Stung when her pop career faltered, band director now shares powerful message of God’s grace
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
WINCHESTER, Ky. — Trish Torline had her path to stardom all planned out.
She’d been composing since middle school and recording since high school. And after graduating from the University of Kentucky with a music degree she headed to Los Angeles with a dream in her heart and 87 dollars in her pocket.
“From Day One, I wanted to go to L.A. and sing,” Torline remembers
God had different plans. Much different plans.
And now Torline, the band director at Campbell Junior High School in Winchester, is happy to minister to others with songs reflecting her journey with Christ. “I like to call myself a ‘musician-ary,'” she says.
While her road might not a dramatic sign from God, Torline’s ministry has undoubtedly had plenty of divine guidance.
“I moved to L.A. in 1986 and started meeting people,” says Torline, a native of Campbell County just outside Cincinnati. “Nothing materialized so I moved back to Kentucky in 1989. While I was out there, so many people said, ‘You ought to be in Nashville.’”
Those words went over about like Elton John playing the Grand Ole Opry.
“I was NOT a country music fan. I did not listen to country music,” she laughs while sipping coffee at The Cairn, a Winchester coffeehouse where she has played many times. “I thought country music was all twang.”
But with her dream stalling, Trish started listening to country music at a time when the neo-country movement, popularized by Garth Brooks and Randy Travis, was becoming trendy. “It was much different than I thought,” she remembers. “I had been told my music was not pop but much closer to country. My songs are very story-esque.”
She identified with Reba McEntire, Kathy Mattea and The Judds. “I became a huge Reba fan! I was going to be the next Reba,” laughs Trish, whose soulful voice and red hair would let her play that part.
But life called. She accepted a job teaching music in the Harrison County school system but was packing up her guitar for the three-hour drive to Nashville. She even got an opportunity to showcase at the famed Douglas Corner Cafe.
But by 1996, little was happening for her dream to come true. The aspiring singer moved to Clark County to for that junior high band director’s job. It was the next step the journey of God turning the sour end of a dream into the sweetness of a ministry that has been touching lives for more than 20 years.
“I had a position I was excited about,” she says. “I had been teaching general music in Harrison County but I always wanted to be a band director.”
What Trish didn’t know was God was about to use one of her close friends to prompt some serious soul searching. Why was stardom was not following someone who had the confidence to perform 30 minutes of her own compositions during an hour-long final exam at UK?
(Trish played trumpet for the exam but is proficient on several band and orchestra instruments as well as the guitar and piano.)
“The thing that got me, I was talking to a friend and I told her, ‘I can’t understand why you won’t come hear me sing.’ She said, one, she didn’t want to go to a bar and second, ‘You can sit here in my living room and sing.’”
Country music is said to be “Three Chords and the Truth,’ but in Trish Torline’s quest it was two words searching the truth.
“She asked why I was pursuing a career so I said, ‘I like to sing!’ She said, ‘Who’s listening?’”
Trish decided to find the answer for herself while singing at a club in Winchester. She and the band were rocking Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama when she says she “started singing nonsense words. Nothing. No one (in the audience) said a thing.”
She did it again when the band was cranking out Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll. The results were the same.
“During a break, the band said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said it was just an experiment but from that time, a sour taste got a little more sour. I realized (her friend) was right.”
Meanwhile after embarking on a new direction in her career, a school secretary invited Trish to visit her Calvary Christian Church in Winchester where the secretary’s son was an associate pastor. She quickly found a church home and as word got out that she was a band director and musician, Trish was showered with encouragement to use those talents for God’s Kingdom.
“I started listening to some Christian music,” Trish remembers. “The associate pastor gave me a copy of Kathy Troccoli’s ‘Corner of Eden.’”
And Trish found her calling in writing faith-based music a few months later. She released her first CD, “Stand,” in 2001. Ten years later, she released, “Live, Laugh, Love.” In her liner notes, Trish says the title track from the CD is dedicated to her students. Other cuts deal with depression (“Grace Through the Gray”) and trying to see others as Jesus sees them (“In His Sight”).
It’s pure ministry. There are no dates in huge arenas in Trish Torline’s datebook. And she seems content with singing for churches and women’s groups.
Most importantly, people listen.
She occasionally gets called to sing in other settings and had the privilege of opening for The Martin Family Circus, now known as Rockland Road, at a concert in Winchester.
It’s not a star’s life. As a junior high school teacher, she deals with the whims and unique needs of 12- to 15-year-old kids every day. She tries to be a difference in their lives, even though laws prevent her from active evangelism. “They can see Jesus in your actions, in how you speak and in your character,” she says.
And when given the opportunity, the musician-ary hits the road. Her bookings are usually in central Kentucky, but she’s gone as far away as far northern Indiana. “To me, this is a ministry. I give away far more CDs than I can sell,” she laughs.
The musician-ary’s testimony is of God working in her life and the lives of others. Her simple prayer for others is found in the final cut of her second CD: “May God do a mighty work in your life.”
For booking information see trishtorline.com or visit Trish Torline Music on Facebook.