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Rose Augustine: Press

Sometimes people are put into our lives at just the right time, for just the right reason. Believing that, being open to it and letting it happen can result in some amazing things. This is one such story.
Rose Augustine lives in Hastings, Minnesota, bordering the beautiful countryside of Afton, across from the Afton Golf Course and just above the slopes of Afton Alps, the ski resort her husband Paul built back in 1963, two years before the couple married. Paul fell in love with Rose while taking dance lessons from her. Rose knew he was the right man for her when, after he asked her for a date on Good Friday and she turned him down because she was going to church, he attended the three-hour-Iong service with her. She later found out he had already been to one service earlier at his own church. That's a lot of religion in one day just to be close to a pretty lady.
Rose and Paul built their home in Hastings, where they raised their two sons, John and Dave, and daughter, Amy. Always a lover of music, Rose enjoyed singing, whether it was in a church choir or just around the house. She also liked to write poetry. But it wasn't until she was recovering from a terrible car accident in 1981 that the songs began to come to her.
"I was going through a bad time and was in a lot of pain," remembers Rose. "I started getting songs in my head, mostly during the night. I would wake from a deep sleep around two or three in the morning, get up and go to my little keyboard and pluck out the tune." The chorus tends to come to Rose first, but not always. Sometimes, a year after writing a poem, the melody will come to Rose and she will put the two together for yet another song.
The beautiful song, "It's Raining," was written as Rose waited in the car while her husband and children were in the store one rainy afternoon. She's never sure when a song will come to her, but she is always open to it.
Years ago, Rose and her children took piano lessons from Noreen Swanson, who came out to their house once a week. "One day, Noreen heard me singing and asked me what song it was. She said she had never heard it before. I told her it was just a song I had written."
Noreen was so impressed that she encouraged her to sing her songs on tape, offering to do the notations. Noreen worked with Rose until she became too busy to continue. While looking for another arranger, Rose attended a Bible study at Woodbury Lutheran Church, where she had a chance to sing some of her songs. When the piano player discovered they were original songs written by Rose, she suggested Rose meet with Mark Shepperd, the church's music director. "We got along beautifully and he really helped me a lot with music notation and song arrangement. Eventually, we recorded two CDs."
To date, Rose has written approximately two hundred and fifty songs, which she categorizes and stores in three-ring binders. Upon the birth of each of her three grandchildren, Rose composed songs for them, which are in her collection of "Music Box Lullabies." She never tires of singing to them and often gets the chance to, since she baby-sits on a regular basis.
Every year for the last two decades, Rose has written a love song for her husband, which she calls "Legacy of Love" collection.
Each day, Rose visits Paul at Afton St. Croix, a care center where he has resided for the last two years. At age seventy-five, he is in the advanced stages of Parkinson's disease and is also completely blind due to glaucoma.
Back in 2004, when Rose was still trying to care for her husband in their home, she knew it was more than she could handle and decided to look for some outside help. Dolly Donahue, who had been working as a private home caregiver since 1990, was praying for a change in her career. She wanted to make a difference in the world and asked God to show her a new way. Through word of mouth, she heard about Rose needing help.
When Dolly showed up at the Augustine's home and met Rose, it seemed as if she had known her forever. There was an immediate connection. "I saw all these pictures of the Lord on their walls and I knew that was a sign." Rose told her about her songwriting and gave Dolly a CD. As Dolly drove home that day listening to Rose's music, she cried. All the questions she had been asking God were answered in Rose's songs. "I knew this was what I had been praying for. Even if they never called me back, I was happy to have these inspirational songs that touched my heart and helped me."
Although it was still employment in home healthcare, Dolly said "Yes" when Rose called her nearly a month later and asked her to come to work. "I had already committed to another job and was going to start on a Friday. Rose called me on the Wednesday before, so I cancelled the other job and started the next day at the Augustines." Little did Dolly know she would be headed down a new path, and so would Rose. Because of Paul's circumstances, these two women were brought together. Call it luck or good timing; call it fate. Dolly and Rose know it was God's plan.
Dolly, Paul and Rose really hit it off and became close. Dolly told Paul how talented she believed his wife was. "I told him that people needed to hear her music. Not just a small group, but a large array of people," Dolly said. Paul agreed, but was skeptical when Dolly suggested getting Rose's songs on the radio.
With belief and determination driving her, Dolly began promoting Rose's music and assuming the role of publicist, manager and producer. Soon, Rose's songs were on the airwaves in the St. Croix area on WEVR. Eventually, KDHL in Faribault and KNOF in St. Paul were playing songs Rose had written. "Lord, Please Hold Them Close While They Cry" was once heard in the lobbies of the Mayo Clinic and St. Mary's Hospital through KFSI in Rochester.
But that wasn't enough for Dolly. Her next idea was to promote Rose's song, "My Land of Liberty," so she called the White House and left a message with the press secretary's assistant. Later in the day, before leaving the house, she nonchalantly told her husband she was expecting someone from the White House to be returning her phone call. "My husband just looked at me and said, 'Oh my God, you're such a nut,''' Dolly laughed. "He was really surprised when later the phone rang while he was watching television and it was, indeed, the White House!" After sending the demo tape to the White House, the feedback was good, but they strongly suggested the songs be recorded by professional artists. That's when Dolly began visiting recording studios in search of the right voices for Rose's songs. "I listened to a lot of singers, who happened to all be white," said Dolly. "I finally realized what was needed- black gospel singers." She connected with Star vu Studios', Matt Fink, the former keyboard player for Prince, who in turn connected her to Gwen Matthews, a well-known, very talented musician, who had spent eleven years in Los Angeles recording with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rogers, Jennifer Holidayand Phillip Bailey. This was the voice that Dolly had been looking and listening for.
Soon Dolly and Rose were introduced to more great vocalists through Gwen that eventually resulted in the professionally recorded "Only Believe" CD, featuring fifteen of Rose Augustine's songs, eight of which are beautifully sung and produced by Gwen Matthews. The five male artists who lend their rich voices to bring life to the other songs are award-winning vocalists, Robert Robinson, Billy Steele, Julius Collins, Gevonee Ford and Bruce Henry. The CD is now being played on gospel radio stations across the Midwest and as far away as Buffalo, New York.
A live concert was held in April of 2007 at Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Prior Lake, following the release of the CD. The next dream of Dolly's is to get on Oprah Winfrey's show or have Rose's story featured in 0 Magazine. She has been in contact with some of Oprah's people and even went to Dallas in 2005 for the "Live Your Best Life" tour. In 2006, Dolly flew to the Jones of New York Fashion Show in Chicago and to New York to see "The Color Purple," playing on Broadway- both hosted by 0 Magazine, to make more contacts.
Time will tell, but for now, Rose is happy with her accomplishments and will continue to write songs as long as they keep coming to her. "I feel I am a messenger. I am inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the songs and I hope the songs inspire others."

