Counting on Mercy
Jonathan Hanks is one of the most versatile composers and performers on today's musical scene. Equally at home in a church auditorium, a symphony hall, or a folk club, Jonathan brings his unique abilities and perspectives to whatever stage he commands, inspiring and challenging the listener, while giving every ounce of passion and energy he possesses. Classically trained, he studied piano from an early age with Ruth Slenczynska, who was a pupil of the great Rachmaninoff. His performances have led him to stages both in the United State and Europe, including sold-out performances at the Grand Amphitheatre de le Sorbonne, in Paris, which was broadcast live on Radio Classique, to orchestral and solo recitals in this country, heard on PBS. On hearing a recent performance at the Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall in Berlin, Germany, Christina Ortiz (Gold Medalist at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition) responded with the simple but profound accolade: 'FANTASTIC!' His classical performances have helped raise over eighty-five thousand dollars for charitable causes! The son of a gifted gospel pianist and writer, Jonathan has never strayed far from his love of inspirational music. This has demonstrated itself in the writing of literally hundreds of compositions, from choir and liturgical works, to Christian Contemporary compositions, which may be heard in churches around this country. His recent album, 'Counting on Mercy' has been receiving critical acclaim from many quarters, including radio air play of several cuts from this project. Recently, Jonathan has relocated to Germany, where he is performing in multiple venues and finding the doors open to his music: 'People all over the world respond when hearing positive, but honest music about the struggles all of us face, but need not face alone.' Whatever, genre Jonathan Hanks is offering, be prepared to be moved to tears, lifted to mountaintops, and touched, right where you live. The creation of Counting On Mercy. Some artists chase after the spotlight, others seek out sales and chart positions, but in the case of Jonathan Hanks, his music ministry is a God-ordained calling in the most authentic sense of that concept. Not only did he take a bold step of faith when allowing listeners to experience a series of deeply introspective and heartfelt reflections throughout Counting On Mercy, but he also left behind a very lucrative career in the medical field. In fact, prior to releasing this debut disc, the troubadour was best known as Dr. Hanks, who while serving as a Medical Director for Emergency Services in Prescott, Arizona oversaw the construction of a multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art facility, and attended to an astounding 75,000 patients in the process! 'I practiced for over a decade at the hospital, and had been putting in incredibly long hours,' reflects the Illinois-born/Nashville-bred troubadour (who just happens to be the son of a gifted Gospel pianist and writer). 'I felt like I had done about as much as I could, and needed a change. While on sabbatical, I weighed my options. Although I toyed with the idea of returning to the physician's life, there was this other powerful voice tugging at me to go for music full time, and in the end, God's calling won out.' Though it may appear a somewhat random transition, Hanks' career in medicine was often balanced with performances of classical music. Prior to earning his medical degree at the University of Arizona, he had graduated Summa cum Laude with a degree in music history and literature from Arizona State University - building off a pedigree that stemmed from studying piano under Ruth Slenczynska (a pupil of the great Rachmaninoff). From then until now, he's sold out the Grand Amphitheatre de le Sorbonne in Paris (broadcast live on Radio France), performed numerous orchestral and solo recitals in America, and appeared on both PBS and the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Add in numerous international piano competitions (including the Van Cliburn in Fort Worth, The Grand Concours in Paris (twice), The Gina Bachauer in Salt Lake City where he was a bronze prize winner), the blessings of a natural ability, an ear for music and that 'still, small Voice' inside of him almost screaming...and it's no wonder why Hanks felt the tug to change professions. The transition from Director of Emergency Services to creative artist was not always smooth, however, and entailed major life changes. 'One day I was running the world at the hospital and the next day nobody was talking to me about anything,' he offers with a laugh, citing a feeling of what he calls 'ex-president syndrome' during the interim. 'I was still doing classical concerts, and I then became involved in music at church, including writing and arranging for children's choirs.' Throughout Counting On Mercy, Hanks is turning over yet another new leaf, transitioning from the classical or even the choir spheres to contemporary Christian pop (giving stylistic nods to Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Chris Rice and even spiritually inspired secular stars like Sting and Marc Cohn). Despite his talents carrying over into this new artistic endeavor, he'll be the first to admit there's a completely different method of expression employed through original material anchored in faith than merely covering familiar scores. Indeed the eleven cuts on the album are overflowing with some of the most expository lyrics in recent memory. The title track was actually inspired by his time in the medical field, specifically by a patient he treated who had lived a very tumultuous life, and told Dr. Hanks all he wanted was justice in the afterlife. During their interaction, this tunesmith suggested that the man instead lean on mercy, and he continues to point listeners down the same path of fully embracing Christ's compassion. Even more awe-inspiring is 'Angels' Flight,' which honors his father's near death experience of being buried alive after a mining accident. Though he lived to tell the tale, the song serves as a riveting example of God's supreme timing and ability to restore even the most stressful situations. Hanks' candor continues in 'You're Worth Everything,' written almost like a letter, and inspired by watching a friend's struggle with addictions and the resulting sense of abandonment which his family struggle through; which may be a taboo topic within faith-based listening pools, but if healing can occur, one that needs to be discussed. 'I've found a large number of people yearning for honesty because they're not living some simple, vanilla life where everything always works out the way they want,' he notes. 'Life is often complicated even for those who do the right thing and play by the rules. They may face a lot of unique and unexpected challenges, and hopefully my music can touch that side of life, providing some unique perspective in the challenges I have faced to help others see that they are not alone...we're on this journey together.' As Hanks takes Counting On Mercy on the touring trails, he promises to share the inspiration behind the songs in a storytellers-styled setting, in turn taking time to meet and minister to people met along the way. The concert experience is also destined to include a few classical compositions, though showcasing God's unyielding love remains the forefront mission. Although Dr. Hanks may have set aside his work as a physician, he doesn't appear to have forsaken the art of healing: 'Music's about touching the audience and allowing something you've written to really resonate with them. Ultimately when everything is said and done, I want the listener to have had a positive revelation about something in their own life. Every artist writes songs in hopes of making the world better on a certain level, which is especially important as a faith-based artist. I hope these songs perform healing on some level, whether that be allowing you to forgive someone, or to feel better about yourself.'