The Center Of My Universe

By Charles White


 

Who would think that $40 from a paper route in Australia could kick off a successful career in the music business? Yet for Michelle Tumes, that’s how and where it all started. This talented musician once doubted that she would be able to earn a living with music, but all that has changed.

Composing songs for artists such as Jaci Valesquez and Sixpence None the Richer led Michelle to her own recording contract with Sparrow Records. Soon after that initial signing, her debut album, Listen, earned her a 1999 Dove Award nomination as New Artist of the Year. Her latest release, Center of My Universe, assures her a spot among the top talents in Christian music today.

 

Michelle Tumes grew up in the town of Adelaide on the southern coast of Australia, and she has many fond memories of her years there. She always had a great appreciation for the wonder of the world around her and recalls spending a lot of time on the beach, riding horses, or just enjoying the peace she always found being outdoors.

Michelle also remembers friends who meant so much and were supportive of her, especially when she was ridiculed about not drinking or doing drugs. She still recalls with pain and sadness the pressure from some peers to do those things. But sustained by a strong faith in God, she never compromised her values just to be part of the "cool crowd." Michelle’s faith in God continues to be the constant guide for her life.

To teens who feel they’re left on the outside, Michelle offers this advice: "It’s hard to say to yourself ‘be strong,’ but finding things to do that are not self-destructive and that you enjoy, like music or caring for animals, will help you. Doing these things strengthens your self-esteem and helps you stand up to people who tempt you or make fun of you or pressure you to do things that are wrong. By being strong, you may influence those people’s lives for good and even become their friends."

When Michelle thinks of Australia, she remembers her family. She describes them as wonderful people who never pushed her in any one direction, but urged her to follow her dreams. Their support and encouragement continue to play a central role in her life and career. Michelle says her family helped teach her one of life’s important lessons - to be yourself.

While she had always loved music, at age 18 Michelle knew that simply loving music will not provide anyone with a career. She decided to study dentistry. Her younger sister, however, knew that Michelle had a great gift for music and that she really wanted to be a singer. Little sister saved $40 from her newspaper route and gave it to big sister "to begin her music career." That $40 enabled Michelle to produce her first recording demo, and from then on she knew that the music world would be a large part of her life.

The road ahead of her was not smooth and easy. At first she had few resources and fewer funds, often having to rely on friends for a meal here and there or for a ride to her next appointment. Practically broke and missing her family, she nearly gave up. "I walked outside and prayed about what I should do. When I came back inside, there was a message from the recording company saying they wanted to make a record." The lowest point of her life was soon to lead to her highest moment.

Does all this mean that Michelle has succeeded now? As she herself defines success, then the answer is yes, to a certain extent. "Success is not about never having hard times," she says. "Success for me is being able to do what I enjoy and being a happy, healthy person. It’s not all about money or being around people who have a lot of money. I have been around people who have nothing, and they are the ones who are usually the happiest."

Faith in God and the closeness of her family are the important themes in Michelle’s life, themes which are evident in her music. The meaning of the songs she sings is important to her. Through her songs, she wants to share the peace of God that she has found in faith, in family and in ministering through music to people of all ages. The greatest treasures in her life are her relationship with God and God’s gift of loving, trusting relationships with other people. "There is a lot of good in life, and I want to share that."

Michelle Tumes is a giver. She gives back to the community that nurtured her through her involvement in Food for the Hungry. She plans to give of her skills in musical education for the young, and she gives through writing and singing more songs which touch the lives of people of all ages. She often advises children and youth to, "in baseball terms, hit your dreams out of the ballpark." In all she does, she wants to declare and share her relationship with Christ. In the beautiful stanzas of "Center of My Universe," Michelle shares with every listener her witness to the Source of her hopes and her praise of the Author of every dream.