Teri Thompson - Generations of TODAY (Aug, 2007)

Car tires crunch over the gravel driveway and Dolly Donahue puts the car in park, wiping the tears from her eyes. She studies the umber-brick house before her, heaves a sigh, and begs God to give her a sign, anything to show her that she is making the right decision. Should she accept this position as a caregiver for the Augustines?

She remembers the kind voice on the phone, Rose Augustine's voice, inviting her to meet: "My husband, Paul, has Parkinson's and he's blind. Are you interested in a position?" Dolly had answered yes, though she wasn't certain the job was the right path for her. Feeling caught in one of life's great crossroads, she whispers another silent prayer and rings the doorbell.

God must have as generous a sense of humor as he has of clemency.

hen Dolly entered the Augustine residence, she was delighted to see an abundance of overt signs-this house was where she belonged. Each mantle was adorned with crosses and the walls wore images of the Holy Spirit. Rose pointed to the framed phrase over the door, "Life is fragile, handle with prayer,"and tells Dolly she finds relief from strife in song.

Together, the two women discussed a homecare plan and listened to Rose's "Songs to Soothe," a CD of songs she'd written and recorded. Captivated by the lyrics and overwhelmed by the humble songwriter beside her, Dolly eagerly accepted the position.

The path she chose that night was not merely a career shift-it was the beginning of a close friendship with a brilliant musician and a dynamic adventure into the gospel music industry.

