Ministry Influences His Music

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Don Schink, who will be 65 next month, looked in the mirror a few years ago and exclaimed, "Good Lord, who's that? There's an old guy where a kid used to be! Oh Lord, what has happened to me?"

Don Schink, who will be 65 next month, looked in the mirror a few years ago and exclaimed, "Good Lord, who's that? There's an old guy where a kid used to be! Oh Lord, what has happened to me?"

Then he sat down with his guitar and began composing a song. The result was "Reflections," one of the tracks on his first CD, "Clean Country," released in November 2011.

His new CD, "Connections," came out just this past weekend to quite a bit of fanfare. And plans are already under way for a third CD, tentatively called "Keeping It Clean in the Country," to be recorded in Nashville this spring.

If you don't already know or haven't already guessed, Schink is a country, Christian-country, and country-gospel singer. As mentioned, he is also a songwriter and guitarist. He lives on a forested road in the mountains about 15 miles south of Tijeras. But his life has truly taken a long and winding road to get him to those two acres, just north of Escobosa.

Originally from Odessa in the picturesque Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, Schink found himself getting restless in the late '60s and ventured out west to New Mexico. Still unsettled and still seeking answers to the questions posed by life, he decided to study at the Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs. He was ordained as a minister, and his new profession took him first to a church in Oregon. From there he moved to Silver City, N.M., then on to Watkins Glen, N.Y., a stone's throw from his boyhood home on the Finger Lakes. He then moved to Saco, Maine, and finally, in his last move as an official pastor, to Mount Erie, Ill.

After he left New York the first time, Schink's mother, a widow, followed him to New Mexico. While he was stationed in Mount Erie, her health deteriorated and he decided to retire from the church and come "back home" to care for her.

Meanwhile, he had been playing the guitar and writing songs since his teenage years. Self taught, he says he has "no grand illusions about any of this stuff. I just like it."

"Any of this stuff" includes several lucky breaks in Nashville (he praises only the good Lord for his good fortune) where he even got to play at the Grand Ole Opry. Sitting in the tiny studio in his home, surrounded by guitars, Schink recalls that he was visiting Nashville and decided to take an acoustic guitar to the country music mecca for a touristy photograph. There, a woman from the Grand Ole Opry spotted him and asked, "Can you play that thing, or did you just come for the picture?" When he said he could play, she pulled him inside to entertain a group of insurance people.

When he was done, no one wanted him to stop.

Besides the Grand Ole Opry, Schink has performed with Cowboy Troy and Friends at Nashville's Hard Rock Café. He also has opened for Cowboy Troy Coleman at the Grand Ole Opry.

He credits a number of artists as influences — George Strait, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton — and also old '60s rock, easy pop, folk and bluegrass. But most of all he thanks the Lord for his talent and success.

The folks at his recording label, Tate Music Group, thinks he might just be country music's next big star: "His diverse writing style is unique, positively uplifting and inspirational," they write. "His music possesses a diverse writing style, along with clear, crisp messages written into each song. The music and lyrics on (his new) album have all been written by Don and each song has been selected for this album as recommended by fans."

There is no doubt that the man has talent. You can see and hear for yourself Saturday at 6 p.m., when he will be performing at Hastings, 6001-R Lomas Blvd. NE, in Albuquerque.

Schink is a member of Nashville's Songwriters Association International and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. He was offered recording contracts from four record companies before deciding on Oklahoma-based Tate, which he chose because of the label's support for Christian artists. For more information, visit http://donschink.com/music.

Schink lives with his wife, Kathy, and several children. In addition to their own offspring, they have adopted a number of kids and foster-parented others. It's not an easy task, raising a child or children from troubled homes, but they feel up to the challenge.

They also foster animals, and there are any number of dogs and cats vying for attention in the Schink household. Generally, however, the pets are not allowed in his studio unless he's there.

Schink has played in various bands from time to time throughout his musical career, but most of his performances have been solo, by his own choice. His customary venues include small, local establishments and churches in the states where he served as a pastor. He also makes himself available to perform at churches in the greater Albuquerque area.

On warm summer evenings, you can often find him strumming away and singing at the Old Tyme Shop, the ice cream parlor on N.M. 337, not far from his home. And on most Friday evenings throughout the year, he's almost certain to be playing at Jo's Chameleon Cafe, on Kuhn Road and N.M. 337.

These days, Schink is excited about an upcoming tour to Nashville at the end of March. He will be driving, and has some live interviews scheduled along the way. But despite the excitement, he returns again to an old, recurring theme. It's almost like a mantra: "I'll tell you up front, I have no grand illusions about any of this. I just like it. I'm thankful to the Lord."