Harmony of Words, Faith, and Action: The Multifaceted Journey of Author, Gospel Artist, and Community Activist Tommy McGuffey


A musician at heart, Tommy's initial venture into community service began in his church, eventually leading him to the role of Minister of Music at prominent churches in Dayton, culminating in the creation of Tommy McGuffey & True Worship, a group he founded, wrote for, and developed. They’ve graced local stages and shared their musical ministry nationally, performing alongside Gospel giants such as Dorinda Clark-Cole, VaShawn Mitchell, Anita Wilson, Tonya Baker, and other gospel luminaries. Tommy's influence in the Gospel music scene extends beyond performing; he continues serving as an adjunct instructor and collaborative pianist at the University of Dayton, a mentor/coach for emerging artists, and a sought-after lecturer across the country. His impactful music ministry projects, "The Declaration" (2016) and "Faze2: The Shift" (2019), along with his book "The Call: A Musical Guide Into the Urban Church," solidify his status as a force in contemporary Gospel music. Beyond music, Tommy's community involvement has been woven into Dayton's social tapestry with roles at the United Way of Greater Dayton, PACE, Boys & Girls Club of Dayton, Omega CDC, Capital Health Care, and Communicare where he’s implemented programs for college readiness, gun prevention, volunteer mobilization, transitional housing, and other initiatives.  Tommy has raised funds for organizations like March of Dimes, Kettering Medical Center Foundation, and scholarships for The Sigma Light Foundation. A licensed minister at the Gateway Cathedral Church of God In Christ, Tommy serves under the tutelage of Pastor Elder Norman J. Scearce, III. Within Nu Phi Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated, he has held various leadership roles; locally and statewide, while serving as Treasurer for the Montgomery County National Pan-Hellenic Council. Tommy also serves as an advisory board member for Sharing Ministries, LLC, and contributed a term to the Trotwood Planning & Zoning Board and other community organizations.

What inspired you to pursue gospel music?

Tommy McGuffey: Alright, let me take you back to how this Gospel Music journey started for me. It's funny, actually. I was this little kid banging away on pots and pans like a one-person band. And you know what? My parents saw something in that chaos and decided to send me to an arts school to explore my musical talents further. That's where I started—learning different instruments, singing, you name it. Now, picture this: my mom barging into my room out of the blue, belting out a tune, and telling me to accompany her on the piano. Talk about impromptu jam sessions! But hey, it helped me learn to play on the spot, especially for soloists at church. As I got older, my dad ensured I had the resources to hone my skills even more. He'd foot the bill for my music lessons, investing in my passion for music. And let me tell you, the church was like my training ground. I'd soak up everything I learned there and apply it to my music journey. But seeing folks from my hometown making waves in the Gospel Music scene really pushed me to step out as an artist. For example, seeing Tonya Baker live was a game-changer. Then, there were incredible ministers like Davon Goode, Josh Washington, Stevin Crane, and Valaree Draine, each with their own unique groups and original music. It was like a light bulb went off—I realized there was more I could do with my talents. So, after some soul-searching and a heart-to-heart with my pastor, I took the leap and embarked on this journey. And let me tell you, it's been a ride! God's been right there with me every step of the way, guiding me and opening doors I never knew existed.

You have graced the stage with Gospel giants such as Dorinda Clark-Cole, VaShawn Mitchell, Anita Wilson, and Tonya Baker. What was your most memorable session?

Tommy McGuffey: Oh, let me tell you about all those incredible moments and other favorable moments I've had with some amazing artists! From Anita Wilson to Chrystal Rucker, Myron Butler, Amante Lacey, and plenty more, each experience has been a treasure. Honestly, I can't even begin to pick a favorite because they've all been so special. Just being able to share the stage with any of these artists is such a humbling honor. Each time has left a lasting impression and filled me with gratitude. Moments like these remind me why I love what I do.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced in your career?Tommy McGuffey: When I think back on it, one of the biggest challenges I faced in this industry was right at the start of my journey. Coming from a place like Dayton, Ohio, where the entertainment scene isn't as bustling as in major cities, presented its unique set of obstacles. Unlike some born into musical families or from larger, more well-known churches, I didn't have those automatic connections or platforms. I had to hustle and create opportunities for myself from scratch. It meant seeking unconventional avenues to showcase my talent and get noticed by the public. Building a name for myself wasn't just about talent but strategy and networking. I had to proactively reach out and form connections with people in various facets of the music industry, whether it was promoters, managers, church leaders, or fellow musicians. It was about finding those individuals who believed in my talent and were willing to help me get my foot in the door. Let me tell you, it wasn't easy. It took persistence, resilience, and a whole lot of faith. But with each step forward, I learned something new and grew stronger in my resolve. It's been a journey of ups and downs, taking risks and seizing opportunities, but looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way. Every challenge I faced, every roadblock I encountered, only made me more determined to succeed. So, starting out in this industry was tough, but it's also been incredibly rewarding. It taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, and building genuine relationships. And while the journey isn't over, I'm proud of how far I've come and excited for what lies ahead.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work?

