T-Ray The Violinist
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T-Ray The Violinist

New Orleans, LA | Established. Jan 01, 2006 | SELF

New Orleans, LA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2006
Band R&B Funk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"T-Ray The Violinist: Taking Life By The Strings"

T-Ray the Violinist: Taking Life by the Strings
By Stylist B.
Completing an International Tour in London, locking in Jazz Fest, finishing up his Debut Album “Realization of Self” all while continuously touring for his Promo tour “House of Dreams” and booking ongoing gigs locally, within the states and even outside of the US, T-Ray the Violinist is most definitely Taking Life by the Strings. It’s hard to believe it was only May 2014 that T-Ray made the decision to become a full time artist and diligently pursue his career as a professional violinist. A decision fate had been setting him up to make since as early as grade school.
Although varying from year to year, elementary schools offer a wide spectrum of extracurricular activities ranging from Sports, to Chess Club, to Drama, and Dance. However, as wide as the selection may be, statistically it’s uncommon for students to be offered violin. So, when T-Ray’s school, Mayfair Elementary only offered one activity and it just so happened to be violin, one can’t help but believe that maybe it was fate. Fate or not, it was definitely the beginning of a new found passion as T-Ray continued to play the violin up until 6th grade.
In 7th and 8th grade, he decided to put down the violin and pick up the trumpet. Upon entering high school, he ceased all instruments to entertain the idea of going pro. Thankfully, in the 10th grade, Shaun Ward his best friend and son of renowned Jazz Violinist Michael Ward gave him a copy of his father’s album.
“Listening to Michael Ward’s album was life changing for me. I couldn’t even fully comprehend what I was hearing, automatically expecting classical music to escape my speakers. Instead, this man was playing contemporary Jazz on the violin. Songs that I knew and loved were coming from an instrument I never even considered could produce them. That’s when it all clicked for me.” Continuing to relive the moments of listening to the album, T-Ray confessed, “I used to sit in my room and listen to the CD over and over again learning to play everything on it.” Dreams of going Pro quickly vanished as he made the conscious choice to pursue violin in a whole new way. Though surely missed by the NFL, it was clear that T-Ray would be setting out for a league of his own within music creating an experimental sound like none other.
With renewed interest, T-Ray desired to be a greater, better musician. After a field trip his high school took to New Orleans to visit different schools, he knew exactly where he needed to be in order to accomplish that. The Baton Rouge native decided to audition for New Orleans Center of Creative Arts (NOCCA) and was accepted. He commuted from Baton Rouge to New Orleans for NOCCA’s weekend/summer program throughout junior and senior year.
“Attending NOCCA was a privileged opportunity. I got to work with the likes of Adonis Rose, Michael Pellera, Herman Lebeaux, Michael Rihner and Alvin Batiste. Being taught by amazing instructors, who were professionally doing what I was aiming to do, made me work harder and want it more. To be somewhere where Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis and so many other great people were alumni makes you believe greatness is your only option. They were proof it was possible! I left NOCCA a better, more knowledgeable musician with even greater determination.”
That knowledge and determination landed him a full scholarship at the University of New Orleans in Jazz Studies. T-Ray continued to push himself as he began to receive private lessons his freshmen year of college. In addition to training, he started to gain more and more experience performing throughout the city. “I was always doing shows here and there. Playing at festivals, open mic nights, etcetera … If they listened, I played.”
After graduating in Music Education, T-Ray worked in St. Tammany parish schools for almost 2 years teaching string instruments. He also signed on to work with an after school program called Make Music NOLA. While teaching, he continued to play gigs gaining him more exposure and notoriety. He even diversified his stage landing a role in the play “Hip Hop is Alive” by DaVida Chanel. An experience that segued into a collaborative effort with a college friend and cast mate DJ RQAway for the creation of the group called “Progressive Existence”. The group focuses on the experimentation of DJ and instrument creating cohesive music. Its development came about after a conversation he and DJ RQAway had while touring in Atlanta with the stage play.
“While on tour in Atlanta, we had a conversation about the state of music. We discussed the music scene and the direction music was going. Progressive Existence came from the idea of artists working together and thinking progressively. It was a way of ensuring no artist got stuck in a trend or any particular style.”
T-Ray had a full schedule teaching as well as performing as a solo artist and as a duo within Progressive Existence. As performance opportunities increased, his ability to balance teaching what he loved versus doing what he loved decreased, resulting in missed opportunities. It all came to a head when he was unable to play at the French Quarter Fest 2014 because of his teaching obligations.
“There was a lot of internal back and forth. For about 5 months, I went through a phase of questioning whether I would return to teach the next year. Teaching was not what I saw myself doing for the next 30 years. … One day I was driving on the twin span headed to work and right before exiting, I randomly turn on the radio. Steve Harvey was closing out his show with final thoughts. Paraphrasing, he said, if you’re a dreamer and you’re afraid to jump off the cliff, you’ll never jump. But if you aren’t afraid and you do jump, you may skin your knee, hit some rocks or have to jump again, but eventually, you’ll soar. That resonated within me. I knew I Trenton Ray Thomas would not fail.” Inspired to give his all in what he believed in, T-Ray quit working in St. Tammany parish and completely committed to his craft.
Opening for Big Freedia at Voodoo Fest, accomplishing his first tour at the close of 2014, completing his London international “Fish and Chips Tour” via Progressive Existence with DJ RQAway at the top of 2015 and continuing to travel and gig nonstop, while teaming up with some of the industry’s most notable artists, T-Ray continues to take life by the strings.
The multi-instrumentalist has already begun to infuse his music into the world of film, television, and new media production. Of course, this is only the beginning as he plans to expand his company T-Ray Productions, LLC creating a full production house with production studio and rehearsal space. His goal is to become an innovative music producer partnering with amazing artists across genres.
Perfecting a distinctive fusion of RnB, Jazz, Hip Hop and occasionally House/Eclectic, leader of experimental sound “T-Ray the Violinist” continues to forge his own path making it obvious to anyone listening that his strings has no limit!

