• Roger W. Downes

How One Man Finds Symmetry In His Cherokee Culture And Christian Faith With His Music...

The story of Native American Music Award Nominee Matthew Tooni

"Complex," is a adjective some may use to describe Matthew Tooni (Tune-Eye) from Cherokee, North Carolina. I prefer the phrase "beautiful symmetry in motion" to paint a clearer image of this amazing musician, cultural historian, Cherokee Linguist and rising Baptist Preacher. Come to this about it he does seem a bit complex, but once you sit down and chat with Matthew his picture, just like focusing a camera on a subject, becomes clear.

What first grabbed my attention about him was he had already been nominated for a Native American Music Award for Flutist of the Year at only 32-years-old. When I asked him how he felt about that honor he humbly smiled and claimed it all started out as a favor to a friend who was in a bind for a flutist.

(Hear that story in Matthew's own words in the podcast below)

Listen as Matthew Tooni shares his story of culture and faith

Matthew had been a part of the cast for a summer production of an outdoor drama when the director asked him if he could play the flute. Matthew said he had one but it was more of a shelf piece than an instrument and he only picked it up occasionally to play it.

That was enough of a yes for the director who requested him to run home, grab his flute and learn the Gospel Hymn The Wayfaring Stranger for the production that night. That left Matthew with about four hours to memorize the fingerings and perform it live that night. As you can imagine the stress was intense that night at the performance but Matthew didn't disappoint and delivered the goods.

Since that defining trial by fire, he has followed the path God has put him on to use his new found love of playing the flute to share his Cherokee culture with others. He hasn't been alone however, as his family and friends have joined him in his special musical storytelling journey that produced the album Through Their Eyes Vol. 1, which you can download now from Amazon.

After producing his album he was encouraged to submit it for consideration to the Native American Music Awards where it gained him a nomination for Flutist of the Year. Matthew joked he didn't win the award because his fan base in Cherokee didn't read the fine print that required they vote in every category for their ballot to count.

Then Matthew shared a comment with me that left me puzzled, "Along with my story telling, I have been called by God to preach the Word."

"Wait, you share the Cherokee culture, tell the stories, and hold proudly to your heritage as you should, but you're going to leave it all behind to preach the Word of God? I thought the Cherokee culture conflicted with Christianity?" I asked politely.

Once again Matthew smile kindly and said, "Yes, it does. But I am willing to leave behind parts of my culture for salvation through Jesus Christ. I am not mad or upset about that fact because I love Jesus and He is calling me to preach His Word."

It was just that simple for Matthew, there was no looking back and he was ready to start saving every soul he could. It was then he started to preach to me in a friendly and loving tone about God and His expectations for our lives in faith. As I nodded in agreement I could feel my heart lift as Matthew answered some of the questions about my faith that I had been struggling with.

I didn't think when I sat down with him to talk about his musical accomplishments that I would find myself walking away spiritually refreshed and renewed. Isn't amazing how God finds a way for you to hear the answers that you have been searching for.

Take some time and hear Matthew's story in his own words in the Explore With RWD Podcast.


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