Official Biography (courtesy of John Stoddart)
Celine Dion. Al Jarreau. Will Downing. Take 6. Patti Austin. Michael McDonald. Philadelphia native John Stoddart has either written for, sung with, played for or helped produce each of these great artists. And they are just a few of the names that pepper John's musical resume.
"In my 30-year career, there is not one musician in whom I have more confidence, for whom I have more respect, with whom I have traveled more miles and negotiated more musical and life challenges than John Stoddart," says two-time Stellar award-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who is also a multiple Grammy and Dove Award nominee. In fact, Kirk is such a fan that he utilizes John's talents on many of his live dates as well as in the studio on many of his projects, including his critically-acclaimed Gospel According to Jazz series.
John's list of fans and supporters will only grow thanks to his latest release, Faith | Hope | Love, a soulful collection of inspirational love songs that speak to the challenges and triumphs of marriage.
"Faith | Hope | Love is a project that's really been on my heart to do for some time," John said. He and his wife, Dr. Helen Powell-Stoddart, have been happily married for over 12 years. But that doesn't mean they haven't had to work through some serious challenges. About three years into the marriage, both John and Helen thought it was over.
"Helen was standing at the door with her bags packed," John recalled. The Divine combination of faith, hope and love saved them. "This record is really just the story of our marriage."
Faith | Hope | Love brims with powerful insights, which is immediately apparent from the first song "More Than You And Me," a testimony about the need to have God in a marriage, to "When We Dance," a light, summer breeze of a song that ends the album by celebrating the chemistry and tender yearning between a husband and his wife. Faith | Hope | Love is an elegant 10-song set that depicts marriage as a wonderful, transformative gift that binds couples together while drawing them closer to God.
"My understanding of marriage is that it's a microcosm, a mirror, of the spiritual relationship that God has with me," John said. "How God relates to me is how I'm to relate to my wife."
The lyrics and messages of Faith | Hope | Love are powerful, make no mistake, but the album also grooves. In addition to John's soulful vocals, sparkling keyboards and warm string arrangements (recorded in Sweden while John was on tour with his good friend and occasional musical collaborator Evelina Gard), Faith | Hope | Love features his friends bassist Kelvin Wooten (Anthony Hamilton, Raphael Saadiq, Jill Scott), drummer Marcus Finnie (CeCe Winans, Billy Preston, Kirk Whalum) and guitarist Michael Ripoll (Babyface, Sting, India Arie).
"I was trying to convey a very soulful, organic sound," John said. "Kind of Donny Hathaway meets James Taylor, a very singer-songwriter sound that music fans would embrace."
Off to a Nashville recording studio he and the guys went. The basic tracks were done in two days. "It was a very special experience," John said. "I really, really enjoyed it."
He's not the only one. Fans have made Faith | Hope | Love a top 20 album and "More Than You And Me" a top five single. The album also caught the attention of the editors of SoulTracks.com, the premiere website for soul music around the world, who decided to make John a featured artist.
All the buzz and heat from Faith | Hope | Love is the culmination of a lifetime of living and loving music. John grew up in a musical family and was singing and playing the piano in church almost as soon as he could walk. His formal training began at 13, convincing him that he had found his career. In 1993, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Piano and Voice from Washington Adventist University (formerly Columbia Union College) in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Even before graduating, John had formed Urban Junction East Music, his production and publishing company. He quickly began to accrue credits as a session vocalist, arranger, songwriter and producer with artists such as Wintley Phipps, Sandy Patti, Boney James, Al Jarreau, Bob James, Celine Dion, Darin Atwater and the Soulful Symphony, Will Downing, Take 6 and Patti Austin.
John also has partnered with saxophonist Kirk Whalum as co-producer, arranger and/or musician on several of Kirk's Grammy-nominated recordings -Hymns, In the Garden, The Christmas Message, The Gospel According to Jazz III and Everything is Everything, a Tribute to Donny Hathaway. John's composition "I Still Believe," featured on Faith | Hope | Love, was first featured on guitarist Norman Brown's album Just Chillin'. Blue-eyed soul legend Michael McDonald contributed lead vocals to the song, which won the Grammy award for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
John has also performed at prayer services for Presidents William Jefferson Clinton and George W. Bush, an HBO Inaugural Special ( his arrangement of "God Bless America" was performed by Diana Ross) and at various awards shows and events, including the pre- Grammy Gospel Extravaganza, the Stellar Awards, the Dove Awards and the Trumpet Awards. John also performed at the 2004 Quincy Jones/MTV "We Are the Future" concert in Rome, Italy, to benefit the children in war-torn countries.
In 2010, John created and orchestrated arrangements for the first-ever John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts Joyful Sounds Gospel concert with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. John was also one of the performers at this event.
While John is a sought-after collaborator, he is first and foremost a solo artist who records and tours on his own when he's not sharing his gift with other artists. Most of his albums have been released on his own label, Urban Junction East Music: A Not So Silent Night and Love So Real (1998), Sweet (2006), Faces (2008) and Faith | Hope | Love (2010). In 2003, John debuted his major label album, Wings To Walk This Road (Warner/Reprise).
Though based in Alabama, John's music and artistry have global reach as he continues to record, perform, produce, write and even lecture about music for appreciative audiences. His first priority, though, is to Helen and their daughters Analise and Anya-Noelle. It's a divinely inspired one, borne of John's own convictions about faith, hope and love.
"When we add God into our relationships, whether it's marriage or parent-child or at work, it just makes a difference," John said. "That's what I believe."