Hillsong, American Idol Star, and 'Passion' Actor Bring Thousands to GMA

|PIC1|NASHVILLE, USA - The Gospel Music Assocation Music Week is gaining momentum after showcases and worship events by some of the biggest names in Christian music delighted thousands on Sunday.

The day kicked off with some 500 attendees gathering for the morning chapel service, which was led by Ross Parsley, Senior Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and New Life Worship featuring desperation and Jared Anderson.

A Sunday Evening Worship Service at the Ryman Auditorium was later led by Hillsong United, Australia's #1 Modern Worship band. The night was hosted by Michael W Smith, with Passion of the Christ star, Jim Caviezel, appearing as a special surprise guest.

Another Sunday highlight was the songwriter showcase, hosted by former American Idol star Mandisa and legendary Christian artist Mark Schultz. Songwriters who performed at the showcase included Sanctus Real, Chris Tomlin, Ian Eskelin, and Mark Hall from Casting Crowns.

The GMA Music Week kicked off Saturday 21 April and will wrap up 25 April. The annual event, held in Nashville, Tennessee, is expected to entertain some 3,000 people with genre-specific programming such as seminars, workshops and showcases.

Throughout the week, the GMA will offer programming specifically targeted to artists and industry professionals with black gospel and urban music affiliations.

"I would like to see GMA Music Week attendance mirror the diversity reflected in the Billboard Top Christian and Gospel Albums charts and that means artists and professionals in the black gospel and urban music community are an important audience for GMA," said John W Styll, president and CEO of the GMA.

GMA Music Week will conclude with the Dove Awards - also dubbed as the GMA Music Awards - which is known as Christian music's 'biggest night of the year'. The historic awards show will be hosted by gospel legends Brian Littrell, Natalie Grant, and Donnie McClurkin this year at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville.

TobyMac, Kirk Franklin, Mandisa, Take 6, The Crabb Family, MercyMe and Chris Tomlin are among the first performers announced for the Dove Awards, while Michael W Smith, Brenda Lee and Bob & Larry from VeggieTales are among those slated as presenters.