McCrabb: From college musical tour to in-house concert series

Kyle Stamper calls his 20-year-old daughter “an overachiever, go-getter; she has plans and purpose and she’s ready for action.”

Don’t take those words as another boastful father exaggerating his daughter’s accomplishments.

Consider that Abigail Stamper, who was home-schooled, enrolled full-time in Western Piedmont Community College in North Carolina when she was 16 and expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in music business from Anderson College, a small private Christian college in Indiana, this month, just weeks after her 20th birthday.

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For as long as Abigail Stamper can remember, she has set and, more importantly, achieved her lofty goals.

Her life road map consists of Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.

She rarely has required Plan C.

Until the novel coronavirus hit.

That was a C not even Stamper The Planner could have expected.

When coronavirus known as COVID-19 shut down the country in March, she was in Nashville preparing to embark on a one-week musical tour with 32 other students as part of a prestigious internship Best Semester program through the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities at the Contemporary Music Center in Nashville.

The tour was supposed to be her final exam.

Then it was canceled.

“I was so sad,” she said. “That was something we had been working toward our whole college careers; our whole lives. It was really hard to hear. A lot of my life plans were thrown to the wind.”

She was told she had 36 hours to move out of her Nashville apartment. Luckily her family was driving down to Nashville to watch her sing and attend the SEC men’s basketball tournament.

Instead, she packed up her belongings and moved back to Middletown with her parents, Kyle and Christy, and 15-year-old brother, Isaac, an eighth-grader at Middletown Christian School.

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With her tour canceled, Stamper, whose stage name is Ella Jack, admitted she felt sorry for herself. Then one night at the dinner table, her brother, who rarely talks, joked the family should play an at-home concert series on Facebook Live.

The Shelter In Place Tour was kicked off. During three weeks recently, they played nine concerts in the living room, dining room, kitchen, garage, sitting room, bedroom, basement and in the music room when the show on the deck was moved due to rain.

Stamper was reluctant about the at-home tour at first. She figured nobody would watch her family perform. But she was surprised by the response and how people continued to support her musical dreams. She plans to move back to Nashville in January, but until then, she’s spending her days in her basement studio perfecting her craft.

“That keeps me motivated,” she said.

She feels confident in her songwriting and singing, but wants to improve her producing “to another whole level.”

Then she’ll be ready for Nashville where it seems everyone — those performing on stages in bars and those playing on street corners for lose change — shares the same dream. She wants to immerse herself in the music industry in Nashville where entertainment is “a community thing,” she said.

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Her father, pastor of worship arts at Towne Church in Middletown for two years, said his daughter has “all the tools” to succeed in Nashville, a burial ground for dreams. He knows her talent will only take her so far.

She has to follow her faith.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” he said of the music industry. “We have talked about that and the importance of being a Christian in Nashville.”

Stamper was asked what she has learned from the coronavirus and how it has rewritten all of our schedules. There was a pause on the phone, then she answered: “Nothing goes the way you planned it.”


We’re looking to profile people throughout our coverage area about how the coronavirus is impacting your daily life. If you’re interested in sharing your story about how you’re affected or adapting to the situation, call Journal-News reporter Rick McCrabb at 513-483-5216 or email

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