Catching Up With Dr. Ron Kenoly

Over thirty years ago there was a significant shift in praise and worship music. In 1991, Integrity Music was a fledgling five year old company in the early stages of revolutionizing the praise and worship genre by capturing live worship experiences and marketing them through their innovate direct-to-customer tape subscription service. They had remarkable success early on with worship leaders Kent Henry, Marty Nystrom and Don Moen but no one could have predicted the monumental impact a new West Coast worship leader named Ron Kenoly was going to have on their label and on the genre as a whole.

After hearing over and over again about the work of God happening at Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose, California, Don Moen (Integrity’s talent scout at the time), made the trek out to experience what God was doing. It quickly became evident that the Lord was using Ron Kenoly is a special way. In the months that followed, Kenoly was invited to meet the Integrity Family at their headquarters in Mobile, Alabama. Ron immediately connected with producer Tom Brooks who was able to interpret and realize Ron’s R&B instincts within a contemporary worship context. Thus began a 10 year journey with the label that in no exaggeration revolutionized and defined the sound of worship during the 90’s.

Ron’s first project, Jesus is Alive (1991) was unlike anything Integrity had put out but it was just the tip of the iceberg. The following year, Lift Him Up (1992) was released and the project exploded. Paired with a top-notch band and first-rate songwriting, Lift Him Up quickly became Integrity’s best-selling project to date and still remains one of their best-selling albums. Recorded in Norfolk, VA, Lift Him Up was the first Integrity project in their Hosanna! Music series to feature a picture of the worship leader on the front cover. Although this is normalized today, it was uncommon in the 80’s and early 90’s for worship labels to promote a worship leader as an “artist”. Up until Lift Him Up, the only recognition worship leader’s received on Integrity Hosanna! recordings was a small credit on the back of the cassette, sometimes accompanied with a small inset headshot.

In the years that followed, Ron Kenoly recorded a project with Integrity nearly every year and nearly every year his projects were on the Christian booksellers best-sellers list. The sound of Kenoly’s projects reverberated across the world, notably with Hillsong Music. In fact it’s easy to hear the influence Kenoly had on Hillsong’s 90’s output which, like Kenoly’s music, was marked by horn sections and funky R&B inspired arrangements.

In 1999, Integrity followed up their landmark Shout to the Lord project with Hillsong with the aptly titled Shout to the Lord 2000 project on which Kenoly was invited as a guest worship leader. Alongside Darlene Zschech and Integrity Gospel artist, Alvin Slaughter, and recorded live at Hillsong’s annual conference, the three performed a re-vamped version of Zschech’s signature anthem, “Shout to the Lord”. This rendition was so impactful that the three were invited to the 31st annual Dove Awards where they performed it alongside a gospel choir to close off the evening.

More than a worship leader, Dr. Ron Kenoly is a scholar, teacher, speaker, author and songwriter. He’s earned a number of accolades including a Dove Award (for his Integrity project, Welcome Home – 1997), an Angel Award (for his Integrity project, Lift Him Up – 1992) and a GMA Lifetime Achievement in 2010.

Because of Dr. Ron’s immense influence on the praise and worship genre, particularly during my teen years when I was first discovering my skill and calling, it was a joy and pleasure to do an extensive interview with him. In our two hours together we do a deep dive, focussing in on his decade with Integrity Music. Full of delightful stories and inspirational anecdotes, this interview captures the joyful heart of a man who God’s used to lead thousands in worship in over 100 countries. Whether you are a music historian like me or someone who remembers Dr. Ron’s music, you will enjoy catching up with Dr. Ron Kenoly.


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