ISAIAH D. THOMAS
Worship leader, music producer, composer, lyricist, musician, singer. And husband and father, too. Not only does Isaiah D. Thomas bring a host of talents in his mission to Christ, he has been following his calling for most of his life.
“At age ten, I was playing piano for the church choir,” Thomas reveals. “By the time I was 14, I was teaching songs to the choir, and playing for the service.” Thomas’s father, now a bishop, was pastor of the Bibleway Church in Washington, D.C. “We had church every night. I would study and do my homework in church. My dad was always encouraging me in music. When I was hitting the wrong keys, he’d say, ‘You’re doing great.’”
So great, that at the age of 19, Thomas was minister of music at Cornerstone Peace Bible Church, in Washington, where he not only directed the choir but wrote songs for them to record two albums.
“I could not believe it the first time they played my song on the radio,” Thomas says. “Winston Chaney, still one of the most popular deejays in D.C. -- he was the first. He’s always been a major supporter, and has always pushed me. Before you know it, the song was all over the country. It was very humbling.”
Compared to composing, worship leading and playing, Thomas came to professional singing relatively late in life – at the age of 20. “I didn’t think I could sing,” Thomas says. “One day I had to go into the studio, and the singer didn’t show up. I thought we would have to cancel.” The engineer suggested, since they booked the time, that they should try it with Thomas. He was doubtful, but, “I sang … and I’ve been singing ever since. On the second album [for Cornerstone], I ended up singing lead on six songs.”
Thomas started writing songs when he was young, too. “I was writing at 13 or 14,” he says. “Some of the songs are funny to me now, but some of them I still play.” Much of his early renown came from writing – and producing – songs for other artists, including Gladys Knight, Dottie Peoples, The Williams Brothers and other Stellar and Dove winning artists.
In 2007, with his song “I Will Bless the Lord,” recorded by Byron Cage, Thomas won his first Stellar Award, for Song of the Year. The song also won the following year for “Most Played Gospel Song of the Year.” This time it was the BMI Christian Award.
Thomas also won the Stellar in 2008, with the group he founded, Elements of Praise, for Contemporary Choir of the Year. EOP, as it is known, is a unique gathering of dedicated Christian artists from around the nation’s capitol.
“Elements of Praise is a group of ministry-minded individuals that God has placed in my life,” says Thomas. “They are all very gifted artists in their own right. Twelve singers, derived from different churches, where they are all very active. Some are ministers in their own church. During a song, I could just throw the mike in the air and whoever catches it could minister the song as well or even better. It’s an honor to work with them.”
Many of the members of the group record in their own right, and Thomas produces many of their songs. That’s how he met them. “Musicians would come into town and ask me to help them put something together,” he says. “We started to work together. Now, it’s a family. God has cultivated this group of singers into something that I can’t do without.”
One of the group’s songs, “Said He Would Be With Me,” has had nearly 100,000 hits on YouTube. Says Thomas, “Everyone all over the country, whether we’re playing in Chicago or California or wherever knows that song. When we play it, they’re singing along. It’s very humbling.”
Elements of Praise’s album “I Dare You” is out in September, 2011, and prior to that, a song from the album, “Ain’t No Harm,” will be on the radio.
Thomas’s wife, Shalaundia, is also a member of Elements of Praise. “She’s the real singer in the family,” he reveals. “She is a natural born singer. She was already singing professionally when I met her.”
All three of their sons are gifted musicians as well. “Two of my sons played with me for the first time this summer,” in Hunt Valley, Maryland, at a church convention. “I was so happy for them. There were 1500 people in the audience, and most of them were youth,” Thomas says. “That was very inspiring for them, and I think the youth were inspired by them as well.”
As dedicated a father as Thomas is, he is also a dedicated son. The next album, coming out early in 2012, a live album, recorded in a church in Baltimore, is dedicated to his father. “It’s the most exciting record I’ve ever done,” Thomas says. “One song on it, ‘I Made It,’ my dad wrote. We’ll be singing the song together. I am dedicated the album to him. The whole album is his legacy.”
In addition to all of his other ministries, Thomas is Minister of Worship for New Macedonia Baptist Church. When asked how he balances his touring schedule with his duties there, Thomas is quick to praise the senior pastor, Rev. Patrick Walker. “Pastor Walker encourages me to minister abroad and not just to the local church,” he says. “It’s a great situation, to fulfill my dreams and minister around the country. I’m so blessed.”
By Nate Lee