He called the audience to its feet, but this time the setting wasn’t Bross Gym.
Sam Hebert, in a T-shirt and jeans, stood at the edge of the ornate stage of the historic Mount Baker Theater with his acoustic guitar. Mic stands and amps, for the two large bands’ following performances, surrounded him.
Grinning, he invited the audience to sing along with him in one of the set’s four original songs. He got them to clap along and garnered whoops for his spoken word riffs. Outside, his first merchandise sold in the hall beside the Kings Kaleidoscope table.
The Seattle-based 10-piece alternative rock band headlined the concert, a benefit for Skookum Kids, an organization aiding healthy transitions into foster care. The online concert ad promised, “Add newcomer, Sam Hebert, and this should be a show to remember!” It was his first show, but he isn’t new to playing before big crowds.
Hebert led chapel band during the 2015-16 school year before graduating from Master’s U in May. Six months later, he’s living and working in Bellingham, WA, opening for Kings Kaleidoscope, and releasing his first EP, “Waves,” on iTunes and a week later Spotify. These new steps in Sam’s life surprise even him.
“Everything’s possible with the Lord––it sounds cheesy but it’s true,” Hebert says.
As big doors open, he says all he can do is trust God with his suddenly realized dreams.
Hebert started playing guitar at ten, and writing music soon followed.
“I was heavily influenced by Phil Wickham,” he says, smiling. Wickham’s brother Evan was Hebert’s junior high pastor in San Diego. Through a connection, ten-year-old Sam got to record in a studio. He laughs at those first songs more than a decade later, but that day he knew he wanted to be a recording artist.
So he started at Master’s as a naive vocal performance major. For him, music quickly became a chore.
“I wish I had worked harder––had taken it more seriously,” he now says. But he also says switching to communications––he enjoyed writing and film––actually inspired his music, allowing travel with Global Outreach (GO) and IBEX. In one song, “Fly,” Hebert sings, “from LAX to Tel Aviv,” referencing his Israel trip.
Sam was able to lead chapel his senior year because he was less busy as a comm major. He he answered “Why do you want to be on chapel band?” with the classic I have this gifting, I should use it to glorify God. But over that year, he says leading worship became less of an obligation.
He recited the answer an applicant to the succeeding chapel band gave: “I just love worshipping Jesus, and I wanna do it with brothers and sisters!” Hebert says that summed up his new drive to lead.
Hebert wanted to ensure chapel band engaged with the student body in worship; he explains how the chapel band leader leads spiritually, not just musically.
“My role was more to encourage, to build up, and to lead by example, and lead through trying to be humble––lead through dependence on God,” Hebert says.
In reality, that meant managing early rehearsals before chapel, late band members, unexpected events to schedule in, and mistakes on stage. Sam admits he prepared to battle pride, but experienced greater humbling than he expected as he learned to trust God for the outcome.
“If God’s will happens, he’s glorified,” Hebert says. He says he developed patience with others and himself, but trusting the band’s judgment also relieved stress.
“I was surrounded by musicians who were a lot better than I was,” he said, adding later, “I’m just the guy that plays guitar and sings.”
Vocal performance major Daniel Morales, a current second-year vocalist on chapel band, supports Sam from Master’s.
“He led really well,” Morales said. “He’s an encourager for sure: if he sees you struggling he’ll encourage you. He’s always bringing you back to the Lord.”
Hebert also led a GO trip to London, doing kids’ theatre and sports camps. Team member Sabrina Michael remembers some favorite moments when he would pull out his guitar in free time. The team still talks about how his leadership made the trip. Michael said she admired his integrity and sees a big future for him.
“I am so thrilled he has the opportunity to pursue his passion and talent in music and I know that, because of the man he is, he will influence many not only with his songs but also his life.” she said.
This month, Morales shared posts about Hebert’s concert and EP on Facebook, and Sabrina seriously considered flying up for the concert. Kings Kaleidoscope has top-ten Christian Albums on Billboard, so word about Sam’s show spread on the Master’s campus.
Sam’s concert opportunity came in a stream of calls that paved the clear path back to Bellingham, after the end of his summer internship there working with Aaron Dickson (TMU ‘09), pastor of worship and body life at Grace Church Bellingham (GCB). At SLS retreat in 2015, Hebert overheard Hotchkiss RA Michael O’Brien (‘16) talking about Dickson’s intern search, and joked, “I might be interested in that!” But O’Brien connected them, and suddenly Hebert had a post-grad plan.
For the summer internship, Sam stayed in the furnished barn of a GCB family. He remembers, “the day I left, I left the barn and I realized, ‘I’m gonna be back here.’”
After Hebert returned to San Diego, Dickson called about the Kings Kaleidoscope gig. Two calls followed: an offer to work at Enterprise and another to record his first albums with singer-songwriter and producer Stephen Folden (‘07), a friend made this summer. All signs pointed back north.
On Nov. 19, Hebert played that first show. He said his girlfriend and parents, who came up to see it, drew his eyes as he performed, but cheers for “Sam!” also called out from a town that he’s only known since May; friends made through GCB joined the mostly college-aged crowd. Sam said he appreciates how the GCB body lives together apart from Sunday service, and it’s been a new experience of church family for him.
Though he loves the area and church, the move back to Bellingham was strategic as well.
In Los Angeles, Hebert said he realized, “I’m not gonna get any traction here.”
He plans to get started in Bellingham, an arts-friendly college town between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., and head to the big city with a good following. Soon he’ll be recording a full ten-song album with Folden in a newly installed studio room at the church.
With dreams suddenly reality, he doesn’t credit himself. From sleepless nights of insecurity before his chapel band year, to a year and a half later, waiting for his EP to drop on iTunes, dependence on God is always on Sam’s lips.
“So I don’t know where the Lord’s gonna lead me. I hope it’s music, I think it is.”