NEWTON — Melissa Sitts, 23, a Halstead native living in McPherson, didn't really dream of being a musician and performing live in front of crowds — but sometimes dreams form from unexpected inspirations.
For Sitts, it was a church mission trip that inspired her to the point of songwriting.
“I was on a mission trip for the tornado that went through Joplin, Missouri," Sitts said. "I have always liked writing and wanted to sit down and write something and thought some words of encouragement might help. ... Somehow it turned into a song, and they used that as a backing to a slideshow at my church. Everyone liked it. That is how I got started.”
An image that has always stuck with her from that trip was a tree, struck by lightning, that formed a cross. People had carved their names in it, and she started writing.
One of seven adopted children, she said all the children from her home in Halstead are “musical in some way.”
She hasn’t looked back. She wrote the music and taught herself how to play guitar and a little piano.
“I actually learned to play the guitar right-handed, until I had a correct one. I am a lefty,” Sitts said.
She recorded her first album in 2018 and began traveling to perform.
“I’ve been pretty much everywhere,” Sitts said. “I play the home town and churches.”
More songs flowed out of her, and just this year she was asked to perform at Nehemiah Fest in Kansas City — a 10-year-old Christian music festival. She plays and sings in the style of mainstream Christian artists Lauren Dagle and Francesca Battistelli. Dagle is a television talent show alumni who has found airplay on mainstream radio stations with her song “You Say.”
Things went well for Sitts at Nehemiah Fest. It was there she met two other artists — Chad Boney and Brendan Brooks — and a guy named Rockin’ Ron Corino, a radio personality who plays independent artists while on the air Saturday nights at KBCU FM 88.1, Bethel College radio from North Newton. The station is also online at onlineradiobox.com/us/kbcu.
Corino invited Sitts, Boney and Brooks to perform in a small, one-night music festival in Newton on Nov. 4. Boney is an artist from Wichita, Brooks from Wisconsin.
“I’m pretty nervous,” Sitts said. “Playing in front of crowds makes me nervous sometimes until I start playing.”
“I think this will be a great night,” Corino said. “I hope it is a precursor for June, I am working on a day festival.”
The Nov. 4 concert is by donation, a fundraiser for a group called Celebrate Recovery — a faith-based recovery program aimed at all "hurts, habits and hangups," including high anxiety, co-dependency, compulsive behaviors, sex addiction, financial dysfunction, drug and alcohol addictions, and eating disorders.
“My Church has done Celebrate Recovery before, and I really like what they do," Sitts said. "People feel safe to talk about who they are, their past and how they have become who they become. If I can give back and touch someone in such a way that is life-changing or good enough to talk about, I wanted to be a part of that.”
The concert starts at 7 p.m. at New Jerusalem Mission, 209 E. Broadway, Newton.