Walk into Rose Augustine's studio and you will find an entire file cabinet of themed portfolios, each of them laden with lyrics and lead sheets. You'll see framed photos of her husband, her three children, and her three grandchildren hanging evenly on the wall. You might find Rose herself sitting at the piano, occasionally glancing out the window or at the photos, and pecking out the melody of a new song. Ask her where the words came from, and she'll likely tell you they drifted into her head late last night.
Rose's talent for songwriting fell into her life unexpectedly, an abrupt solution to a persistent question. After a jarring car accident in 1981, Rose began to compulsively write music as songs of hope and relief humped and pushed against one another in her head, demanding she commit them to sheet music. "I said to the Lord, 'Why would you give this to me? What am I going to do with this wonderful gift? I don't know how to do it. Lord, you're going to have to help me!'"
The Lord works in mysterious ways indeed, sending Rose an agent in the form of a home health aide named Dolly. For her part, Dolly recognized Rose's talent immediately. With her background in marketing, managing, and fundraising, she saw possibility.
"Her songs are a revelation of what she's going through: the ups and downs of her life," says Dolly. "Everybody can relate to that."
And so, the women's friendship and professional partnership began in earnest. By the summer of 2004, Dolly had become Rose's full time PR agent (and also Paul's full time caregiver). Sound like a bit much? Perhaps the dual agenda Dolly had testifies to her strong belief in Rose's music and her enduring devotion to Paul's health. As it turns out, Rose's PR agent aims pretty high. With infinite ambition, she announced to Paul that she was going to call the White House. This inspirational music was something the President could use in his campaign.
"You just go ahead!" Paul laughed. "How many people call over there and get through?"
Rose laughed softly, humored and touched by her friend's enthusiasm.
True to her word, Dolly called Bush's Press Secretary and, miraculously, was able to give him an earful. She sent the White House a copy of a song Rose wrote in bereavement of 9/11 as well as a patriotic "My land of Liberty." Confident that the songs would have a profound effect on the politicians, Dolly warned her husband before she left for the day: "You can expect a call from the White House sometime today."
"You're a nut and you're nuts!" her husband cried. "You're a cracked pot!"
Mr. Donahue had to swallow his skepticism. The White House called Dolly later that night, leaving a message with him that they were interested in Rose's songs, however they asked that the music be professionally recorded. Ecstatic with joy, Rose and Dolly gathered a sheaf of her best songs and made a pilgrimage to several recording studios. They settled on Starview Studios, after meeting the co-producer and engineer, Matt "The Doctor" Fink (best known as the former keyboardist for Prince).
The next step for the girls was to find a voice that would do the songs justice. Rose and Dolly agreed that they had to find someone who could belt out the words, invest some good old-fashioned heart and soul into the lyrics.
"She asked Bruce Henry for a demo," laughs Rose. "Bruce Henry! One of the biggest names in gospel music!"
"I was just a greenhorn," Dolly says in her own defense. "I didn't know anything about the music industry. I guess I insulted Bruce though."
The next big voice she met with was Gwen Matthews, a woman whose silky vocals stretch from floor to ceiling. They met at a Caribou Coffee. Between singing in the bands Synergy and The Dream Band and frequent trips to Europe with the Denis Colin Trio, Gwen's talents were already in great demand and her time stretched thin. She could promise Dolly only an hour.
True to form, Dolly turned one hour into seven. Well more precisely, Rose's music turned one hour into seven. Dolly ended the night listening to Gwen singing in her car in the parking lot. Hearing this rich voice sing "Amazing Grace," Dolly began to cry.
"You're so sweet," Gwen said. ''You're too much!"
"I just love your singing," Dolly sniffled.
Gwen agreed to join the team contributing to Rose's CD, Only' Believe. The 15 tracks on the CD have various significances for Rose. Each song has its own story.
Track six, "It's Raining," was written as Rose waited in the car for Paul and her kids to do some grocery shopping. Rain was beating down on the windshield as Rose scribbled words onto scrap paper.
Track seven, "In the Sweet Stillness" was written in the middle of night as she lay in bed. And the title track, "Only Believe," finds its inspiration in Rose's beloved Paul.
"Paul is a self made man. He always has been," says Rose. "But one day [after his illness] he said, 'I can't do anything. I may as well be dead.' I said; 'Don't you ever say that again! The way you keep going, you're more of an inspiration now than you ever were when you were well." Paul never said anything so self-defeating again, and Rose was moved to write him a song for strength. "Only Believe" is that song. The lyrics are framed in her office beside a photo of Paul resting his head on her shoulder.
"I've written Paul love songs and poems every year since I started writing songs," admits Rose.
"Isn't that romantic?" Dolly sighs.
Rose reads aloud a stanza of a poem she wrote for him, "You are my solid rock in this crazy uncertain life. So much of what I've accomplished has happened simply because I'm your wife."
Throughout Rose's ventures into the gospel music scene, Paul has supported her, both financially and emotionally. Though rarely leaving his comfort zone, he did attend the "Only Believe" CD release concert last spring at the Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church.
"When I spoke at the concert about 'Only Believe,' I talked to him specifically," says Rose.
"I don't know if he heard everything you said," says Dolly, "because half the time you were crying."
The CD has received high acclaim from listeners; it is a collection of some of the biggest voices in gospel music. Besides Gwen Matthews, the album features Robert Robinson (the "Pavarotti of Gospel"), Bruce Henry (yes, he came around), and Gevonee Ford.
"It's hard to make them bother," Dolly says, referring to the famous voices that represent. Rose's songs. 'They have their own private lives, but I made them bother! They know who I am; when I come around, they know I'm trying to get them to do something."
Rose smiles appreciatively at her friend but is quick to remind fans that while her words may reach to the sky, her feet are firmly grounded. "I didn't do this to become a celebrity," she says. "I wanted to share the message that God has given me and have other people be inspired and helped by it."
The people are hearing the message because of Dolly's persistence in the publicity realm. Rose is grateful to have Dolly in her corner, praising her for each new song she writes. With over 250 songs in her library, that's a lot of praise!
"Now I'm trying to get on the Oprah Show so I can distribute the music there," says Dolly.
Based on her persistence and charisma, it's safe to bet that the next time we flip through afternoon television and stall the remote on Oprah, we'll see two of the Valley's own: Rose and Dolly. Dolly will likely be propositioning Charlotte Church to sing Rose's "Come Unto Me" and Rose will be smiling at the people.
"It's a gift; it comes from the Holy Spirit," Rose will say. "There's nothing I can do about it. It's in my head, and I gotta get it down."

