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Home News-Telegram News NEIGHBORS: Abigail ‘Abby’ Lynn Tipps — A passion for faith, music and affecting lives

NEIGHBORS: Abigail ‘Abby’ Lynn Tipps — A passion for faith, music and affecting lives

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There is an aura surrounding 2013 Sulphur Springs High School graduate Abigail “Abby” Tipps. Just ask those who have taught her or seen her perform.

“Abby has a certain quality about her that draws people to her,” said her former band director, Charles McCauley. Tipps was in the drum line. 

“She has a generous spirit and loves to give gifts and surprises,” said Cindy Welch, SSHS fine arts secretary. “She is a natural leader and loves to jump into the middle of a project.” 

“Abby has a passion for music, and a heart to lead others in worship,” said her pastor, Andy Comer, at Davis Street Baptist Church. 

When she sat on a stool, played her guitar and sang “Heaven Song” at the 2012 Hopkins County Dairy Festival Pageant, the crowd grew suddenly silent and attentive. They erupted in appreciative applause immediately after she hit the final note.

“That was a truly one-of-a- kind experience,” Tipps said during a recent interview from her dorm room at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. 

Tipps, the daughter of Monty and Vanessa Tipps, was born with a “hip chick,” which means that her hips “were turned in, instead of out at birth,” causing her to “walk funny.”

“As a kid, there would always be someone tease me about it, and I'm sure that bothered me a little bit,” she confessed. “It became more of a struggle growing up, especially entering into middle school and high school, just because I didn't want the minor disability to affect how people saw me and thought of me.”

Tipps worked hard to be “a good person, who cares about others so they maybe wouldn't notice my legs so much.”

The effort paid off.

“It made me who I am today,” she said. “I have a deep love for people, and want to see them happy. It always makes me smile when someone I've known for awhile doesn't notice my legs until I bring it up.”

The talented young woman gives a lot of the credit for her success to her parents and grandparents for their encouragement.  

Of her parents she says, “I think the biggest way they've shaped my life is just by being supportive. Every event that I was ever at, they made a way for one of them to be there, even if it was 20 degrees, or raining cats and dogs. That means the world, because a lot of kids don't have that.”

Her grandparents, Benny and Pasty Boss of Sulphur Springs, and Faye Tipps of Miller Grove, have also been “the epitome” of support.

Tipps has a deep and abiding faith, which is obvious to anyone who spends more than two minutes with her. 

Instead of going off to college last fall, she felt God guided her to stay close to home. 

“When He directed her to stay in Sulphur Springs for a semester, she did so with a heart seeking His guidance and not with reluctance or doubt,” Welch explained. “Abby is . . . totally sold out to Jesus.” 

McCauley says, “Abby has a certain quality about her that draws people to her.  She loves God and has a heart for people.  She wants everybody to love God as much as she does."

Tipps gives credit where credit is due.  

“More than a guiding force in my life, my faith is my life,” Tipps notes. “If it wasn't for Jesus Christ, I wouldn't have hope. I'm also very thankful that God delights in music, and wants to showcase His glory through the talents of the humans He created. That's a two-fold luckiness for me. I get to delight in Him for giving me talent, and also get to display His glory through it.”

Tipps’ musical talent comes naturally. In addition to being a detective with the Sulphur Springs Police Department, her father is a musician who has fronted several bands. 

“They tell me I've been singing since I was born, so I guess really that's where I got started,” she said. “Then, I got my first guitar at age 8, my first set of drums at 12, and I've kind of just taught myself as much as I wanted to know since then. I think it was inevitable that I loved music.”

No one pressured Tipps to get involved in music.

“I play because it's inside of me and because I love it,” she said. 

In addition to her father, she counts Chuck Morrill as a “huge influence,” especially when it comes to worship. 

“He shaped my music and my love for it more than anyone,” she said. “As far as bands go, I am influenced by Kim Walker-Smith, Chris Tomlin, and artists with more mellow, down to earth sounds like Will Reagan, and Brian and Katie Torwalt.”

When asked why she chose drums, Tipps replied, “Why not?”

“When I tested before middle school to see which instrument I'd play, I got percussion,” she explained. “That was great for me, because around that time, I got my first drum set.”

