Like many Nashville residents, music was what first lured Maureen Maltez Ayestas to Nashville. She just had a little farther to come than most.

Raised in Honduras, Maltez arrived in Music City in 2011, focused on pursuing her dream of writing and performing music.

“Since I was a child, I’ve always loved music,” she says. “Music was the reason I moved to Nashville.”

Maltez enrolled at Columbia State Community College, where she earned an associate degree in commercial entertainment and studied songwriting. While there, she performed as often as she could.

One night Maltez sang at a fundraiser for the community college, and country singer Trace Adkins happened to be in the audience. When he needed a duet partner for a series of 2013 appearances in New York City, including “The Today Show” and “Fox and Friends,” he immediately thought of Maltez.

“There were any number of seasoned professionals here in town that of course I could have gone with and they would have done a beautiful job,” Adkins said in a 2013 Billboard magazine article about his choice. “But I saw her sing ... and I remembered her and I just thought, ‘I bet it would really mean something if she were to do it.’”

Maltez glows when she talks about the experience and says she is thankful to have had the opportunity.

Around that time, with her associate degree almost complete, Maltez knew she wanted a bachelor’s degree, preferably one that helped her learn more about the business side of the music industry. She started researching area colleges online and even enrolled at another university in Nashville.

But in the end, there was only one college that offered the kind of degree she wanted.  “I was looking for a music business program that was a business major,” Maltez says. “I found that Trevecca was the only place that quite offered what I needed.”

FINDING HARMONY

While she’d found the degree she wanted, Maltez wasn’t quite sure Trevecca was the place for her. 

“Being a little older than traditional undergraduate students, I knew what I wanted to do,” she says. “So, it was just finding the place that God wanted me to be.”

Maltez decided to visit Trevecca.
“I just randomly showed up for a campus tour,” she recalls. “Meeting people like Randy Kinder and Michael Newland was the way that God showed me I had to be here.”

Newland, associate director of admissions for transfer and international students, says he and Kinder, Trevecca’s new-student financial aid counselor and the director of PR groups, recognized Maltez’ potential right away.

“She had gone to college in Honduras and had been a few different places,” Newland says. “She was a little older than your typical undergrad transfer student, not too much older, but a couple years. It was clear she was ready to find a home and with her dynamic personality, it was just kind of an instant fit.”

Kinder’s first impressions were similar. He’d seen a music video of Maltez before she visited and knew she was extremely talented musically. But after getting to know her, Kinder says it was Maltez’ personality and character that impressed him most.

“Once we got to talk to her, we were impressed by her humble spirit and her work ethic,” Kinder says. “She was spectacular.”  Maltez simply remembers feeling welcomed at Trevecca. She hadn’t just found a college where she could get the degree she wanted. She’d found a home. 

A NEW SONG 

But that didn’t mean the transition was easy. When Maltez began her first semester at Trevecca in spring 2014, she knew few fellow students.

“For the first semester, I honestly ate in my car,” Maltez, a commuter student, recalls. “But little by little, I was able to meet people in the classroom and get to know the professors. that made the transition a bit easier.” 

Music also continued to weave a familiar melody through Maltez’ life. Because singing and performing had been such a big part of her life up until this point, she was a little afraid that she’d lose that part of herself while pursuing a business degree. That’s when she heard about Trevecca’s gospel choir. It seemed like the perfect place to continue to hone her skills as a singer and a way to praise God with the gifts He had given her.

"It was a place where I could perform and join everyone in praise and worship."

“[Joining the] gospel choir was when I knew Trevecca was a good fit for me,” Maltez says.  “It was a place where I could perform and join everyone in praise and worship. I hold gospel choir dear to my heart.”

TROJAN IDOL

Even so, Maltez still felt like she didn’t know many people on campus. But once again, it was music that helped her begin to experience a sense of community at Trevecca.

As a commuter, she usually left campus quickly after her classes ended. To avoid traffic one day, she just decided to stay on campus and audition for Trojan Idol, an SGA-sponsored singing competition. Maltez grabbed one of the last audition slots and was chosen as one of the top 10 contestants in the 2014 competition.

“I was top five, then top two, and then I made it to first place,” Maltez says. “Nobody knew who I was! After the first night, I went to class and some people noticed that I was in their class. They said, ‘Oh my gosh! You sang in Trojan Idol.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s me!’

“It was just great to see people supporting me, and they didn’t even know me,” she continues. “Even some of the Hispanic guys and girls from campus made these posters that said Vamos Latinos, and that was just something cool to see how people supported me without even knowing who I was.”

CODA

Maltez finished her degree in December 2015 and celebrated her achievement at last month’s Commencement Convocation. During the Spring 2016 semester, she started her first full-time job—in Trevecca’s Office of Admissions, working alongside Newland and Kinder who were so instrumental in helping her come to Trevecca in the first place.

For Newland and Kinder, seeing Maltez in that role is gratifying.

“When you see a student make the transition from being a Trevecca student to being in the real world, whether it’s here or somewhere else, it affirms what we’re doing,” Newland says. “Bringing students to Trevecca helps to prepare them for their careers and their lives.”

As the admissions program coordinator for the School of Music and Worship Arts, Maltez is one of the first persons potential Trevecca music students meet. In Kinder’s opinion, that’s a good thing.  “We just got off the phone with a father who speaks only Spanish, and she was able to talk with him and share what a great place Trevecca is,” Kinder says.

Music is still a vital part of Maltez’ life. She wants to pursue more singing and recording gigs around town and in the studio. She often performs for various National Museum of African American Music events and is interested in working as a background vocalist. On a personal front, Maltez recently married her fiancé, Luis Aguilar, and started a new chapter in her life as a wife.

But no matter what, Maltez simply wants to give back to Trevecca, which she says has invested so much in her and her family. Maltez’ brother, Arnaldo, just completed his freshman year at Trevecca. “Trevecca has welcomed us with open arms,” Maltez says. “Both international students all the way from Honduras, we have been able to tell other people in Honduras about how Trevecca has blessed us. I want to give back because of that, because of how much they’ve given us.”