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FHSU graduate's debut rises up the Christian charts


Heather Schnoor was singing before she was talking.

At a young age, she would put on her tutu, dance and sing to VHS recordings of Reba McEntire while visiting her grandmother.

Fast-forward through the years, and her love for music continued to grow -- and was the focus of her college education.

Schnoor graduated with a bachelor's in music from Fort Hays State University in 2006, after transferring from Garden City Community College.

While in Hays, Schnoor studied opera and was involved with Heartland Band, a country band. Country music seemed to be a fit.

"That's what I wanted to do," she said. "I wanted to be a country artist, so when I graduated from (FHSU) in '06, I moved to Tennessee."

After the move, Schnoor started networking and meeting people -- and landed a paying gig at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel as a headliner.

She performed at the Ryman Auditorium, where greats such as Loretta Lynn performed, and also played private parties. Everything seemed to be falling into place after years of hard work.

"I felt like with country music, great things were happening," said Schnoor, who was born in Nebraska and grew up in Liberal. "I was building relationships, everything was going great, and I was in talks with labels as well, but I just felt like I didn't have peace where I was."

So Schnoor took a break from the industry to fulfill a dream of a different kind. She went on a mission trip to Haiti.

It was on that trip Schnoor discovered ministry is where her heart is.

After returning to Nashville, she changed gears ... well, genres.

She made the switch from country music to Christian music about two years ago.

Schnoor said she spent one year writing and another searching for her sound.

She eventually signed a production deal with Adam Smith, who produced her first EP, "This One's For You," released on Nov. 13. Smith has worked with artists such as Britt Nicole, Jordin Sparks abnd Krystal Meyers.

"The EP was a 'Hey, here I am,' " she said. "I moved (to Nashville) to do country music ... so, when I switched to Christian music, I didn't know anybody, I was starting completely over."

Schnoor co-wrote all but one song on the EP; the fourth was one was written by a friend.

"In the back of my mind, I loved this other song," she said. "I know I didn't write it, but I knew it was me."

Song selection was not only important for Schnoor, but also a direct link to how she is represented and perceived.

"I think there are so many great songs just floating around everywhere, and I wanted the best songs" she said "I wanted the best songs that were going to represent my message and who I am. So, I decided to go ahead and cut someone else's song."

The EP peaked at No. 31 on the iTunes Christian charts.

The peak was pretty emotional for Schnoor, as she focuses on the creativity aspect of her career and not what the charts say.

"For me, I focus on bettering myself every day, not just with music, but with me spiritually and helping other people, just to be really grateful and thankful everyday," she said. "I try not to get so wrapped up in what the charts are saying. ... If you live off stuff like that, what people say or what they think, you'll never be satisfied."

The EP is no longer on the charts, but Schnoor hopes her music leaves people inspired and encouraged.

When Schnoor is not busy with her music, she working to help other and get one of her own projects off the ground.

Schnoor said she wants to open a Christian nonprofit maternity home.

"I've always had a heart for single mothers because coming from that and knowing the struggles they go through," she said. "My mom was fortunate because she had support, but I feel there are so many girls out there who do not have that."

Schnoor's mother was a single mother until her parents married.

The home would be for girls in their teens to early 20s, and would offer them not only a support system, but a place to build self-esteem, create a healthy lifestyle, pursue education and work opportunities.

While she has been busy throughout her time in Nashville, and has met challenges and 'nos' within the music industry, she said "you've got be okay with being patient.

"I think God's timing is perfect," she said. "That is what I really try to stick close with and follow."

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