She's got the music in her
That was the path God chose for her, the McMinnville native said.
“I’m blessed to have a beautiful voice God gave me,” she explained. “Everything I do is for him.
“Singing is just part of me,” continued Mayo, who is preparing to make her first gospel recording. “I love that I’m able to communicate with people with my voice, that people say it blesses them and uplifts them.”
She started singing before she could really talk, vocalizing with her mother or harmonizing along with her father’s Styx records. She especially loved “Come Sail Away” and the National Anthem.
From childhood, she pursued the dream doggedly, taking part in school music classes and musical theater, singing the anthem at rodeos and other events and studying music with her friends, the Humlies, whom she calls “my extended family.”
Petra Humlie Bolton and other family members set an example for her voice training, she said. As a teen, she joined the Humlies in their performances at McMinnville fireworks shows.
She paired up several times with Joshua Humlie to enter talent contests at the Yamhill County Fair. They qualified to advance to the Oregon State Fair.
At 9, she became a student of vocal teacher Carleen Minor. She took part in Minor’s music camps and the annual singing competition Minor hosted at the McMinnville Community Center. Minor also encouraged her to enter other fair talent shows, so she competed in Polk and Marion counties, too.
All of this musical training and performing kept Mathews busy, but her parents, Ken and Cheryl Mayo, were always supportive, she said. “They don’t do music themselves, but they ingrained it in me,” adding that her mother sang to her as a child, even before she was born.
In addition to her musical studies, Mathews attended Bethel Christian School and the McMinnville Adventist Academy as a child.
For high school, she chose Western Mennonite. While some of her classmates boarded at the school south of Dayton, she lived at home and commuted daily.
She was involved in all of Western Mennonite’s music programs, including the Western Singers vocal group. She was part of the group’s tour of Europe — an eye-opening, fulfilling experience for a high school student, she said.
After graduating in 2009, Mathews enrolled as a psychology major at church-afilliated Seattle Pacific University.
She wasn’t abandoning her dreams for a music career, she said. She just believed psychology would be “a good backup plan.”
“I have a heart for counseling,” the 2013 graduate said.
During college, she continued her involvement in music and became part of SPU’s Worship Arts Ensemble, which provides music for chapel services and other events.
She also joined SPU’s gospel choir. There she met her future husband, Sam Mathews, an SPU graduate who still played drums for the group.
Sam, whom she married 2 1/2 years ago, is a professional session musician. He also joins other artists for live gigs, writes commercial jingles, produces music for others and provides sound engineering services.
He was already familiar with McMinnville, having played drums here with Christian artist Bryan Duncan, who has been a guest at the Nazarene Church on the Hill. His knowledge of her hometown helped spark their first conversation.
In addition to meeting Sam in the gospel choir, Mathews found her musical niche there. “This is where my voice fits,” she realized.
Gospel lets her combine the power singing she had learned for musical theater with the feelings and emotions of her deep-seated faith. All her training had been leading up to it, she said.
“God had a plan,” she said.
Gospel music is based on the old spirituals that had been passed orally down from one generation to the next. The traditional music was combined with blues and jazz and instrumentation was added to create the gospel genre of today.
“Gospel shares the good news of Christ’s coming,” Mathews said. “It lets us express how grateful we are for the things God has done. It brings people together and helps us relate to God and each other.”
Music in general, and gospel in particular, is the perfect vehicle for overcoming barriers, she said. And the need has been weighing heavily on Mathews’ heart, especially since she met her husband, who is African American.
At his side, she said, she has witnessed how much prejudice and segregation still exist. “If we all believe in one God, why are we so segregated?” she asked.
Starla Pointer, who is convinced everyone has an interesting story to tell, has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. She’s always looking for suggestions. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHARING THE GOSPEL TRADITION
Musicians Sam and Brianne (Mayo) Mathews live in Washington, but frequently return to her hometown of McMinnville.
They visit her parents, Ken and Cheryl Mayo, and sister, Maddie Mayo. Maddie is a senior at McMinnville High School and a member of musical groups there, including the Twilighters.
On a visit in March, the Mathewses taught a gospel music workshop in Robin Pederson's Symphonic Choir class at Mac High. They also sang and taught gospel songs on a Sunday at Coastal Hills Church.
"Gospel music is an oral tradition, about carrying it on from one person to the next," Brianne Mathews said.
Now back home in Federal Way, she is preparing for a set of concerts marking the beginning of a planned career as a gospel singer. They are set for 3 and 7 p.m. May 3 at the Experience Church in Puyallup, Wash.
More information can be found at www.experiencegospel.com.
Mathews and several other gospel artists also are raising funds to put together a joint album. They are using the indiegogo.com crowd source funding site to gather pledges toward their goal of $6,500 apiece, at total of $65,000, which will cover not only recording and mastering the album, but also promoting it.
Her fundraising page can be found at http://igg.me/at/gospelmusicmovesme/x/5780413 .