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Martha Munizzi

Integrity Music

CBN.comGreat is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. – Psalm 147.5 (NIV)

The story of Martha Munizzi is nothing short of amazing. In a business where it is nearly impossible for an artist to make any sort of national impact without the support and backing of a major record label, Martha did exactly that, releasing three successful independent projects.

Now, in partnership with Integrity Music, Martha is entering a new phase of her ministry by adding worldwide distribution. And, in March, she will release No Limits, an album that speaks volumes about her own life and the promises of God for all who trust Christ.

Martha began her recording career with Say The Name, the first album released by Martha and her husband Dan on their own Martha Munizzi Music label. She followed with the 2004 release of The Best Is Yet to Come, which stormed onto the Billboard Gospel Chart in late January of that year. The CD debuted at No.12, eventually peaked at No. 2 and remained in or near the Top 10 for more than a year.

When He Came, a Christmas album released later in ’04, set the stage for Martha to receive the coveted Stellar Award for New Artist of the Year in January 2005. In addition, she has received numerous Dove Award nominations and most recently, a GRAMMY Award nomination.

Martha’s unique music style, her abilities as a worship leader/songwriter and her appreciation for Gospel music in particular developed early in her ministry.

“Dan and I were music directors for a church in Orlando, Florida for eight years,” says Martha. We had a multi-ethnic congregation and people with musical tastes that ran in a lot of directions including black gospel, both traditional and contemporary. It was a natural fit for that to be a significant part of the music we did. As far as my vocal sound and style goes, I never tried to sing or sound a certain way. I wouldn’t even know how to do that. I just always wanted to sing better and to sing from my heart.”

And with No Limits, Martha does exactly that, reminding us that there are no limits and no “norms” in life or business that abiding faith cannot surmount.

No Limits was produced by Noel Hall (former music director for Fred Hammond) with the majority of the album’s songs written or co-written by Martha, who admits there were moments of pre-production butterflies and pressure to meet the high expectations set by The Best Is Yet to Come. “I had some moments of feeling, `You did this once, but can you do it again?’, but when we got around to the writing and recording, I just did what was in my heart. I had no idea what a hit song was when we did the first album, and couldn’t tell you today. I just waited until I felt the Lord put something in my spirit. That’s the only way I know how to do this.”

Martha learned as a child to trust God and listen for His voice as she traveled the U.S with her parents. Her mother Faith was a gifted pianist and singer, and her father, John Stallings, preached and sang. Martha and her twin sister Mary were born in Lakeland, Florida, though only in passing as that’s where the family happened to be when her mother went into labor. Martha, Mary, and their older sister Marveline were born with their parents’ musical gifts and each child became part of the traveling family group when they were just kids.

With love offerings being their sole source of income, the family traveled first in a car, before moving up to an RV as the family grew. The girls’ mother always made sure her daughters sang and practiced music regularly, and she also home-schooled them until the family settled in Orlando, when Martha was 12, so that the children could attend formal, public school. Martha’s father founded and pastored a church in Orlando, and that was the end of her traveling days, or so she thought.

“You never knew what you were in for,” says Martha. “As kids, we all found it very exciting. Just being able to be with our family all the time, and up in front of people, and feeling special…we loved every minute of it. When we finally settled down and were enrolled in school, it felt like a pretty boring life by comparison. We wanted to be back out on the road ministering.”

Martha’s love for music, ministry and the road did not sit idle for long. When she and Mary were 16, and Marveline 18, a church friend suggested they join him in putting together a praise & worship band, which they readily agreed to. Also in the group was a young Bass player named Danny Munizzi.

That group evolved into Testament, which became popular enough to travel around the state of Florida performing in churches and at youth conferences and other church-related events. When Martha was only a year out of high school, she and Dan married and shortly thereafter they became the music directors and founding members of a new, fledgling church in Orlando—initially leading a choir of about twenty people—where they remained for the next eight years until 2001.

“We really learned a lot and grew a lot during that time,” says Martha, “and the church’s growth was just explosive. We had been writing songs for a while and had a great band and choir, which had grown from 20 to over 200 people. But we began to feel a sense of restlessness, like there was something more we were supposed to do. It was just a new season, and God was calling us out into something different. We didn’t now exactly what we were going to do, but we just took a step of faith.”

The church’s Sunday morning services had been taped on a professional, multi-track system and before their departure Dan and Martha decided to take the 10 best-of-the-best of the recordings of their songs, and with only minimal over-dubbing and mixing compiled what became Martha’s first independent album, Say the Name.

“It was scary and exciting at the same time,” Martha says. “I had my album and my tracks, and was ready to go anywhere to minister and sing, just like my parents had done. At the same time, I looked around and saw that I only had one conference lined up, and that was about nine months away. My sister called and asked us to come to Nashville to minister to the young women at a home for unmarried, pregnant teenagers, and right after that a songwriting friend in Nashville suggested we come there to write together. So there were two good reasons to go to Nashville, and we did. And from there life has just been one door opening after another. This has all come about so quickly it’s hard for me to even put dates to events.”

The Munizzi’s continued to tour steadily to enthused receptions, and continually growing audiences, selling ever-greater numbers of Say the Name at their product table after each performance. As 2003 approached, it was clear the time was coming for a new album to be recorded, though the specifics were yet unknown. So, Dan and Martha once again stepped out in faith trusting God’s promise that He will never give anyone a calling for which He will not supply the means to achieve.

“We didn’t have any money, but we knew it was time, and we just trusted that God would unfold for us what we needed,” says Martha. “We had a close relationship with Israel Houghton from way back, and his music had been a real blessing in my life. I called him one day just to tell him that and to thank him. He asked what we were doing and volunteered to help us with a new album if we wanted. That totally blew me away because that had nothing to do with why I’d called him. We starting talking more and he helped us expand our vision broader than it had been.”

Dan and Martha stepped up the pace of Martha’s performances, setting aside money as they could to finance the recording of a new album. By 2003 they were able to record a live performance at Houston’s Lakewood Church, which became Martha’s breakthrough album, The Best Is Yet to Come. The Munizzi’s released the album on their own label, receiving distribution assistance from a major music distributor in the Southeast. Deciding the project would be better fit in the Gospel market than Praise & Worship, distribution was focused in that direction.

Although Dan and Martha’s means to promote the album was infinitely less than a major label’s would be, they maintained a busy touring schedule as a veritable brushfire of word-of-mouth publicity began to spread within the gospel market and beyond. By the time the follow-up Christmas offering, When He Came, reached its peak and Martha was about to win her first Stellar Award in January 2005, talks with Integrity Music, the world’s leading producer of praise and worship resources, were already underway. This led to marketing and distribution relationship and the release of No Limits.

Leading a life that in many ways resembles that of her childhood, Martha now travels with Dan and their own three home-schooled children, ages 13, 10 and 8, ministering and performing across America. And to be the leading lady in one of the most remarkable stories in contemporary music, Martha is surprisingly, and refreshingly, unfazed by it all.

“My husband is the one who tells me about all the precedents we’ve broken, and he also keeps on top of the business side of things,” she says. “And it’s good that he does because none of this has really hit me. I don’t spend any time looking in the mirror and thinking about what we may have done. I’m just doing what I love to do, the same way I have for most of my life. I don’t feel like any kind of history-maker. I’m just someone who’s out here trying to follow the call of God.”

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