As part of its recent effort to become a regional venue for Christian music, Christ Community Church in State College will host its first concert on July 23, featuring the band I Am They.
Hailing from Carson City, Nev., I Am They has roots as a worship team based out of a community of various area churches. The band’s six-piece sound is propelled by versatile musicianship and anchored by three-part vocal harmonies.
Matthew Hein is the vocalist and guitarist for I Am They, and while his musical influences are diverse, they all began in Christian music — with heroes like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman and D.C. Talk, just to name a few.
“Growing up, both my parents played and encouraged me to listen to and play music,” he said. “I went through middle school and high school as a percussionist in orchestra, marching band and jazz band, then I later picked up guitar.”
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According to Hein, I Am They was never intended to be a band, per se. Their story began as a worship ministry for their local community, which came to be known as “Solomon’s Porch.” The ministry began in October 2008 with Hein and his friend Adam, with whom he had been writing and playing guitars since they met in August 2004.
“We were asked to play a mini-concert at Carson City Calvary Chapel — playing originals we had written, which were mostly secular pop-jazz and acoustic love songs,” he said. “Instead of playing our own songs, we decided to reach out to some of the local churches to pull together enough bandmates to host a night of worship for the community.”
The band at that point consisted of six members from five churches and was well received by the community.
“We then asked those in attendance if they would want to keep the event going — and so we did,” Hein said. “And so began the ministry of ‘Solomon’s Porch’ — a two to three hourlong set of our favorite worship songs.”
Within a few years of performing across the country, the group signed a record deal with Sony/Provident in 2013. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in January 2015. Since the album’s release, they have spent a good amount of time on the road.
“God has been faithful to use the songs and ministry of I Am They — not because we have aimed at some form of success, but because our aim has been faithfulness to a calling,” Hein said. “I guess for us it’s a career of sorts, but it’s more a calling.”
As a fairly new group, it’s sometimes hard for the band to fill an entire time slot with its own songs. But it ends up working to the band’s advantage, as they have the opportunity to mix in some of their favorite worship anthems.
“These songs have ministered to us, and they are messages we feel are important for the church to lift up,” Hein said. “So whether we sing our own songs or not, we feel God has called us to be unifiers in and for the body of Christ.”
Jack Galloway serves as concert promoter at Christ Community Church. He has known Christ Community Church Pastor Mitch Smith for 25 years.
In July 2012, Galloway was set back with an illness that nearly took his life — an experience that left him searching for more.
“God laid it on my heart to watch a movie called ‘God’s Not Dead,’ which hit the core of my spirit,” he said. “At the end of the movie a band called the Newsboys spoke and performed — it touched my heart.”
The next day, Galloway searched online for the Newsboys and purchased two tickets to see them perform at Lehigh the next night — not knowing the course it would lead him on.
“My son Seth and I went to see what this was all about,” he said. “During a very emotional song, ‘We Believe,’ I gave my heart to Christ. Since then I’ve gone to Christian concerts almost every week over the last three years.”
Galloway has worked with Smith and others toward the goal of bringing Christian concerts to the church, and slated I Am They as the first concert.
“We were blessed to see I Am They at Uprise Festival last year playing before 20,000 plus,” Galloway said. “I contacted their agent in Nashville and we set the date back in January.”
On Oct. 9, Christ Community Church will host Phil Wickham’s “Children of God” Tour with Stars Go Dim and Micah Tyler. Wickham is one of the top Christian artists in the country and has released a new album titled “Children of God.”
“We will have 1,000 seats available for this event and our new audio and visual system will be installed,” Galloway said. “We have visions of bands like Casting Crowns, Newsboys, For King and Country and Mercy Me in the near future.”
IF YOU GO
- What: I Am They
- When: 7 p.m. July 23
- Where: Christ Community Church, 200 Ellis Place, State College
- Info: www.iamtheyband .com