All About Jennie Flack
Jennie Flack is a realist. She perceives and presents life as it is, from caterpillars to thunder-storms, from toothaches to broken homes, from puppet friends to the reality of the living God. She presents this reality in a most unique and entertaining manner, drawing her audience into her world to find that through all the noise, mistakes, confusion or hurt there is Someone, Someone very special right there, Who really loves them! Surrounded by a family of musicians, music has been her constant delight and as a child (she likes to think she still is), she commenced formal music tuition on the piano. But musical journey began in earnest at the age of 12, when her fascination with an old plunky stringed guitar saw the humble beginnings of her musical career.
At the age of 14, Jennie started singing along with the guitar and found opportunities to sing in various choirs, music groups, coffee shops, churches and even prisons. Her mentor in these early years was Ritchie Gunston – well known Australian country/gospel singer, now in Heaven with his Lord – who led her right into the thick of music ministry. Jennie’s first public ministry stage was on the back of a tray truck travelling through the streets of a very (then) down trodden Collingwood in the 60’s. Right from the outset, Jennie’s music commanded the attention of her listeners from very little people to very old ones.
The Family Flack
Jennie met her husband Allan when she was fifteen. He was first, her youth-group leader before becoming her husband in 1970 and several years later they had four sons; Jonathan, Marcus, Paul (still born) and Nathan. Allan was to be Jennie’s greatest champion in the years to come as he encouraged, inspired and supported her in a ministry that was to spread throughout the world.
At the Coal Face
Wanting to become more involved in their son’s growing years Jennie developed other skills which complemented her music ministry and did a youth training course run by the Anglican church in order to become a Branch Governor of CEBS The Anglican Boys Society, (a club for Primary aged boys). This was fertile ground for inspiring a myriad of communication ideas. Leading holiday vacation programmes, working as a volunteer on Scripture Union beach missions, organising and directing children’s musicals and choirs, training in Marriage Counselling and Group Dynamic Techniques and being the leader of adult discussion groups, all served to equip her with leadership and communication skills.
Her first song was written out of a desperate effort not to disappoint her then pastor, Rev Tom Stokes, who relied upon her to research suitable songs to compliment his children’s stories in church each Sunday. She was stumped, having run out of ideas one week and decided to have a bash at writing one herself. The rest is history. Rev Tom, sensed the blossoming of a unique gift and encouraged Jennie to develop her writing by suggesting themes and providing numerous opportunities for her songs to be performed in church.
Several songs later, husband Allan sent her to the Cooma Christian Music Convention in 1982 where for the first time Jennie’s music was heard by those in the industry. Barry McGuire (Bullfrogs and Butterflies) was a featured artist that year and after hearing her material, strongly urged her to produce an album. Within months her first album was recorded, entitled “Mugwumps and Important Things”, followed soon after by a second album for children ‘Snookles’. (Both of these albums have recently been combined into one CD entitled ‘Hey You, Guess What?’) Within a very short time of the release of ‘Mugumps’, Jennie began getting invitations all over Australia to perform at churches, schools and large Christian functions and festivals. After ‘Snookles’ came the album ‘Jibes ‘n’ Vibes’ followed by ‘Clean Drains and Wellington Boots’, ‘Mischief and Miracles’ a joint project with the talented musician/composer Kathie Chan and ‘The Best of Jennie Flack: For Little People’.
During this time, Jennie worked part time in two secondary school colleges, training choirs and for a short time, working as a drama teacher for Junior High students. In 1991, along with the highly skilled musician/arranger Grant Ward, she wrote, recorded and produced a musical entitled “Down to Earth”. Allan’s visionary mind saw a wonderful opportunity for the rest of the world to be exposed to this music and arranged a performance tour to USA in 1991. The musical was presented up and down the coast of California culminating with a major presentation at San Diego’s annual Music Ministers festival “MusiCalifornia” , attracting Music Directors from all over America. The seven minute standing ovation after the performance said it all.
In 1995, Jennie, along with husband Allan and youngest son Nathan moved to Nashville Tennessee and became members of The Belmont Church in downtown Nashville – the same church where Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant emanated. She was soon appointed Creative Director of Children’s Ministry, a work with became a huge learning curve as she worked along side extremely experienced and spiritually committed children’s ministry staff. Jennie saw children being challenged to levels of faith she had never seen in Australia. Part of her work saw her labouring on a weekly basis in the African American Project areas (public housing) and her introduction to a culture of human misery and poverty (within a stones throw of white middle class), opened her eyes to an injustice she had never seen before.
The late nineties saw Jennie venture into Asia where she ministered in Singapore presenting concerts and leading seminars for teachers. Her second tour came at the invitation of a Singapore Government department who invited her to teach the importance of kindness in the schools – this being the national theme adopted by the Singapore Government for that year. Along with her son Marcus and daughter in law Annie, both accomplished musicians and entertainers (who have since established the UK based Christian youth festival – ‘Soul Survivor’ here in Australia) they presented concerts to over 64,000 children.
Over the Sea and Far Away
Jennie’s music has now been widely accepted throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Great Britain and the USA, her music even being used in Russia to help teach English to Russian children. She travels widely, performing School and Family Concerts and conducting seminars for teachers interested in learning creative communication skills – through music, puppetry (Jennie is a ventriloquist), drama and storytelling etc.
In 2000 her work in Nashville ended when Jennie’s husband Allan abandoned their 30 year marriage to take a new partner, a woman who had been Jennie’s best friend. This totally unexpected ‘double whammy’ resulted in Jennie suffering a shocking breakdown which resulted in seven years of rehabilitation, including hospitalisation and intense counseling over that time. It was the darkest period of her life. She dropped out of ministry altogether with her focus being on recovery and rediscovering who Jennie Flack actually was without her husband. She fast came to the realisation that her identity had been so completely enmeshed in her former husband’s that she didn’t know who she was anymore… and that was very frightening.
However during that time, Jennie also discovered that no matter how deep the pit, God is deeper still; for through all the dark murky places she found His promise to be so true… He will never leave us or forsake us and when we go through the fire we will not be burned, neither will that deep water consume us.
Jennie’s recovery story is one she loves to share for it ends so truimphantly with her recent marriage to Graeme Brent Balks (a widower) on 27th February 2010 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne. The Lord had a wonderful surprise for this wounded warrior who had determined she would NEVER marry again. The Lord smiles.
Today this very happy couple are working together in ministry as Jennie is once again back on her horse. She is currently translating her music into Spanish for South American children, working as a CRE teacher, as a volunteer in the World Vision ‘Kids Hope’ program, and also with children who have learning difficulties. In addition Jennie is still writing songs, recording, travels widely running Creative Communication Seminar programs, sharing her story in churches and women’s groups and presenting Family Service programs.
Are you interested in booking Jennie to have her come visit your church or to do a presentation at a special function? Please contact us!