The midwestern native who studied opera and moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music didn’t expect to change gears and pursue a life of ministry through Christian music instead. Yet, a trip to Haiti, a game-changing conversation in front of the Pacific Ocean, and a lot of soul searching showed Heather Schnoor how to embrace the story God is writing with her life, a story she opens up about through a handful of newly recorded songs, including her new single, “All In.”
Schnoor dreamed of a career in country music but decided to pump the breaks on her move to Nashville to attend college first. With the encouragement of college faculty she began studying opera and showed promise. Yet despite her operatic successes, Schnoor’s heart remained in country music. Schnoor celebrated her college graduation by packing up her car and driving to Music City, where she began performing shows around town right away and landed a consistent gig at Opryland Hotel to pay the bills. After performing at the famous Ryman Auditorium and a televised event for the Tennessee governor and presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, things were looking up, especially with labels starting to take notice and showing interest. But the turmoil Schnoor felt inside took the wind out of her sails.
“I spiraled into a very difficult season, questioning my purpose in life and in music,” says Schnoor. “I was in a really unhealthy environment, feeling like I was enabling so many things that didn’t represent who I was or who I longed to be. So I ended up taking some time away from the country music world, and eventually walked away for good. A lot of people were surprised and confused because labels were showing interest, but I was not fulfilled.”
Decision made, Schnoor found herself in the land of uncertainty, a tough place to be. A friend, seeing her struggle, invited her to join his family on a mission trip, an idea she quickly jumped on. Within a matter of weeks she was on a plane to Haiti to work with orphans.
“The trip to Haiti was my first experience out of the country. The Lord spoke to me during my time there as I began to trust and surrender to Him. I showed up there confused about my life, and I left with clarity about who I was and what was truly important to me. It was both a humbling and freeing experience, as I began to shift my focus off of me and onto others.”
In the weeks and months following her trip, Schnoor started steering the ship of her life in a new direction, embracing ministry by volunteering for various non-profits and ministries. In the midst of all her opportunities, Schnoor took a trip to the ocean, her little piece of heaven, where life took yet another turn.
“My favorite place in the world is the ocean,” explains Schnoor. “It’s the water, the sunsets, the mountains. I feel closest to God when I see that huge never-ending body of water. It was there that I had a pivotal conversation with the Lord. I was tired of all the distractions blurring my focus and the lukewarm lifestyle I was living. I wanted to be all in with my community, with my church, my friends, my family, but more importantly with Him. So it was there, as the waves tumbled onto the shore, that I surrendered to the Lord and said ‘I’m All In.’”
Schnoor’s renewed perspective and commitment began bringing her career path into focus as Christian labels began reaching out to her. With a certain amount of trepidation she began considering Christian music as an option and found a community of mentors to help her along the way. Her first EP This One’s For You, released in 2012 and made substantial climbs up the iTunes charts, affirming Schnoor’s new direction. Learning to embrace her story instead of fearing it is a continuous journey for Schnoor, but she has found freedom in the storytelling, in ministering to others in her brokenness, like being more open about her struggle with severe dyslexia, her passion for single mothers (her mom was one for many years) and her insecurities about getting on stage and leading worship when she feels there’s still so much to learn. Now entering a new season with a fresh batch of songs, thanks in large part to producer Jeff Pardo, Schnoor is gaining ground and confidence with her new music and new single.
“Someone once said to me in a meeting, ‘Heather, this is your story. This is who you are and you’ve got to own it, walk in it, and be ok with it.’ I went back to that moment six years ago at the Pacific where I committed to being all in, and I knew what I needed to do. In writing and recording this new music, it was the first time where I was ok to be me and tell the people I was collaborating with about my pain and insecurities as well as the victories and life changing moments. To surrender to that and feel that freedom and not let the fear hold me back has been a really healing experience.”