“We did not come to be entertained or seek a show. We came to worship Yahweh,” said the narrator in the voiceover — the congregation quiet below. For Trey, and many others in that auditorium, this was true.
Trey had been playing as a keyboardist for New Life, a Sabbath worship service on the Andrews University campus, for the past year, and this experience helped him grow closer to God.
“At first when I started playing on the Andrews campus, part of me wanted recognition for it, but I’ve learned when playing for God, don’t play for recognition,” he reflects. “When I play at New Life, I play the best I can because I’m playing for the Lord, so I don’t try and overpower other band members or be a showboat.”
Now, graduation weekend Sabbath was Trey’s last time to play for a New Life service. He sat quietly, in a white shirt and tie, graduation cords draped over his shoulders.
Chaplain Michael Polite walked onto the stage to greet the congregation and congratulate the graduates. Trey and the other members of the band provided soft accompaniment.
Following an ordination of eldership and a passionate prayer, Trey began playing the lead part of Kirk Franklin’s “He’s Able.” The singers entered the stage from the left and the audience stood in worship, hands interlocked across the aisles, as the sounds of the song filled the space.
Music has been in Trey’s life as long as he can remember. Born in Freeport, Grand Bahama, he grew up with his parents and younger brother. Trey’s mother works at the container port in the commercial department and his father owns a solar power business, providing and installing solar panels for clients.
“Both of my parents each have a lot of brothers and sisters, resulting in me having a myriad of aunts and uncles and a variety of cousins,” says Trey. “Music was always a part of my mother’s side of the family. All of my mother's siblings could play at least one instrument or sing. They were all actively involved in the church back home. And my father’s mom was a music teacher, however, I never got a chance to meet her as she passed away before I was born.”
As a child, Trey sat in church and tapped his hands to the same drum beat being played for praise and worship. “My first memory of music was my mom and dad buying me a toy snare drum for Christmas when I was like three years old,” he explains. He played on that drum until it broke. Trey also tried piano lessons at age five. That lasted for two whole weeks. The most formal musical training he had was from his aunt who taught him to play scales on the piano.
Before coming to Andrews, Trey played at church functions near his home. “I started playing the drum set in church when I was 15. I practiced and learned the songs using pillows in my room until my parents bought me my first actual drum set. Because I loved the drums, I decided to join the steel pan band at school.”
Trey played along with the New Life band, and the song leaders shifted into a powerful rendition of “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.” Eventually the music faded and Chaplain Polite stepped onto the stage again.
“Graduation is no small thing,” he said, inviting each graduate to stand. Behind him, Trey stood with a few other members of the praise team. The auditorium swelled with applause, as Chaplain June Price joined Chaplain Polite to offer another warm welcome to the graduates.
When the vocalists started the praise set, the musicians followed. Trey focused on his playing, enjoying the worship as the singers and those in attendance lifted up their voices.
“Experiencing New Life praise and worship is always pretty good, but there is just something different about it when you play for it,” Trey says. “In my case, it feels like I get to express my worship through my playing, and this helps other people get in the mood to worship.”
The praise time continued, moving into “Victory is Mine” and then “In the Name of Jesus.” Members of the congregation lifted their hands in praise as Trey and the others played the opening notes to “Oh Lord, How Excellent.”
“Playing for New Life one last time felt almost nostalgic,” Trey reflects. “I remember thinking how nice it was to be playing my last service in the Howard Center and how good it felt to see the audience standing up and worshipping as well. It’s always good to see the impact music has on the audience during praise and worship.”
The song service ended with a moving rendition of “Hallelujah, Salvation and Glory.” As the singers left the stage, the speaker walked on, inviting the crowd to stand and join hands. He read a passage from the book of Esther and began to talk about seasons of life. “It’s true that this might not be your season,” he explained. “The reality of the matter is that some of us will have to go through a little bit of hardship for just a little longer . . . but the good news is that no season lasts forever.”
For Trey, his season at Andrews University would end when he graduated the very next day with his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Years ago, he had decided to attend Andrews because he was interested in meeting new people from different cultures, he hoped to grow in his relationship with God through the Andrews experience, and because of the snow!
“I heard it snowed over here all the time. As a Bahamian boy who’s never seen snow, that was a very enticing reason,” he recalls.
While at Andrews, Trey continued in his love for music by playing for the Deliverance Mass Choir (DMC) and for the Black Student Christian Forum’s Impact vespers.
In addition to playing music, Trey also enjoyed other extracurricular activities. “My favorite and most memorable non-music extracurricular activity was doing the Passion Play my freshman year,” he recalls. “It was really tiring but really fun and I would’ve done it again.”
During his junior year, Trey tried out for a spot as a New Life musician and didn’t make the cut. Prior to this, Trey had only played for New Life as part of the DMC Band and had been hoping to play regularly for New Life. However, during his senior year the music director decided to give him a chance to play. Since then he has played whenever the music director asks him to.
“Music is really important when it comes to worship, in my opinion,” says Trey. “New Life doesn’t necessarily have one specific band, so jamming out with different musicians was always fun and was a great way to make new connections and friends!”
His experiences at New Life taught Trey several things, but especially dedication. “I had to be dedicated to learn the New Life songs in the week and then wake up early on the Sabbath mornings I was playing so I could move and set up the very heavy instruments.”
“Playing at New Life also ensures that I am in church, and since I’m there, I listen to the sermons which usually impact me one way or the other,” he states. “Overall, New Life was most definitely a commitment for me — a joyous one though.”
As the sermon ended, Trey and the other musicians began to play softly, and the congregation stood in worship for the closing song: “You are the source of my strength, You are the strength of my life, I lift my hands in total praise to you.”
The graduation Sabbath service came to an end as the final notes of “Amen” rang out.
Although Trey has completed his time at Andrews, he will continue to find ways to be involved in music. He loves getting into the moment when he plays and always hopes that what he plays will make someone’s day a little better, even if only briefly. “Music is my way of expressing my feelings, expressing what I can’t or just don’t want to say,” he says.
After graduation, Trey plans to play in his local church and work with music software to broaden his skills at making tracks and beats. He also is interested in learning to play the bass guitar.
His advice to others who like music is, “Practice constantly and try to get yourself out there. Try playing music whether it be in church, a small band or anything. Music is a great way to connect and make friends.”
Trey also recognizes God’s hand in his time at Andrews. “God has been leading throughout my life at Andrews, just based on the people I interact with and friends I’ve made. He’s put them in my life to help guide me. Even though it’s pretty scary going off and trying to be an adult now, I’m ready to face the next chapter in life. God hasn’t led me down the wrong path yet, so I know I’ll be fine no matter how He chooses to lead me.”
Hannah Gallant, University Communication student writer