes from all of this still being new Jamgochian said, "I never knew this was going to happen but they Point of Grace are my praise team when I lead worship for Girls of Grace. Point of Grace are my backup singers." She said with the thousands of girls that came to the conferences singing, plus Point of Grace  voices she felt like she was in heaven.  At practice I was just amazed. They would work up their harmony parts like no other. It's just been phenomenal."

It is fitting that Jaime Jamgochian's fondest memories from childhood start at the keys to her piano. "I struggled in school growing up with academics and learning disabilities but one of the things that did come easy is I could learn songs by ear. I remember I would run home after school and try and learn the songs by ear that I had learned in music class. That's a huge memory." She also said, "sitting at the piano at Christmas time with the tree, the lights on and the fire burning," were special times.

If you catch Jaime Jamgochian sitting in a park reading a Francine Rivers' book or checking her email in a coffee shop introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. Something tells me you will like her.

By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague. 


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