Tommy McGuffey: You know, when it comes to my music, I draw inspiration from all sorts of genres. It's kind of like a melting pot of influences. Fun fact: few people know that I have a background in classical music and have dabbled in jazz, too. Pretty cool, right? What I love most is being able to blend all these different musical experiences into my own compositions. It's like adding spices to a recipe—it takes things to a whole new level. Let's talk about some legends who've left their mark on my work. First, we've got Donald Lawrence, Kurt Carr, and Richard Smallwood—these guys are like the holy trinity of Gospel Music. Their work is just next-level, from their writing to their knack for bringing out the best in singers. And then there's Quincy Jones. I mean, come on—who isn't a fan? Especially back in the day when he was tearing it up on the trumpet. The man's a musical genius, no doubt about it. His ability to manipulate voices, create mind-blowing harmonies, and pull out unique sounds from singers is mind-boggling. So yeah, these legends have definitely shaped my music in ways I can't even begin to describe. It's like having a master class in music every time I listen to their work.

What inspires you to continue pushing boundaries?

Tommy McGuffey: When it comes to pushing past my limits, there are so many things and people that fuel my drive. One big thing for me is stepping out of my comfort zone and diving into different conferences, workshops, and musical platforms. These experiences opened my eyes to new ways of putting on concerts and services, sparking my innovative spirit. I've had some pretty cool opportunities to perform in places like the Hard Rock Cafe, cozy coffee houses, and even at unexpected spots like bowling alleys. I'm all about breaking out of the traditional church walls and reaching people in unexpected places. But hey, let's not get into that whole discussion right now. I'm also big on challenging myself to think outside the box musically. I'm constantly pushing myself to go beyond what I'm used to hearing and creating something fresh and unique with each composition. It's all about raising the bar and keeping those creative juices flowing, you know? Oh, and let's not forget about the power of TV shows! I've learned so much from watching behind-the-scenes glimpses of the industry, like the Mary Mary television show. Those early seasons were gold, showing the ins and outs of touring, studio sessions, and dropping all kinds of wisdom for artists like me to soak up and apply to our musical journeys.

How do you balance your personal and professional life?

Tommy McGuffey: Finding a balance between personal and professional life can be a real juggling act. And let's not even get started on all the little sub-categories within each area—talk about a challenge. But hey, most days, it feels like I'm rocking the professional vibe from morning to night. Still, I've learned to sneak in a few minutes here and there for some personal time, even if it's just chilling out and doing absolutely nothing. It's all about finding those little pockets of me-time, right? I've been making a conscious effort to prioritize self-care and taking moments to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. But don't get it twisted—I'm still putting in the hard work and hustling like nobody's business. It's all about finding that sweet spot between grinding and taking a breather.

Can you give us a glimpse into what's next for you?

Tommy McGuffey: So, what's on the horizon for me? Well, let me spill the beans a bit. I've got a couple of projects in the works that I'm super excited about. First, I'm thrilled to announce that I'm diving into my second book—a 14-day devotional guide. It's all about spreading positive vibes, and I aim to drop it this summer, so keep your eyes peeled. But wait, there's more! My crew and I are cooking up something special, too. We're gearing up to release our third album later this summer. And let me tell you, it's gonna be a game-changer. We're all about pushing boundaries and bringing something fresh to the table. And hey, that's not all I've got up my sleeve. I've got a few other top-secret projects in the works, too. Can't spill all the beans just yet, but let's just say there's some new music, new books, and a whole lot more goodness coming your way. Oh, and mark your calendars because 2025 is going to be a big year for my crew, Tommy McGuffey & True Worship. We're hitting that 15-year mark, and you better believe we're planning one heck of a celebration. So yeah, stay tuned—it's going to be epic!