Finding harmony

MINOT, N.D. – In the world of college sports, where athletes work hard in training and competitions, a unique group of people can juggle sports challenges with other interests.

Maxwell Bray is not only a dedicated football player, but he also harbors a profound passion for music.

When asked about his journey to Minot State University, Bray shared his decision to come to the University was a calling. Recruited to play football from his hometown of Mesa, Arizona, a visit to the campus made him feel like a home away from home — a place where he could thrive academically and athletically.

"I chose Minot State because I simply felt called to this place,” he said. “I was recruited out here to play football, and after visiting here, I knew this would be a place I would thrive in. It felt like a home away from home; there are good people here; there is a reason they call it the Magic City.”

Majoring in elementary education, Bray has found a sense of purpose in his academic pursuits. However, his passion for music took root at the age of nine when he received a guitar from his grandmother, igniting a passion that would accompany him throughout his life. Music became the canvas on which he painted his emotions and crafted his narrative.

"My grandma gifted me a ‘First Act’ guitar. I spent years learning different instruments and crafting music, learning how they all blend," he said. "I later started to write poems and songs, which turned into producing music for the first time. Even as a kid, I walked with rhythm; none of that has gone away; I have never outgrown that part of me." 

Over the years, Bray honed his skills, drawing inspiration from artists like Toby Mac, MercyMe, Kings Kaleidoscope, and OLY. Their ability to intertwine awe-inspiring melodies with thought-provoking lyrics shaped his musical identity. Music, for him, is a powerful medium to convey real-life situations and convictions.

"I listened to a lot of music growing up. Some artists like Toby Mac, MercyMe, and the News Boys were artists that I always heard in my day-to-day life," he said. "But as I developed my sense and style of music, Kings Kaleidoscope, and OLY, have been the main artists influencing my sound. I want to be an artist that takes authentic situations and convictions of life and takes it to how I process best- through music." 

Amid football's time-consuming demands, Bray uses his sanctuary, a room transformed into a studio where the world's stresses melt away. It is where he finds solace and a chance to express himself through his music.

"As demanding as football can be sometimes, there is always time to slow down, do the things you love, and enjoy at least one day off," Bray said. "So, after those long days, it is nice to walk into a place of peace to clear my head from the distractions of the world." 

Drawing parallels between football and music, Bray emphasizes the importance of practice, intention, and communication in both. The discipline, rhythm, and teamwork ingrained in football directly translate into his approach.

"Practice makes perfect. And that is exactly it. The more you do something, the more you intend to do something, and the better you become. I always keep that in mind when I have a bad practice, or I am facing writer's block, and I feel stuck in my music," he said. "I must keep pressing forward, keeping my eye on the prize, and working towards something much bigger than myself. Without communication, collaboration, or feedback, how will I grow into the most influential person I can be?" 

While Bray envisions a future where music could become a career, he emphasizes the importance of a well-rounded education. His commitment to both his athletic and academic pursuits remain unwavering. He attributes his future to faith and trust, expressing a desire to follow the path that aligns with his gifts and convictions.

"I am not opposed to the idea of taking music as a career after college, but it is important for me to have a degree as well, and it is important for me to focus on my current tasks at hand. I know my future is already taken care of. Through a lot of prayer and a little bit of faith, I am trusting that the Lord will make a way for me in the things that I am gifted in! My desire is to do what God requires out of me," he said.

The emotional side of football finds its way into Bray's music. He shares insights into his spiritual journey through his compositions, using music to process the challenges and lessons learned on the football field.

"Football and my spiritual life are a lot connected in the many lessons that football gives, so when I write about football, I am writing about my spiritual journey. Without football, I would not be challenged in the ways that I am," he said.

To fellow student-athletes with passions beyond their sport, Bray advises taking the time to explore and grow. He encourages patience, especially during challenging seasons, and emphasizes rejoicing in the face of trials. He also imparts a simple yet profound truth: dedication to one's passions requires intentional time management. This sentiment, echoed by his older brother, also a collegiate athlete, emphasizes the importance of prioritizing what truly matters.

For those eagerly anticipating Bray's musical endeavors, the promise of forthcoming albums titled "Letters to My Friends" and "Letters to Myself" serves as a tantalizing glimpse into the creative soul behind the athlete.

In this unique intersection of athleticism and artistry, Bray is an inspiring example of someone who balances and harmonizes the demands of football, music, and academic pursuits, highlighting the beauty of pursuing one's passions in tandem.

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 01/31/24   

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