South Bend Tribune
South Bend, Indiana
December 08,2005
Many Thanks to Ida Chipman for graciously allowing us to reproduce this article.

Thomas Boys, choir director of the First United Methodist Church, leads the 34- member group in song.

Tribune Photo/IDA CHIPMAN

Music makes everything better

Tribune Correspondent

PLYMOUTH -- He can play any musical instrument, he said, "although I struggle a little on the reeds."

Thomas Boys, 37, youngest of Mike and Joanne's five kids, always had an ear for music.

His mother tells how, when he was 3 years old, Thomas got out all of the Christmas cards, laid them on the floor and made up little songs about each one.

When growing up, he took piano lessons from Clara Woolley and from his cousin, Bill Tanner, but mostly he learned by ear.

Two of his brothers, Sam and Ben, are musicians, and the three of them often played together.

His greatest influence was a former Plymouth High School band director, Dick Benefiel.

"From the eighth grade on, 'Mr. B.' was my mentor," Thomas said. "He encouraged me and taught me a lot of what I use now in directing. I will always be grateful to him for what he gave me."

Thomas played trumpet in the jazz, marching and symphonic bands in high school.

He graduated from PHS in 1986. At a band picnic, toward the end of his senior year, he and a group of friends -- Mark Glodowski, Greg Huss, Ed McDermott, Doug Ruff and Dave Tanner -- formed the rock band, Straightaway.

One of their gigs was traveling the state that summer on a bus tour for the Republican party. "We were called The Generators. Beth Bowen named us," Thomas said. "We had a great time. Straightaway is still going, although Dave Tanner is the only original member left."

Thomas spent the next four years in school -- a year at Vincennes University in a law enforcement curriculum and a year at IUSB. He transferred to Ball State University to study music theory and composition. While there, he sang tenor with the Statesmen, the school men's choir, and, for three years, directed the St. Andrew Presbyterian Church Choir.

He served as choir director of the Pretty Lake United Methodist Church when he was living at home.

In the 1990s, he worked several jobs. He managed Gippers in the Holiday Inn in Roseland and for three years was the manager of Christo's Family Dining in Plymouth.

For the past 5 2 years, he has been a satellite installer and technician for the Apex Digital Direct TV company.

Last summer, Thomas and his wife, Holly, were divorced. They have three children: Karastan, 7, Johrdon, 5, and Johnston, 2.

For three years, Thomas was involved with the contemporary Wednesday night service at the First United Methodist Church in Plymouth. All along the way, ever since he was a teen, he has composed music: all kinds, spiritual as well as modern pieces.

When the position of choir director became vacant with the resignation of Tricia Witmer, he was invited to apply for the job.

"I had recently become a single parent," he said, "and with that hole left in my heart, I felt the timing was divine intervention."

After much prayer and consideration, Thomas came to understand that "God was there to fill that void and that I was being called to accept the opportunity for music ministry."

Bonnie Yeazel, a longtime choir member, said of Thomas' leadership, "He makes us sound wonderful. He brings beautiful music out of us."

The Rev. Dean Fager, pastor of the church, said, "Thomas weds musical talent and faith in a way that energizes our chancel choir.

"He does not have to talk about what he believes. It wells up from within him; you see it in his face and in his actions.

"I have the highest respect for Thomas as a person, not to mention the way in which he has raised the caliber of choral music at First United Methodist Church."

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