“I was inspired by my predecessors and now I want to encourage the next generation. I push the boundaries with my music because I believe there are no boundaries. Anything you want to do, you can do! That’s my message, that’s what you’ll hear in my music.”
~ Trenton “T-Ray” Thomas - Breakthru Media Magazine

"Q & Album: T-Ray The Violinist"

Q&Album: T-Ray the Violinist

Trenton Thomas, aka T-Ray the Violinist, has been shaking up the New Orleans music scene since 2006 with his eclectic mix of jazz, house, and RnB melodies. Thomas first learned the violin at a young age, and has since adapted it to genres not often associated with the classical instrument. We spoke with Thomas about his exploration of experimentation, his latest release, House of Dreams, and how audiences respond to his unique sound.

Can you talk about your background and when you started playing the violin professionally?
I started in elementary school, but had a slight hiatus from it during middle school. I got back into it during my sophomore year of high school, and that was in 2003…so consistently about thirteen years…I’m originally from Baton Rouge. I moved here in 2006 after Katrina, and started studying music at the University of New Orleans. I finished there in 2012 in music education.
Do you teach full time?
I was teaching full-time for two years after I finished at UNO, but then I decided to step away from teaching full-time to play full-time. I’m still involved with a program called Make Music Nola.
Did you originally learn classical theory, or was it a more modern approach to violin?
There wasn’t really any theory. Actually, to be honest, I didn’t really start learning about theory until high school. I’m a [2006] graduate of NOCCA, I was able to go there my junior and senior year of high school. But yeah, early on in elementary school…it was classical stuff, I guess you could say. But I had never been exposed to playing more contemporary styles of music, or even jazz, until I got into high school. My orchestra director was a jazz bassist, so that was how I got my formal introduction to jazz, and that was it for me. I was like, “Okay, this is what I wanna do.”
Was it difficult to break into the jazz music playing the violin?
For me, it felt more natural. But at NOCCA, I was the only violin in the jazz program. That was kind of a shock for me, and I guess a shock for the jazz program…I think people were very accepting of it, because it was different at the time. It was something that was intriguing for the sound. For me, I think that every instrument has a voice. No matter what type of music you’re playing, no matter what genre, no matter what situation—that instrument can have whatever voice it chooses. People often associate the trumpet with second lines, brass bands, and jazz music, but there all these different things you can do with a particular kind of instrument. For me, at first was something that was new, and as I’ve continued playing over the years, my confidence has grown. My embrace of my own instrument has been tremendous.
Have crowds responded well to seeing this?
Yeah, people definitely respond well. For some people, I think they’re like, “What is going on? This is way different from what I’m used to seeing from a violin.” As a matter of fact, here’s an example: I had a show in Baton Rouge, I was the feature act a couple weeks ago. They wanted me to do a whole hour set straight through…I knew some people would be familiar with my work, but there was also a group of people who had never seen the violin used in the context that I use it in for my performance. I said, “I think it would be better to split it into two thirty-minute sets. That way, it will be easier for people to digest a little bit at a time.” I kind of still deal with that, but I’m working towards the level where I can do a whole show, and everybody is rocking out.
Can you talk about The House of Dreams, and where the idea came from?
It was kind of a conceptual thing. I just recently, within the last couple years, started getting into house music…I ended up going on a tour in Europe, and I know that house music is a really big thing over there, or even just eclectic music in general. It kind of pushed me to put the project out and get it done. I’m very pleased with how the project turned out, as well. Just on my journey in life, house music kind of brought me out of a dark space. That’s kind of how everything came about. The process was very organic—the content of it, the tracks that I had made. It was all very organic…it all just kind of happened naturally.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m actually kind of working on my debut album now. It’s funny, I’ve been setting a timeline for the last two years…but just trying to maintain everything else and continuing to move forward [laughs] it just keeps kind of getting pushed back. I will say [it should be out] December, or early 2016 at the latest. I’m in the process of putting some live band shows together. I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time now, but it just had to be the right situation to make it happen. I think I’m at the point that that’s a possibility now.

The House of Dreams Preview

T-Ray the Violinist’s recent release is a complex blend of the musician’s favorite genres, most notably jazz and house music. It’s an interesting sonic mix, providing the listener with combinations not often heard from an artist, particular one relying so heavily on the violin. As Thomas admits, the sound can initially come as a shock, but audiences will quickly find out that there’s a method to T-Ray’s madness on The House of Dreams.
Sybil Shanell and Tarriona Tank Ball contribute vocals and poetry to two of the five tracks on Thomas’ release, and the collaborations fit in well with the overall album’s themes of loss, love, and escape. But it’s when T-Ray is allowed to shine on his own that The House of Dreams really comes together. His unusual melodic style stands out from the daunting array of New Orleans jazz artists, and although it may not be for everyone, it certainly makes for one-of-a-kind listening. The production values constrict T-Ray’s full potential, but that only leaves fans looking forward to his future experimental work. - Art+Design Magazine


Still working on that hot first release.