Trey McLaughlin is the founder and director of The Sounds of Zamar who have performed alongside gospel greats and have broken into the Billboard Gospel Chart twice.
We were curious to know what drives his choir, and his skills as a choir director forward.
The skill-sets of choirs and conductors
What could solo singers learn from choir singing?
I wanna do away with a myth. Many singers who want a solo career think that singing well with others isn’t important. But musicianship is musicianship and it translates regardless whether you are singing solo or in a group.
Learning to listen and blend does not make you a terrible solo singer – it only makes you better because it improves your ear and expression. A solo singer is still working with other musicians or instrumental music, and so you have to learn to work with that to make something beautiful.
How have you refined your skills as a choir director?
I was born to be a choir director! I used to line my mum’s perfume bottles up on the dresser, and I would teach them their parts. Then I would play a tape and that would be the finished product after they all knew their parts.
To be a good choir conductor you have to explain things clearly and break things down so people can learn quickly. You then have to connect with the people you are teaching on a level beyond notes and rhythms.
Do you have a motto or philosophy when you are conducting a choir?
It’s not deep but whenever I teach a choir I teach them to say, “easy breezy”. That’s not to say the music is easy, but it’s about having a positive approach. If I think the choir is capable of the material I am giving them, it’s “easy breezy”. It means we can do this!
Creating a successful choir
What was the inception of The Sounds of Zamar (SOZ)?
I actually created the group for singing engagements after I left college. I’m kinda shy so I don’t like to go to things alone or perform by myself so I’d bring my friends along to sing background for me! After I started to teach them original arrangements we decided we should name this thing rather than just ‘Trey & Friends’.
When did SOZ start finding success?
The key moment was when I stopped doing what I thought people wanted to hear; when I stopped trying to be impressive and decided to be myself. We put out an original song on YouTube called ‘In Awe of You’ and it did incredibly well, better than all our other videos because I wasn’t trying to reach a target audience. It was just a great song and we had a great worship experience singing it.