”UNCONDITIONAL LOVE” BIO
Passionate Praise is one way to describe the inspiring, contemporary gospel grooves of Tampa, Florida’s rising gospel star, Toni Rackard. For the last dozen years, she’s quietly built a following on the Florida music scene and even toured Europe with the renowned Harlem Gospel Choir. As her first national radio single “You Pulled Me Through” (a sizzling duet with Marvin Winans Jr.) is gaining momentum at gospel radio stations around the country, buzz is now building for the release of Rackard’s forthcoming debut CD Unconditional Love (Behind The Veil Records).
The eldest of four kids born to a kindergarten teacher (Yvonne Stokes) and a heavy machine operator with Closet Maid (Edward Stokes), Rackard’s Ocala, Florida childhood was filled with music. “Everybody on my mom’s side sings and my dad plays trombone,” she recalls. “I wanted to sing like my mom who has a beautiful soprano voice.” In fact, when she was five years old, Rackard was in her mother’s Sunday class singing along as her mother led the class in worship. “One of her assistants was like Toni is singing right with you and I was so excited that someone would say that,” she recalls.
From that day forward, Rackard focused on singing. She joined the church’s children’s choir. “You had to be baptized in order to sing in the choir but I didn’t know what it meant to be baptized,” she recalls. “But I did it just to get into the choir.” By the age of ten, Rackard was studying the styles of singers ranging from Whitney Houston to CeCe Winans and Yolanda Adams.”
Rackard then joined two different R&B groups and they patterned themselves after hit groups such as SWV or En Vogue. “I was in two groups,” she confesses. “I just wanted to sing. it didn’t matter if it was gospel or secular. When I got to college under the ministry I’m in now, I realized I couldn’t effectively perform without ministry being involved and decided to leave secular music.”
“I knew I wanted to sing but didn’t know how to go about it,” Rackard recalls of graduating from the University of South Florida in 2002. “So, while I was trying to figure out who I was, I took a degree in business.”
After college, she married her high school sweetheart Derrick Rackard who worked his way up the corporate latter and is currently a residential loan executive with Sun Trust Bank. Their two minds became one as they focused on launching Rackard’s recording career. “We held off on having children, we started up businesses, did real estate ventures and other things to generate revenue to finance Toni’s career,” Derrick adds. Then, the economic market crashed, “And so did our resources,” Derrick says. “Then, doors started opening in other ways.”
One door that opened was that the couple befriended Marvin Winans Jr., son of gospel superstars Vickie Winans and Marvin Winans Sr. “We were at the Good Luck Café in Tampa and Marvin was there. Marcus Turner (Behind the Veil’s Promotions Director] thought it would be nice to have Marvin on the CD. So we talked to him and he agreed to do a song with me.”
Rackard’s producer Lewis T. Bryant Jr. (who has collaborated with R&B veteran Freddie Jackson) then went to work on what became “You Pulled Me Through.” The mid-tempo tune opens to the familiar echo of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” before transforming into an inspiring song about God’s ability to pull mankind through life’s trials and tribulations.
The majority of the album was already finished by the time that Winans and Rackard hit the studio. It’s a broad spread of contemporary songs ranging from Rackard’s smooth jazzy take on Bill Withers’ 1977 chestnut “Lovely Day” to the Christian line-dance, “The Kingdom Slide.” Rackard, often with her husband Derrick, had a hand in writing or re-arranging every song on the project and crafted it for the 25 to 45 crowd. “You don’t have to be a in a box because you’re saved,” she says. “We are to have fun and rejoice but also spread the importance of intimacy with God.”
Rackard is the praise and worship leader at Jesus People Family Worship Center in Tampa, FL.
1. Stellar Awards Breakfast sponsored by Missouri GAG, Nashville TN, Jan16, 2010
2. Countryside Christian Center, Clearwater Fl, Jan 24th, 6:30pm
3. Concert, House of Blues, 1490 E Buenavista Dr, Lake Buenavista FL, 32830-8422 Feb 21st, 2010, 10:30am and 1:00pm
4. Abundant Harvest Ministries, 3200 Northeast 25th Avenue Ocala, FL 34479-3048 Conference, Feb 25, 2010 7:00pm
5. Plantation Inn Golf Resort and Spa, 9301 W Fort Island Trail Crystal River Fl, Feb 26th, 7:00pm
6. 5th Annual Heritage Gospel fest, Heritage Village in Largo, Florida Feb 27, 2010, 11:00am
7. 2nd Annual Community Festival North Miami Beach, March 6, 2010, 17051 NE 19 Avenue NMB, FL 33162, On Hanford Blvd, 6:00pm
8. Changing Your Life Ministries, Ft. Lauderdale FL, March 6, 2010, 8:00pm
9. First Sunday, New Life World Outreach Ministries, 6732 Pembroke Road, Pembroke Pines FL, 33023, March 7, 2010, 7:30am
10. First Sunday, New Life World Outreach Ministries, 6732 Pembroke Road, Pembroke Pines FL, 33023, March 7, 2010, 10:30am
11. Concert, City Community Church, 940 Tarpon St, Ft Myers FL, March 13th 2010, 7:00pm (Concert will feature Toni and Vickie Yohe)
12. City Community Church, 940 Tarpon St, Ft Myers FL, March 14th 2010, 11:00am
13. Miami Dade County Fair Gospel Fest, Miami Florida, March 28, 2010, 8:00pm
14. St. Johns MBC,1500 Pennsylvania Ave Clearwater, FL 33755 April 4, 2010. 11:00am
15. Florida Gospel Announcers Guild, Orlando Faith Ministries International, 2791 N Pine Hills Rd, Orlando FL, 32808 , April 10, 2010, 2:00pm
16. Banquet, City Community Church, 940 Tarpon St, Ft Myers FL, May 9, 2010, 3:00pm
17. TCT Television Network, Television Interview, June 8th, 11:00am taping.
18. Oklahoma City Juneteenth event, Oklahoma City, June 19th, 12:00pm
19. Jesus People Family Worship Center Church, Worship Services, June 27th, 11:00am
20. General’s Retirement Banquet, MacDill Air force Base, July 1, 2010, 2:00pm
21. University of Central Florida, Thursday, July 8th, 7:00pm
22. Walt Disney World, House of Blues, Orlando, FL July 25th 9:00am to 2:00pm
23. Gospel Music Workshop of America, Duke Energy Center, 525 Elm St, Cincinnati, OH July 25th thru July 31st 2010
24. Shout Hallelujah Showcase @ Clear Channel Metroplex. 10800 Colonel Glenn Road in Little Rock, Arkansas 72204 (106.7 FM) August 28th 12pm to 4pm.
25. Virginia Radio Announcer’s Guild, Richmond, VA Sept 16th, 17th, 18th 2010
26. JPWCC Night of Impartation Thursday, September 30th ,Tampa FL 7:00pm
27. Chicago Announcers Guild, Chicago, IL, Oct 15th, 16th, 17th 2010
28. New Orleans Gospel Festival, New Orleans, LA Oct 21st, 22nd, 23rd 2010
29. European Tour, Europe October 31st –December 10th, 2010