Shardul Pandey: I welcome you Trenton at SANGKRIT.net, please tell our netizens about yourself, your story.
Trenton Thomas: My story really begins when I was four years old. My mom was a garage sale, and there was a very old and beat-up piano in the corner of the garage. It turned out the piano was not for sale, but was awaiting a trip to the dump! My family saved it from said trip, and it was the piano I learned on, and continued to play until I was fourteen, and its old keys could no longer keep up with my more demanding pieces. Because of that old piano, I began writing Christian songs at the age of six, and took over as music director of my church at the age of ten. Music theory came naturally to me, as did songwriting. While most children played dodgeball, I practiced piano during recess at school. When most teens were dating or playing sports, you could usually find me listening to an orchestra or at the piano bench. Music was my life’s work.
During college, while studying for a degree in Sacred Music, I sang for and traveled with several music groups, and even wrote some of their music. Because I went to a Christian university, our groups performed at churches – hundreds of them, and most of them small. I would talk to the pastors, and ask them about their church’s musical needs. Most often, the response was the same – “We need sheet music. We simply can’t afford it for our choir and pianist every week.” I decided to do my part to fill the need and began the online ministry of Free Sacred Music (www.freesacredmusic.com). Initially, the site offered only my own arrangements/compositions, but has since grown to include works by many talented and generous writers and arrangers. Today, over 4,500 people download music from the site every month – many from nations where Christian music is not otherwise accessible.
During the same time frame, I discovered a new passion in the music world. I was volunteering in the university’s recording studio, and found that I loved it! I learned from an excellent recording engineer and several producers the “tricks of the trade” that have become essential to my life’s work today.
Today, I continue to write, record, and perform music. I still run Free Sacred Music, as well as my own website, www.trentonsmusic.com. I have seen some successes in the wide world of Christian music. My singles (and even my full album, in some cases) are played on several large stations across the United States, and my songs have gained recognition. More importantly to me, my music is being sung in hundreds of churches all around the world. I long to be able to visit and perform at some of these churches, but have not been financially able to travel in order to do that. Currently, I am running an Indiegogo campaign to raise finances for that very thing at –http://igg.me/at/trentonsmusic/x/4980077.
It is my dream to one day soon be able to perform at many of the churches my music has ministered to. I hope that someday my music ministry will grow further, and that the hymns I write will end up alongside some of the great hymns passed down through church history.
Shardul Pandey: Would you like to briefly explain your sound to people who have not yet heard your music ?
Trenton Thomas: My sound is very unique. Many people hearing my music for the first time use words such as “worshipful,” “deep,” “beautiful,” and “relaxing” to describe it. My favorite compliment is, “I think I could listen to your music all day!” And some people do, for which I am grateful.
Shardul Pandey: What makes your endeavors unique ?
Trenton Thomas: My entire purpose and main goal as a modern Christian artist is entirely different from most other contemporary artists. I am primarily a writer of modern hymns, so my music is driven more by quality and depth of content than commercial appeal. As a hymn writer, my main goal is to provide the modern Church with hymns that fit this generation, but still contain the depth of theology and Biblical truth for which hymns have been historically known.
Shardul Pandey: On what musical projects you are currently working one? What can we expect from you in the next few years ? Any long term goals?
Trenton Thomas: Right now, I’m working on getting together a tour to visit some of the churches here in the US that use my music. I have released a full-length album and three singles, and most of that music is getting airplay on some large Christian radio stations, but I have not yet been able to tour with my music, due to a lack of funds. I’m trying to raise the funds for a tour through an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign (http://igg.me/at/trentonsmusic), so I really hope that people will get involved in my music ministry by supporting this campaign and in turn getting some very cool perks for their donation!
In the next couple of years, I hope to release my next full-length album, with many more original hymns that will resonate with churches in this day and age, and hopefully stick around with some of our long-standing hymns.
Long term, I hope to be able to make my music a full-time ministry. At this point, I am working 1 ½ jobs to make ends meet, and basically fully supporting my music ministry. If I can get to the point where this is full time, I can definitely reach a lot more churches with a lot more music. Right now, I am limited by time, which is limited by finances, so I hope that I can dive in to this ministry full-time in the future.
Shardul Pandey: Would you like to share the experience of your first performance ?
