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Newton High graduate returns to sing at Rutledge Baptist

Special Photo ---- Former Newton County resident, second from left, Chris Blanton, along with band members, from left, singer Jacklyn Whiteheart, keyboardist Brian Ames and guitarist Matt Leicht perform a show. Blanton will perform at Rutledge Baptist Church on June 7 at 7 p.m.

Special Photo ---- Former Newton County resident, second from left, Chris Blanton, along with band members, from left, singer Jacklyn Whiteheart, keyboardist Brian Ames and guitarist Matt Leicht perform a show. Blanton will perform at Rutledge Baptist Church on June 7 at 7 p.m.

Newton High graduate returns to sing at Rutledge Baptist

With four CDs, a published book and busy music career, one of Newton High School's former musical stars will be back in the area next week for a concert featuring songs from his latest album, "I AM With You." Chris Blanton, accompanied by a full band, will be in concert Friday, June 7, at Rutledge Baptist Church at 7 p.m. The only cost of admission is one can of food for the Rutledge Food Bank.

"It is my hope that when people leave the concert, they have made a connection that has changed them in a good way," Blanton said this week from his home near Orlando, Fla.

A native of Georgia, Blanton and his young family recently moved from Athens to the Orlando area where he has been called as the new contemporary worship leader and director of worship bands for First Baptist Oviedo. Blanton and his wife of 13 years, Laura, along with their two children -- Stephen, 5, and Abigail, 2 -- are awaiting the birth of baby Samuel in July.

The family will be back in Georgia next week visiting relatives and friends as Blanton prepares for the concert at his home church, Rutledge First Baptist, where his mother serves as choir director.

Blanton said the concert is a way to thank the church for its support through the Kickstarter organization that helped Blanton with his latest CD release. Kickstarter helps match artists with financial sources to assist them in creating their works and it offers a way for supporters to pledge funds toward an artist's project.

"The church donated a significant amount," Blanton said.

Growing up in Rutledge, Blanton attended school there until sixth grade when his parents became teachers in Newton County. He and his two younger brothers and one younger sister would ride with their parents to work each morning and go to school in Newton County. Gerann Blanton, a math teacher, and Steve Blanton, who worked with disabled students, are now retired.

Blanton graduated from Newton High School in 1994, and discovered a great love for music in the school chorus program. He played trumpet in the band for a year, but when he joined the chorus, he knew he had found his niche.

Newton High School sports fans might remember Blanton from the many times he sang the National Anthem at school football and baseball games and some might remember him when he filled in for the Newton Ram mascot.

"I was the stand-in as the Newton Ram," Blanton joked. "I wore the suit for a couple of football games."

Blanton said he and his family are looking forward to being back home this week, but said they are enjoying Florida and are excited about God's plan for them there.

"The move to Florida came out of nowhere," Blanton said. "It fell into my lap. I had been looking for two years for a job leading music to support my family. The timing of the album being released and moving to Florida happened the same week. We had a release party on a Friday, drove to Florida Saturday and I led music on Sunday...

"Not only am I getting to do what I love to do, but I can provide for my family. It is a life lived abundantly."

After graduating from NHS, Blanton attended Shorter College in Rome where he majored in music education. He served The Church at Northside in Rome for five years and then he and his wife moved to Athens and opened Blanton School of Music. The Blantons are both private music teachers and for eight years, they taught about 80 students each week at their school.

"We had a good time with that," he said. "I would lead music on the side for fun. It's in my DNA, if you will."

Not only was the church music director job in Florida an answer to Blanton's prayers, he said, but the move to Florida also proved to be God's way of helping their daughter Abigail. Before she was born, doctors discovered she had problems with her lungs and considered operating while she was still in the womb. However, when she was born it seemed as if she were fine.

It was not until the family moved to Florida and visited a new doctor, that it was again discovered she had difficulties with her lungs and needed surgery.

"God opened up another door for Abigail to have that surgery," Blanton said, adding that God also took care of issues regarding his new insurance and finances to provide for the operation. "She is doing great and has a lot more energy."

For Blanton, it takes a lot of energy to keep pace with his young family and growing music ministry. As a songwriter and author, he has released "Listen To The Rain," "Today I Choose" and "Fireside Christmas" CDs, in addition to "I AM With You."

He said he draws from his own life's experiences to "communicate stories of hope, failure and redemption."

His book, "Today I Choose," which has an accompanying CD by the same title, is an 18-day prayer guide for believers. For more information on ordering Blanton's CDs or book, visit www.reverbnation.com/chrisblanton.

As for the upcoming concert, Blanton said he desires it to minister to everyone who attends.

"I want to connect people with their Creator," he said. "They have a Father who knows what He is doing. He's doing stuff they can't see all the time in their behalf."

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.