He’s a man who loves airplanes, music and God. Born in Germany; grown in Ohio, Washington and Missouri. Made of Black, Puerto Rican and Mexican ancestry. A man of faith and science. He’s the one-and-only Roy Moye (the third).
Moye is an engineer recruiter at Spirit Aerosystems as well as a Grammy-nominated children’s music artist who also founded STEMusic LLC, a musical venture to inspire the next generation of multicultural STEM professionals.
He majored in aerospace engineering at Wichita State University and currently works at Spirit Aerosystems recruiting engineers — while also balancing a flourishing career in children’s music.
Planeta Venus interviewed Roy Moye III on his journey through music, faith and cultural identity. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
First, let’s get technical. Why aerospace engineering?
I was born in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Dad was in the army, and we left Germany three weeks after I was born (to fly back to Ohio). That’s where I believe I fell in love with airplanes. I have no scientific way to prove that, but every kid loves airplanes, and I was like obsessed. I would go to the airport to pick up family members and sit at the dining room table to draw airplanes. It was a deep love. I used to ask my parents, ‘how do I design them?’ And I think because my dad was in the army, he gave me the words “aeronautical engineer.”
So I was determined to go to the actual number one school for aerospace engineering, which was Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. But it was $60,000 a year. I would scroll through other schools' programs and got to ‘W,’ where I found Wichita State. My dad and I took a tour there and I just felt this peace. The tour guide was an aerospace engineering student. That’s not common! I thought, ‘this is where I’m supposed to be.’ God provided that confirmation for me.
How did you transition from engineering to recruitment?
I’m happy that I got to do design engineering. It was challenging for me - I feel like I’m not the traditional engineer where you’re just like, loving data and being analytical and that’s not really me. I love airplanes, but if there wasn’t aerospace engineering, I wouldn’t be an engineer. (My job) literally has to do with my love of planes, which is a very strong love to put yourself through the grueling schooling.
I would walk around my office and I thought it was crazy (to be the only Black person in the room). At times, even if there were multiples of us, it was no more than five in a room of 40 engineers. I don’t need Pew Research Center. I don’t need all these data points and stuff like that. No — I was in the room. That’s where my mission started. I want to bring more diversity.
In 2020, the world shut down and everybody was rethinking their life. I was at a point where I didn’t know what I wanted, but I did know that I was passionate about diversity in STEM. I knew that I was also passionate about the intern program (at Spirit). The opportunity came up and I took it.
I feel so much purpose in the role I’m in right now. Especially when it comes to the Black and Latino community. And the fact that I’m able to be a point of entry in the role. When you get an internship, if you perform well, you could climb up within Spirit. I’d like to think that I’m increasing the number of black and brown engineers within the STEM industry at large.
Were you always musical? When did the love for music and singing begin?
I really get my singing from my grandfather… no shade Pops. No shade! [laughs] In 2017, we had a family reunion and I asked (my grandfather) to sing something for me. He gets out of the car and the man opened his mouth. And I was like, ‘wow, this is where it comes from.’ My grandfather shut it DOWN.
I grew up singing in the family, in church and in high school. I noticed in middle school that people would respond positively to what I was doing musically. And as talkative as I am now, I was kind of shy growing up. Then I auditioned for American Idol when I was 15 and nothing happened. I didn’t make it to TV. And I was like, “okay, everyone’s been lying to me.” I was so embarrassed!
My dad gave me a CD with a single of Whitney Houston singing the national anthem at the SuperBowl. It changed my life. I started singing the anthem at my high school’s basketball games and stuff. Eventually, in Fall 2010, I sang at a preseason basketball Shocker’s men game. And I had such a moment. People were clapping and I felt at home.
In your music career, you’ve released a R&B EP and wrote and sang gospel music. When did you pivot to children’s music?
I started kicking around this idea that I could combine STEM and music. Like Schoolhouse Rock, Reading Rainbow, all these children programs that I remember. But I wanted to do my version. I wanted the songs to sound cool, fresh. I wanted to sing, to rap. I didn’t really act on it until 2019.
I get emotional thinking about how I grew up — going into STEM did change my life. It provided the opportunity to have money, record music, start a business, and send money back to my parents and siblings. All this happened from getting a job in STEM as an engineer. It was life-changing. Kids in our community are told, that, if you’re going to make it out, it has to be sports or entertainment. That might be true for a very, very very small percent. But there’s this whole other universe where you can go to school for 4-6 years and make $70,000 right out of college. Is it a hard journey? Is STEM challenging? Yes. That’s the truth.
I took the first song I wrote, ‘We call it STEMusic’ and took it to the National Society of Black Engineers conference. We have a junior delegation, like high school, middle school students, so I can perform it for them at their karaoke night. So I gave my track to the DJ, I performed it, and the kids are vibing. The parents are going crazy because the lyrics are all about STEM and engineering jobs and careers.