As she was growing up, Tipps watched her church grow and change. It fell to her to fill in the gaps when it came to worship music, including playing guitar –  bass and electric – or drums.

“It's kind of like the verse that says ‘Be all things to all people’... I had to be the instruments for all people,” she noted. “To me it's better to broaden your horizons and play a multitude of things, especially when you've been given the talent. Plus, playing the drums is just downright fun.”

She played percussion through high school, was drumline captain for two years, and played drum set in Jazz Band. 

“Now, I'm in the percussion program at OBU and, when fall rolls around, I'll be in their drumline,” she said. 

When asked who was her favorite teacher, Tipps had a hard time narrowing it down to just one.

“I'm gonna have to give you two,” she said. “Johnny Wells is one of my favorite people and teachers of all time. He literally changes the lives of everyone he comes in contact with, not just his students.”

Tipps appreciates the special interest Wells shows for each of his middle school students. 

“As for why he's my favorite, I think it's due to the fact that he saw something in me that I couldn't and really genuinely loved and cared about me, and is unwaveringly constant,” she explained. “He stands by who he is, what he believes, and is always the same ‘Mr. Wells’ every time you meet him. He's not distant from his students; he is an integral part of their lives for the years he teaches them, and for the years after. To me, that's how a teacher changes lives.”

McCauley is her other favorite, but not for the obvious reason. While she appreciates his classroom skills, it’s his sterling personal qualities she admires. 

“He is such a true example of what positivity, work ethic and determination can earn you,” she noted. “He is one of the most fun to be around, sweetest people that I know. And as far as caring about his students, I haven't seen anyone who beats him in that race.”

McCauley recognizes Tipps’ gifts, too.

“Abby has a terrific work ethic,” the fine arts director said. “She will work at something until it is done right.”

Tipps says McCauley has effected her life in many ways, including the way she views music and how she treats people.

“It's always said about his bands that they play with such a 'musical sound,’” she said. “That's because he doesn't just focus on notes and rhythms, he also focuses on the way music feels –?the way it effects people. You can tell when you watch him conduct. That's all I can say about him: he is a gem of a man. I love him.”

She admits band is her favorite extracurricular activity.

“There are many reasons why it's my favorite,” she explained. “The family atmosphere, the fun, drumline, the trips, the music, the learning and Mrs. Welch. You'll see that most people say this –?she's what keeps the program afloat!”

Although she is majoring in music education, Tipps’ favorite class has always been English, “not so much because I loved to read or diagram sentences, but because I loved discussing the stories and the people in them.”

Tipps said being in the Dairy Festival Pageant the summer before her senior year taught her two lessons.

“I learned I have a strong support system,” she commented.  “People I didn't really even know that well went out of their way to say such kind things to me. It was truly a realization of how blessed I am.”

The other lesson was the most important, however. 

“Winning isn't everything,” Tipps realized. “Of course, like every one of the girls, I went in wanting to win. Who wouldn't? But, when the results were tallied, and the names were called, guess what??It wasn't me.”

Tipps admits to being upset at first and feeling that the time she spent competing might have been wasted. That pity party did not last long.

“As soon as I started down off of the steps [after the pageant], people started to congratulate me as if I had won,” she explained. “I received Facebook messages, texts, emails, hugs, etc., about what a good job I had done and how I had impacted the audience. To me, that's really a winner minus the crown.”

Tipps said the one thing people probably don’t know about her is that she is unorganized. 

“I have to work really hard to stay on task,” she admitted. 

Although she attended Paris Junior College this fall, Tipps recently won a scholarship to OBU. 

“All of the doors just sort of opened for me,” she explained. “I had decided that I wanted to get a degree in music, and all of a sudden – within a two week period –  I had applied, auditioned and moved. God just does things like that sometimes, I suppose.”

When asked what advice she would give the SSHS class of 2014, she said, “Slow down, have, fun, and make sure to thank your teachers. Whether you know it or not, they are a huge reason as to why you are who you are. Make sure you tell everyone you care about how much you care about them. Leave high school knowing that there was nothing more you could've done to affect others in a positive way.”

In five years, Tipps hopes to have graduated from OBU, be teaching and leading worship. 

In 10 years, she wants to be affecting peoples’ lives. 

That shouldn’t be too hard.

Abby Tipps spends her life affecting people – in the most positive way possible.




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