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Lutheran Summer Music Program to add senior retreat component

Society seems to be doing a good job at compartmentalizing generations. Television shows, the fashion industry, technology, and even some churches cater exclusively to either young people or old. While it may not be the intention, it is often the outcome.

Even music, which has great potential to be a uniting force, seems to have this polarizing effect. But Lutheran Music Program (LMP) aims to change that trend this year at the Lutheran Summer Music Academy and Festival (LSM) by adding a Senior Adult Retreat component to its regular youth programming.

The 2013 Senior Adult Retreat will be held at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, July 17 to 21, and is supported through a partnership with Lutheran Life Communities. Retreat participants will attend workshops, Bible studies, and seminars; immerse themselves in LSM’s culminating student recitals and concerts; and join the LSM community for worship.

A legacy of young musicians

For 31 years, LSM has gained its acclaimed reputation by training young musicians in the Lutheran music tradition. More than 150 high school students, 12 college interns, and 34 faculty members will gather together at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, June 23 to July 21 for this year’s camp. As part of a faith-centered community, young musicians undergo rigorous musical training. The final days of the program, called Festival Week, feature culminating performances by LSM’s large ensembles — band, choir, and orchestra — as well as studio and chamber music recitals, jazz and pipe organ concerts, and the popular LSM hymn festival.

With the addition of a Senior Retreat Week during the final week of Lutheran Summer Music Academy & Festival, the amount of intergenerational interaction will increase. The 2013 retreat will be held July 17 to 21 at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Photo provided by Lutheran Music Program

“LSM gave me a great summer for three years, and a lifetime of music.”

LSM attracts young musicians from the ELCA, LCMS, and WELS traditions, in addition to non-Lutheran students, from all over the country. Anna Giles, a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College, attended the program for three years. Giles now plans to attend graduate school for music therapy after she graduates this spring. “LSM is where I discovered my true passion for music. It allowed me to see that this is what I want to do with my life. It gave me a great summer for three years, and a lifetime of music.”

Identifying her musical gift at a young age, Giles’ grandfather, Pastor Wayne Weissenbuehler, encouraged her to attend LSM, hoping it would foster not only her musical talent but also her sense of call. “I always tell these young people that having a vocation in music is an incredible vocation. It is something that can make peace, enhance, and bless the lives of many people,” says Weissenbuehler, who has served as the LSM chaplain. “You can do immense good with a vocation in music. Because a culture without music, and all it brings with it, is a culture that has no soul.”

The gift of music spans beyond the individual musician, beyond the month of July, and beyond the border of Luther’s campus. “At camp, we encourage the musicians to go back to their home congregations, go to their pastors, go to their music directors, and ask, ‘What can I do? How can I serve?’ Kids polish pieces of music they can offer to the church upon their return. They take classes about how church musicians can make a difference, how to work with a pastor, and how to plan worship. Churches that send young musicians to LSM get so much in return,” says Weissenbuehler.

Adding the senior retreat

The regular hustle and bustle of Festival Week includes students running across the campus lawns with tubas in hand, goose-bump inspiring moments at choral concerts, and the clashes of cymbals during the band performance. But this year, with the addition of the Senior Retreat, these familiar scenes will be accompanied by a seminar on “Aging Joyfully in the Lord,” a study on the Lukan parables, and a class on the politics of Middle Eastern travel.

“At camp, we encourage the musicians to go back to their home congregations, go to their pastors, go to their music directors, and ask, ‘What can I do? How can I serve?’”

The cafeteria will be filled with rich conversations between grandparents and their grandchildren, between strangers young and old. The young peoples’ regular classes on Lutheran worship may have some new visitors. And the audience for the Festival Week concerts might have a little more white hair.

“This is really a win-win for both generations,” says Dr. Rich Bimler, member of the LMP board of directors and consultant for Lutheran Life Ministries. “The older adults get to hear great music and witness the future leaders in church music. The young people are affirmed and encouraged in their music and in their faith.”

The sound of music

Martin Luther said that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. Beth Burns, director of LMP quotes this in explaining the mission and effect LSM has. “Music helps us understand ourselves, the world around us, and our faith in many profound ways. Music creates community by drawing people together in one voice.” The church needs well-trained musicians who know the liturgies and understand the role of music in worship. LSM helps young people understand their musical talent as a gift that can be shared in service to others.”

The five-day Senior Retreat costs $500/adult and includes room and board, workshops, concerts, and program materials. Adults over 55 are eligible and encouraged to apply by May 1, as space is limited. For more information regarding registration, email lsm@lutheransummermusic.org or call 888/635-6583 toll free.

Alexandra Wertz currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and works as a college completion coach at a college access organization there.

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