Archived Sections, National Lutheran News

Twenty-five years of training young church musicians

Lutheran Summer Music has an eviable track record

A chorus of approval from students and parents greets the endeavors of Lutheran Summer Music (LSM), a music academy and festival for high school band, choir, orchestra and keyboard musicians, open to members of all faiths. LSM’s 25th anniversary session is being held at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, June 24 through July 22.
“I can’t tell you in words how much I improved as a musician. I am much better as a performer … I had the best teachers,” says student Justin Daniels, Midlothian, Texas.
“I grew more in four weeks at LSM than I do in a usual year,” says Jessica Gates, Central City, Iowa. “I am amazed at the focus and improvement we all experienced. I am [really] glad I was blessed with this opportunity.”
“This has been a transforming experience for Eric and [for me],” writes a parent, Valerie Sayre, Minne-apolis. “[Eric] has grown dramatically — musically, socially, spiritually. What a wonderful community … ”
Lutheran Summer Mu-sic engages talented music students in grades 8-12 in four weeks of intense learning and music-making. The curriculum includes primary lessons in woodwinds, brass, strings, voice, guitar, harp, piano and organ. Each student takes part in either orchestra, concert band, or chorus and also belongs to a chamber ensemble.
LSM has a nationally and internationally known faculty.
n Dr. Jeffery Meyer, Orchestra Conductor, is Director of Orchestras at Ithaca College School of Music; founder and artistic director of the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic, St. Petersburg, Russia.
n Dr. Allen Hightower, Choir Conductor, is Profes-sor of Music and Director of Choral Studies, Sam Hous-ton State University, and music director of the Hous-ton Masterworks Chorus.
n Dr. Bruce Ammann, Band Conductor, is Professor of Music at Augustana College, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Three dozen other music faculty represent a variety of institutions. Administering the program is an eight-member summer staff, assisted by an additional nine staff counselors. All counselors are college graduates and musicians in their own right.
“This is a unique place where the ELCA and LCMS come together,” says Susan Olstad, LSM’s director of financial aid and admissions. “We recruit through congregations and schools of both Lutheran bodies, as well as through public high schools and community youth symphonies.”
Beth Burns, Minneapolis, has just been appointed LSM’s new executive director.
Olstad reports that 175 students were enrolled in LSM in 2006 and that an equal number is expected this summer. Students came from twenty-six states plus Japan, Lithuania and Mex-ico. Student applicants audition via tape or CD. A musical recommendation and personal interview are also required. Eighty percent receive financial aid through both merit and need-based scholarships.
Olstad lists a key benefit for participants: “The heart and core of the program is guiding and encouraging students toward the church’s musical heritage. Each evening we have a historically grounded worship. Many students tell us this has been the most important part of the experience.”
Family and friends are invited to Festival Week, the last week of LSM, to hear student recitals and ensemble concerts. Students perform a wide variety of music, from standard repertoire to newer 20th and 21st century pieces.
Anita Smallin, an M.A. student at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, is an LSM alumna of summers 1994-96. “Growing up in the Washington, D.C., area, being a Christian wasn’t something people talked about even though we went to church,” Smallin says. “LSM showed me how to live in an intentionally Christian community.
“Coming out here taught me what it means to be a Lutheran and to appreciate the rich musical heritage that comes with it. Until being part of LSM, I don’t think I realized that Martin Luther had written ‘A Mighty Fortress’ or that J.S. Bach was Lutheran.” While attending seminary, Smallin works as an admissions assistant for LSM.
“On top of that, I always felt different in high school,” she continues. “Being at LSM showed me there were other people like me. I went to a high school of 4,500 students. Most were in band, orchestra or sports. There weren’t many folks for whom choir was their passion. Not until I came to LSM did I find a place where vocalists were encouraged to grow and thrive.”
Lutheran Summer Mu-sic began at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, in 1982. In addition to multiple years at both Gustavus Adolphus and St. Olaf, LSM has summered at Augsburg College, Minnea-polis; Luther College, Decorah, Iowa; Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota; Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio; Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois; Augustana College, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana.
“For 25 years we’ve done the four-week academy,” Olstad says. “In the next 25 we will seek to expand programming. We may reach out to young music students, and perhaps there will be multiple academies.”
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For further information, visit www.LutheranSummer, or phone (888) 635-6583 or (612) 879-9555.