Kelli Billstein - Stillwater Living (Nov, 2007)

Rose Augustine is ready to blossom. At age 71, she never could have imagined that she would be standing at the threshold of a promising new career - Gospel Songwriter! It was 1980 when songs literally started coming to her and, almost always in her sleep. Sometimes as lyrics other times as melodies, but the songs always seemed to come together by days end.
A quarter century later Rose's "Only Believe" CD has become a reality. It is now being played in rotation on Gospel radio stations across the Midwest and even as faraway as Buffalo, New York. On this CD the inspired lyrics and melodies are belted out by a veritable Who's - Who among gospel singers. The CD's featured artists are: Gwen Matthews - Whose unbelievable vocal style and arrangements are well known across the US. Gwen also tours extensively throughout Europe with the Denis Colins Trio. Robert Robinson - the "Pavarotti of Gospel" and "Minnesota's Master Male Vocalist" by the Star Tribune. Billy Steele - the director of the Grammy Award winning "Sounds of Blackness". Bruce Henry - Well known Gospel and Jazz great. Julius Collins - Twice voted Minnesota Music Awards Male Vocalist of the Year and of "Greazy Meal" fame. Gevonne Ford - actor/singer whose rich distinctive vocals bring pleasure to all who are privileged to hear him. Also, some amazing instrumentalists accompany these powerhouse vocalists. Prince's former keyboard player, Matt Fink and - Kenni Holmin Sax player/producer
Rose Augustine is a caregiver by day to three young grand children and her husband Paul, who suffers from blindness and Parkinson's disease. Rose is a self-less person who used to consider her songwriting a hobby. She believes that her songwriting abilities are a gift from God and that through these songs, the message is dear - "God wants to lift up and encourage the listener", She is thrilled beyond measure with the Summer 2006 release of "Only Believe. The dream has become a reality!