Then I had my first (STEMusic) concert at Mueller Elementary, which is a predominantly black school. I did a few more music shows and then started singing on Instagram live, Facebook live, and had different segments like Word of the Week where I branched outside of STEM-career talk and talked about a Spanish word instead.
You are proudly Black, Puerto Rican and Mexican. How has your racial and ethnic background impacted you?
When I was 15 years old, working at McDonald’s at my first job, I was called the n word at the drive-thru window. That’s my lived experience. When my mom worked at Kohl’s, when I was in high school, I went to go see her and guess what? The security guard followed me around the store as I was going to the back offices to see her. This is my lived experience. Now that I’m doing diversity recruiting and pushing the limits, I’m trying to get more Black and brown students into STEM. In my graduating class of aerospace engineers, there was one black aerospace engineering student that graduated my year. And it wasn’t me! It was me and my friend’s roommate at the time because I’m half black, and they’re half black, so we made the 1 black student.
This past spring, in March, for the first time in company history, we attended the National Society of Black Engineers’ national convention. I got our few black engineers to go to that conference and have an amazing experience. Probably one of the biggest highlights of my career. And we hired five people from that conference.
Then there’s the whole other side of being … Puerto Rican and Mexican. In college, the Puerto Rican baseball team came to Wichita for the National Baseball Congress. I was so excited. I had my big Puerto Rican flag. I got to meet other Puerto Ricans in the community. Then, during a cookout to celebrate the team, I realized I can’t connect with the guys on the team. They look just like me — which is the coolest thing ever, and I was like ‘these are my people!’ But I don’t speak fluent Spanish. I couldn’t connect because I don’t speak the language well enough. I was so dejected. My heart just ripped out of my chest. It felt like I was being told, ‘if you don’t speak the language you ain’t one of us.’ It’s very challenging.
It’s not common to see a devout Christian be openly gay. How did you reconcile your identity with your faith?
It’s a very new, three-year journey that I’ve been on that’s very, very hard to go through. 2019 Roy and before: ‘being gay is not okay. It is a sin. It is not okay.’ Even though I knew what was inside of me, I tried to pray it away. When the world shut down in March 2020, it hit me in the face. It was a dark moment in my life because I had to face it. I’ve always liked guys, but I would tell myself that I couldn’t pursue it, I needed to ask for forgiveness, all of that. I was terrified to explore (my sexuality) with God watching.
In June of 2021 I got this opportunity to sing the national anthem for the Royals. I also got to sing the Black national anthem first. It was the first time that ever happened in that stadium — also around the time of Juneteenth becoming a federal national holiday. It was an amazing moment of just, like, ‘this is what it feels like to enjoy what you’re doing.’
On the drive back through the Flint Hills, I was telling God this: ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m done fighting. I’m gay. This is who I am. You’ve already known this. We’re just gonna stick it out together. It’s not an option to live without You. So we’re going on this journey together and we’re gonna figure it out.
And I kid you not. It was an overcast day. And as soon as I said ‘Amen,’: double rainbow. I’m like screaming and crying. Pulling out my phone to take pictures. I was like, ‘what is happening? How did these rainbows pop out?’ What I did know is that the rainbow represented a new beginning in the Bible with Noah’s Ark. I believe that God heard me. From that moment, I’ve taken it one step at a time.
We have to talk about your Grammy nomination for the children’s music album “All One Tribe.” What was the journey towards that achievement?
123 Andrés took me under their wing. They are a Latin music husband and wife duo. They introduced me to the Family Music Collective. In that process, they said that because of George Floyd [his death and the Black Lives Matter movement], they wanted to make a spinoff group of the Collective and call it the 1 Tribe Collective. A group of all-Black children’s music artists. I jumped on a Zoom call with them and they told me they wanted to make an album on all topics. Not just covering George Floyd and all that, but to show Black children that there are artists that are making positive music that look just like them.
Our group joined the Recording Academy as members, which was so exciting for me. I treat the Grammys like March Madness! Our producers for the album ‘All One Tribe’ told us they were going to submit the album for the Grammys.
When we got nominated, I was screaming, crying, on the ground. Next thing we know we all get to go to the Grammys in 2022 in Las Vegas. The first time (1 Tribe Collective) all met in-person was at the Grammys. We didn’t win, but we made this album virtually and were nominated for it! It was a crazy scenario.
What does the future look like for you now?
My hope is to continue to spread the message that any person, especially Black or brown kids, can pursue a future in STEM. It’s a fun way to attract Black and brown students to the field. I’m going on tour this fall with STEMusic and I’m always playing shows or singing to a crowd.
One day, I would love for music to be my full-time job. It’s scary and I can’t believe I’m saying it out loud!