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Congregations partner with summer institute for benefit of student musicians and church life

Summer Music Program finds niche for student musicians serious about their faith and their music

Some people have argued that theologians have missed the fact that music is
a sacrament, a means of grace through which God can be revealed more
deeply. Spending time with people associated with the Lutheran Summer
Music (LSM) organization can make one a believer.
“Our students at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection were fired up about
Lutheran faith and music even before they participated in Lutheran Summer
Music,” explained Gary Butler, cantor at the Roseville ELCA congregation and
a music instructor in the Shakopee schools. “But they found the affirmation
of adults for something they loved, and they had a shared experience of deep
meaning with other students.” With such enthusiasm, it’s not surprising that
Butler’s daughter Sophia will be attending the Lutheran Summer Music
Academy and Festival, a month-long music experience, at Luther College in
Decorah, Iowa, this summer.
Kyle Hasse, a junior at Roseville Area High School, participated in LSM’s
acadamy last year. “Because of LSM, I am looking for a career in music,” he
explained. “I have always loved music, but at LSM I could excel” with other
similarly minded young people, he added.
But that’s not all, or even the biggest change for Kyle. “I grew in my faith —
the connecting of music with traditional spirituality.” The relationships Kyle
built had the deepest impact on him. “Community was the most exciting part
of the program,” he said. “I went in knowing one other person [there]; I came
out knowing not only everyone’s names, but what they played, what they
liked, who they were. I have a 150-kid family now.”
For its summer academy, LSM draws about 150 of the best high school
musicians from across the country. They come to spend a month sharing a
love of music and deepening their understandng of the Lutheran tradition, its
history, heritage, and hymnody.
Congregations are able to feel the impact of the participation of young
people in LSM. “The students who attended last year came back and became
very involved in the worship life of Resurrection,” Butler said. “They are more
confidant as liturgists and they are excited to accompany other musicians.”
Other congregations have experienced similar benefits in the participation of
returning students. In response, Lutheran Summer Music has initiated a
program to build the partnership between student-musicians, congregatons,
and the summer program.
“Congregations have come to us saying they have a great desire to support
and lift young people up, not only in spiritual and musical gifts, but as a
place where you are taught the hymnody and liturgy of the church,” said Sue
Olstad, Director of Admissions of Lutheran Summer Music. “They talked about
the value of partnership.”
Olstad, who came to LSM after a career in camping ministry, recognized that
type of interest in shared mission and partnership. The Bible camps she
worked with had a group of supportive congregations that recognized the
value of having a safe place for young people to experience community and
the gospel. LSM was filling that same function, she believed.
The Young Musicians Partnership (YMP) program provides an opportunity for
congregations to offer financial support to young musicians wanting to
attend the Lutheran Summer Music Academy and Festival.
A partner congregation provides a scholarship for a local student-musician
wishing to attend the academy. LSM matches 33 percent of the
congregational gift, relieving the financial burden for the young person.
The congregregation benefits from what the student brings back. “The young
people bring back an experience of Christ-centered intentional community,
four weeks of growth in musical gifts, and an immersion in traditional
liturgical worship,” Olstad explained.
“Like a Bible camp, kids come back with a real passion.“ Olstad continued.
“We like to see that passion used in their congregations.”
Sara Hasse, Kyle’s mom, summed up the benefit of the partnership, “The
return in getting our young people excited in church will trickle down for
their entire lifetime. This is a life-changing experience, which will impact
congregations they are members of.”
For more information about the partnership, visit