National Lutheran News

Experiencing musical engagement, faith formation

New study on Lutheran Summer Music Program demonstrates its short- and long-term value to the church

The Lutheran Music Program recently released the results of its first-ever survey of the more than 2,200 alumni who have participated in its pinnacle program, the Lutheran Summer Music Academy & Festival (LSM), over the past 30 years. The results indicate that LSM has consistently provided an overwhelmingly positive and life-changing experience for young musicians, as measured in three distinct areas: musical development, faith formation, and community building.

“The results of this survey are a powerful testament to the effectiveness of LSM,” said Beth Burns, executive director of Lutheran Music Program. “They are also a tribute to the vision of our founding generation and to those who have given their time, talent, and treasure to support this program over the past 30 years. LSM works and the program is strengthening Lutheran congregations for years to come.”

In addition to the large band, choral, and orchestral ensembles, students in the Lutheran Summer Music program have the opportunity to experience other musical and leadership gifts that they can offer to the church. Photo provided by LSM

Seventy percent of alumni believe that LSM strengthened their spiritual lives.

LSM alumni completed the six-page survey between March and May 2011, and answered questions related to their experiences while at the Academy; their musical participation in college; their musical activities within the past year; their religious activities during and since attending LSM; and the social impact of their participation.

“Importantly, results indicate that LSM delivers across the board, by enriching the lives of its students musically, spiritually, and socially, and by providing a valuable service to the Lutheran church,” stated Matthew Bernthal, the lead researcher on the project.

A response rate of 12.3 percent of program alumni ensures the survey 95 percent accuracy for a larger sample.

What music means for the church

Regarding musical development, 91 percent of respondents said that their technical skills as a musician grew as a direct result of LSM. Almost 80 percent agreed that LSM nurtures the next generation of church musicians.

According to 85 percent of respondents, LSM is an effective collegiate preparatory experience. Fifty-two percent of alumni earned a music-related undergraduate degree and 45 percent earned a music-related graduate degree.

Ninety-four percent believe that LSM is effective at positively transforming the lives of its students. Almost 90 percent also said LSM provides a nurturing community experience.

Beth Burns

Perhaps most impressive, 70 percent of alumni believe that LSM strengthened their spiritual lives. Almost 90 percent believe that LSM is effective at maintaining Lutheran liturgical worship traditions.

Congregational life also is impacted by the LSM experience, according to the survey. Fifty-three percent of the survey participants have been a volunteer instrumentalist during worship services in the previous year, with 64 percent having providing vocal service.

Another of the survey’s goals was to help the organization better engage alumni in the years after their LSM attendance. Alumni indicated interest in participating in regional hymn festivals, musical and social events; promoting LSM within their home congregations; and supporting the program with a financial contribution.

One LSM alumnus wrote in the survey: “Some of the best memories of my life are of LSM. I still keep in touch with many friends I made at LSM. LSM truly gave me a great appreciation for the music and liturgy of the Lutheran Church. I hope the teaching and learning goes on until the end of the age! It is at LSM I discovered I had a God-given gift. Soli Deo Gloria!”

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans funded the extensive alumni survey of program participants from 1982 to 2010. Lutheran Music Program commissioned Bernthal and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Travel & Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management to create the study. In January 2011, this team conducted in-depth telephone interviews with LSM alumni from various eras, instrument areas, and geographic locations.

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