Laurie Bonne - When Rose Buds (Jun, 2006)
In 1981, Rose Augustine was seriously injured in an accident. As she slowly recovered, she turned to God. Her faith is very important.
The answer to her troubles was a variety of songs that came to her then and continue to come to her now. They are a gift from God, she believes.
Fifteen of her songs - she estimates she has written more than 250 - have been produced on a CD, "Only Believe" CD release party, in conjunction with a fundraiser for the Twin City Community Gospel Choir, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 29, at Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Curch in Prior Lake. Augustine will sign copies of her CD at 6 p.m. that day at the church.
"I was always writing - the Lord gave me the gift," said Augustine, who lives next door to Afton Apls Ski Area, her familys' business. "My dad read poetry to us and I wrote poetry."
And Augustine participated in many choirs.
"I was trying to play my songs (on the organ), but I never did the music notation - I don't know how," she said. "Then one of the organists asked me about one of the songs I was singing and I said it was just one of the songs the Lord gave to me."
That organist was Hastings resident and piano teacher Noreen Swanson, who offered to handle the notation for the song.
Augustine eventually did learn about music notation from a church pianist, Mark Shepperd. Their meeting was arranged by other church members.
"That was many years ago and we've worked together ever since," she said. "As I always believed, God sends people to you when he wants them to be here."
That first songs, "Come On to Me" (the one with Swanson's notation) was eventually part of an album Augustine had produced in 2000. It is also on this new CD. About 100 copies were produced. She also wrote a Christmas album.
Through the years, Augustine asked for anonymous evaluations of her songs from friends. She also entered four of them into International contests. She didn't win, but she did not expect to either.
"But I got words of encouragement," she said. That was, and is, so important to her.
During this time, Augustine became her husband Paul's primary caregiver. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the 1980's.
In the early 2000s, Augustine met Dolly Donahue, who became Paul's home health assistant several days a week. More importantly, a close friendship developed among all three. Donahue has a management/marketing background and was immediately touched by Augustine's music.
And Donahue's persistance in getting Augustine's music to the public would eventually lead to the "Only Believe" CD.
"I listened to the songs and they were messages from God." Donahue said. "Rose had touched me."
Donahue sent off copies of Augustine's songs to area radio stations, including KDHL in Faribault, Paul Augustine's favorite station, and WEBR in River Falls. She contacted the Republican National Committee in Washington and gave a copy of a demo CD to one of President Bush's security People when a rally was held in St. Paul in 2004.
She hoped people would be as touched as she had been by the songs, including "God is Still in Control," written soon after Sept. 11, 2001.
A more profesional CD was started in 2005, with successful completion in September of 2006. All 15 songs are Augustine's. The featured singer on the CD is Gwen Mathews, a producer and singer. Other well-known vocalists include Robert Robinson, directo of the Twin City Gospel Community Singers and formerly a vocalist with Lorie Line, and Billy Steele, the music director of the Grammy-winning "Sound of Blackness."
While the production may have taken longer than expected due to some unexpected delays and additional reworking of some of the songs, Donahue never doubted it would be completed.
"With each discouragement, I became more determined," she said. "Rose's music had to get out. It has a message and she is so talented."
"It's not about me," Augustine said. "It's about the message."
The message has always been one of encouragement that God is here.
"For me, the goal has always been set," Donahue said. "This is the path God led me to."
The "Only Believe" CD is currently available at This and That and Common Grounds in Afton.
Jane Lightbourn - Hastings Star Gazette (Apr, 2007)
Right offhand, one would have to say that songstress Rose Augustine does quite well for herself. After all, she enjoys the release of her debut album Only Believe with her compostions recorded by the likes of Bruce A. Henry, Billy Steele, Gwen Matthews and Minnesota Music Award winner and Greazy Meal frontman of no small renown, Julius Collins. Instrumental accompanists include the ex-Prince sideman, the good Dr. Matt Fink and Kenni Holmin. For the CD's upcoming launch, there'll be a roster of luminaries taking the stage to perform. Gospel luminary Robert Robinson, opera-theatre-jazz virtuoso Holly Collison, Steele, Matthews and Collins are among those who will step on stage. How many songwriters can say all that? In addition, Sara Renner (James Grear & Company, Excelsior, The Elements) produces the concert and, of course, will sing. Rose Augustine, a seventy-one year old wife and grandma has, for more that the past quarter century, had her music heard over Midwetern airwaves (and as far from these parts as Buffalo, New York) in rotation on gospel radio outlets. However, it's hard to believe that she doesn't consider Only Believe -- the CD and the concert event -- to be a crowning, career achievement.
Most albums open with an upbeat selection so as to snatch up the listener's ear and keep him or her engaged long enough to be interested in hearing the rest of the songs. Only Believe successfully defies convention, leading with a ballad, "I Lay Down My Burdens" that, on top of everything, opens with a narrative. It is a profound credit to Rose Augustine's ability that what might well be death to most records springs this one to vibrant life. In the voice of one with faith, the song testifies to the Lord's willingness to help us help ourselves and, when we simply can't handle things, to see us through that darkest hour.
"Your word says 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God," goes the introduction, "'and all these things will be added to you.'"
"What that means to me is...you're responsible for handling problems that are too big for me. It doesn't mean I don't work. It just means I don't worry." Can Rose Augustine get an "Amen"?
From there, the accomplished lady of spiritual song weighs in with a lifting melody -- delicate and strong -- that fleshes out her message as an adherent to The Word. Said melody has Julius Collins waxing versatile up front with Gwen Matthews doing a splendid second lead. Collins narrates, deftly understated, softly and subtly croons, then with a gradual build, reaches emotive peaks. Matthews beautifully interweaves, artfully contrasting every step of the way, threading a distinct voice in exquisite support. She also does a remarkable job of that all too often taken-for-granted task, vocal arranging. Between the song and the singers, by the time "I Lay Down My Burdens" is done, the very first thing you want to do -- after nodding in agreement -- is to play the cut again. The same with "On That Final Judgment Day," which showcases Robert Robinson applying his wondrously cast-iron chops as Rose Augustine raises a joyful noise. From the first note to the very last, Robinson's passionate delivery of Augustine's inspired songwriting about Jesus making good on God's Word will take hold right where it needs to be grabbed.
Dwight Hobbes - Insight News (Apr 18, 2007)