Trenton Thomas: I believe my first performance was a piano recital at the age of five, and I honestly don’t remember it vividly. I do remember being pretty scared at the time, since it was my first time on stage. I will tell you that I still get nervous, but more so for a small crowd than a large one. Something about a more personal audience makes it more nerve-wracking!
Shardul Pandey: What is your foremost experience as an artist ? Any favorite moment you would like to share?
Trenton Thomas: My favorite experience as a musician was actually a side project, where I collaborated with three of my professors while in grad school. We did a Valentine’s Day concert as a barbershop quartet, with all sorts of antics and dusty old barbershop love songs. In-between music sets we had another grad student who was an excellent amateur magician do tricks and stunts. The whole thing was really fun, and we had such a packed auditorium that we ended up doing the whole thing twice that night so people could all see it! So while it wasn’t even a formal concert, it was definitely my favorite performance memory.
Shardul Pandey: Any other creative mediums you work in?
Trenton Thomas: Actually, yes, I do wildlife & scenic photography, and actually considered it as a career at one point. I began in high school, and received several awards and publications. I still really enjoy it, whenever I get a chance to do so, and have a large photography section on my website (www.trentonsmusic.com/photography), where people can view my work and order prints, photo puzzles, and calendars. I believe music and photography go together extremely well, and someday I would like to integrate multimedia slide shows into my concerts.
Shardul Pandey: How do you best describe what music is to you?
Trenton Thomas: Someone very wise once said, “Music is the language of the emotions.” I definitely believe this to be the case, and that is what makes it such a powerful medium of communication. In my field of church music, I think music is the single most powerful method of teaching solid biblical truth and impacting lives with the power of God’s Word. Music is also the best way any group of people, such as a church, can communicate something simultaneously, which makes it the absolute best method of praise to God. On an individual level as well, music can and does impact people for real life-change, and if the music is Scripture-based, that change can be a permanent change for the better. In short, music is the most powerful catalyst at our disposal for expressing praise, learning truth, and aiding change in someone’s life.
Shardul Pandey: Who were your biggest musical influences ?
Trenton Thomas: Early in life, I became enthralled with classical music, and would sit and listen to Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, etc. for hours. In the area of Christian music, I received heavy doses of artists such as Fernando Ortega (still my favorite Christian artist), Michael Card, Buddy Green, Steve Green, and Dallas Holm. I took over as music director for our church at the age of ten, so naturally I was also heavily influenced by church hymns, which ultimately led me to become a hymn writer in the modern hymn movement.
Shardul Pandey: What songs get you moving ?
Trenton Thomas: “Smellin’ Coffee” by Chris Rice is one of my favorite “get-up-and-go” songs – its really fun and upbeat! Probably my favorite artist to simply enjoy life to is Adam Young (Owl City).
Shardul Pandey: Any plans for an international tour on your skyline?
Trenton Thomas: I would love to do an international tour! Because my ministry of Free Sacred Music is so international in nature, I have a large number of fans in Australia, South Africa, the Philippines, and Asia, as well as several countries in Europe. I would love to visit them! Hopefully someday I will. I honestly think I have as many fans in other nations as I do in the U.S., so it would really be an honor to be able to travel to some of those countries someday.
Shardul Pandey: What you feel is your strength as a musician and how would you like to be remembered ?
Trenton Thomas: I would love to be remembered as a solid theologian who wrote some of the hymns sung fifty or even one hundred years from now. I work very hard to write music that fits our current generation, but is also timeless in nature because it is solid lyrically and musically. Ultimately, only time will tell if I have accomplished that goal.
Shardul Pandey: What advice would you give to newbie musicians?
Trenton Thomas Four things: 1. There is no substitute for practice – especially not success. 2. Don’t ever compromise quality for commercialism. 3. Never stop learning and improving. 4. If you ever start feeling like you’re the best there is, remember there is some child in a remote corner of the world who can play and sing much better than you ever will!
Shardul Pandey: What is your web address, do you own a domain ? I mean where netizens can find latest news feed about you and your music ?
Trenton Thomas: People can find my music, latest news, monthly blog, photography, social media links, free stuff, and more at my website, www.trentonsmusic.com.
Shardul Pandey: What is your ultimate message for netizens ?
Trenton Thomas: Always make sure the musical praise in your church is the best it can be. We serve an awesome and holy God, and it is our duty to praise Him with the best of our frail human abilities. Never settle for less simply because it is easier, cheaper, or “cooler.” Music is powerful, and as such should be treated with care, preparation, and understanding.