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The Hoppers: A Ministry of Music

Dean Hopper knows as well as anybody that both maturity and struggle often deepen our relationship with music. The long history of The Hoppers spans decades, and that longevity has created a solid, always-evolving devotion to faith through sound.

Hopper is the lead vocalist for this multi-generational gospel outfit that has graced the stage of Carnegie Hall, played at presidential inauguration events, and moved audiences in halls and churches across the country. His dad started the group in rural North Carolina in 1957, so Hopper grew up with gospel. Even as a little one, he was fascinated with music, even if it would take some time before he understood its role in his life and the world of gospel.

"When I was young, I wanted to play the drums," he reminisced. "I watched from the side of the stage. I was just seven or eight years old. I was just in love with the music." It was all about the sounds, he said. "But as I've grown," he continued, "the messages in the songs take on stronger meaning."

It took growing up into an adult–and even more recently, facing serious illness–to further deepen his relationship with this music that infuses his family's heart. He had a series of strokes in 2016 and 2017. Although Hopper was able to sing through it, recovering was tough.

"When you go through things," he explained, "it has a way of re-aligning things. Seeing as it helped transform me and my family as a whole, the ministry of the music took on more meaning."

This wasn't the first time struggle had added more meaning to the music of The Hoppers. His mother battled cancer long ago, and he recalls how that hardship changed her.

"That really transformed her life and my dad's life," Hopper said, "and the ministry of music took on a new meaning at that time."

Today, the lineup includes Dean and his wife, Kim; his parents, Claude and Connie; his brother, Mike; and his daughter, Karlye.

Whether they're singing about hardships or sharing joys, Hopper sounds as if he loves it all. Performing runs deep, and he thinks it's because his father–Claude Hopper–has always had a passion that made him want to delve into "every aspect of gospel music." The Hopper children grew up immersed in it. In addition to performing, the group's elder patriarch was part of the creation of "Keep on Singing," a 15-volume songbook. He also serves on the board of directors of the National Quartet Convention, a premier event of the Southern Gospel genre.

"My dad also started the first gospel cruise in 1974," Hopper added.

The Hoppers have withstood the test of time, from record releases that land them on the Billboard charts to their appearances on Gaither Homecoming videos and tours. All group members have their projects and accolades, including prominent roles in the Southern Gospel world, solo work, creative projects such as books, and more. As a unit, however, they have made real waves throughout 60 years of gospel music.

"It's been a labor of love," Hopper said, reflecting over the years. "A lot of times when the industry was down, we'd pull up by the bootstraps and keep moving…then the industry goes up again."

"We've got to be innovative," he added. "We've got to be always thinking; we've got to be rebranding ourselves."

They recently released their first Christmas album in what Hopper guesses is about 22 years.

"We went all out on this," he said, explaining they toured heavily in support of the release. He indicated that audiences loved it. "We released a bluegrass album this past year, and it's getting traction now," he explained. "We're out basically every weekend performing the songs and have a few of the singles on the radio."

Many of their records are born right on the family's property. For 25 years, they've had a studio.

"We have a studio on my dad's farm," Hopper explained. "One of the barns, a third of it is our studio. We'll bring a producer from Nashville…lay down the vocals…lay down the basic parts."Then, they'll take it to Nashville for final production. "We have a lot of songs still to be released," he said, hinting that new music is always on the horizon.

What does he see as the group's future; does he see it persisting for more decades? Yes, in some form, he assured.

"We've got three generations out there now… there's dad, me and my brother…my daughter…"he said. "My oldest daughter…her interest in what we do has really, really grown."

That cohesiveness of family may be part of why the Hopper tradition of spreading faith through music keeps on going after years and years. For Hopper, it sounds like the bottom line is thatthey are successful due to love.

"The persistence of my parents through the years," he said, listing the reasons. "The love for the music. The love for the people."

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