He grew up singing and playing music alongside his father and sister at church. Now he’s headed to Nashville to record 11 of his own songs.

Thomas Muglia, music director at All Saints Catholic Newman Center, has caught the eye of the artist and repertoire team at Oregon Catholic Press.

Tom Booth, a prominent Catholic musician and composer in his own right, helps OCP in its quest to sign up-and-coming new artists. Rising stars are sent to a studio in Nashville, better known as Music City, the home of the Christian music and country music industry.

“Many get in their car and drive there, but with Thomas, it’s different. He is being sent,” Booth said. “He is a gifted young man who comes from an amazing family of faith and music and a lot of encouragement and love.”

Thomas’ father, Chris Muglia, is the music director at St. Thomas More Parish in Glendale. Thomas’ sister MaryAnne is the music director at All Saints in Mesa and is married to Dominic Smith, another local Catholic musician who serves with his wife and at two other churches.

“Thomas and MaryAnne used to join me on the road doing concerts and missions when they were very young,” Chris says.

Jaime Cortez, who alongside his wife, Kari, leads music at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Scottsdale, backed that up. His youngest son, Benjamin, is accompanying Thomas to Nashville.

“All these kids grew up the same way,” Cortez said. “We put them with rattles and shakers and drums at our knees and at the piano benches when they were little. They were with the music and the ministry very early and it was just a natural part of life.”

“He is a gifted young man who comes from an amazing family of faith and music and a lot of encouragement and love.”

Benjamin Cortez plays several instruments and serves at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Francis Xavier. Thomas is hoping his friend will play piano and guitar on the tracks to be recorded in Nashville.

Booth said he’s had his eye on Thomas and a few others for a couple of years but that it always comes down to one fact:

“You can find the singer and you can find the player, but songwriting is all about the song.”

Thomas played a few of his own for Booth and the two got to know each other. “At one point I told him, ‘When you have 20 songs that you think are good, call me.’”

Thomas called a few months later. He had close to 30.

“He’s not imitating modern worship music,” Booth said. “He certainly has heard it — he’s steeped in liturgical songs and tradition and experience.” He likes the fact that Thomas and his friends listen to all kinds of music.

“What’s hard for me in my job is sometimes people come to me and the only music they’ve heard is pop Christian music or radio Christian music,” Booth said. “There needs to be a depth of experience musically, lyrically and theologically.”

Thomas, Booth said, is unique and has the admiration of such well-regarded Catholic musicians as Carl Herrgesell who once toured with Kenny Loggins and played on one of Elton John’s records. Booth remembers the day Herrgesell heard Thomas play for the first time. The song was “Litany of Humility.”

“Carl was sitting next to me … he was playing piano and he pulled my ear down to his mouth and he said, ‘Sign him!’ You have to have that kind of response from people.”

That was three years ago. OCP published “Litany of Humility” in 2017. The official OCP video of the song features Thomas as well as his sister MaryAnne and brother-in-law Dominic Smith singing backup vocals and Benjamin on keyboard.

Thomas, who appeared on American Idol for a week a few years back, said he has a lot of admiration for the Catholic musicians who paved the way like Booth, Cortez and his own father. In harmony with that, one of the songs he’ll record in Nashville is titled “I Have a Father.”

“It’s beautiful. As soon as he sang it, I have not had that song out of my head ever since,” Booth said.

“It’s a song that is simply celebrating the fact that God loves us and desires a relationship with us and is willing to work with us so that we might have life in Him,” Thomas said. “I wrote it just to celebrate the beautiful simplicity of the faith.”

Thomas said he hopes the recording sessions in Nashville will help “create music that is truly beautiful and honestly capture the performances in way that’s authentic and prayerful.” He said his faith became his own through the community he encountered at the All Saints Newman Center and in living in the men’s household of St. Paul’s Outreach.

Serving at Mass, retreats, adoration and with his fellow SPO members helped grow his body of songs. He graduated from Arizona State University in 2020 with a degree in music education but plans to continue serving in music ministry.

“It’s been a really intentional process to continue to write and think about what kind of songs the Church needs to hear and what kind of songs the Church needs to be singing right now,” Thomas said.

The day before heading to Nashville, he paused to articulate what he hopes the recording sessions will achieve:

“Hopefully we can capture these songs in a way that the prayer comes across to anyone who’s listening and in way that draws others into the prayer of each of these songs.”

Family of musicians

Jaime and Kari Cortez, who lead music at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale, raised three sons who have played and sung alongside them at the various parishes where they’ve served through the years. Jaime, who was named Pastoral Musician of the Year in 2016, said his family worked together to write the theme song for the 2021 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.

The congress, held virtually this year, prominently featured the Cortez family’s “Proclaim the Promise” video. The song points to God’s promise to Noah that He would never again destroy the Earth.

“Since God has given us this promise of being with us always — then why are we afraid? He’s always with us. The way that we live, the way that we act, the way that we interact with other people — we should always be proclaiming the promise.”

The song features lyrics in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

“Everybody contributed a little bit,” Jaime said, and each family member has a solo. In the video, Nicolas is on bass guitar, Benjamin is on keyboard and Daniel is on drums, though the person actually playing the instruments in the recorded audio version is Benjamin.

Benjamin serves in the music ministry at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and leads the Spanish music ministry at St. Francis Xavier Parish.  Nicolas and Daniel serve with Jaime and Kari at OLPH.