Heather Kirkconnell

Music was first introduced to me as part of my religious upbringing. For me, music is personal and communal. I phase in and out of public performing, sometimes making music just for me, and then rediscovering the joy of making music with or for others. Whatever the circumstances, music always takes me back to God, the Creator Spiritus, who inspires our human creativity.

I believe that musical expression is as natural as language learning, but that many of us have had experiences in art and music that convince us it is difficult, inaccessible or otherwise only for a privileged few. But we often forget how long it takes to master a language, even our native tongue! If we view music as a language, and accept the requirements of learning a language as being similar to that of learning music, we soon see just how omnipresent and accessible music can and should be.

Often it take years of study to begin seeing the “results” we expect in music. However, music making at any level is a satisfying endeavor, the only “result” that I believe bears any consideration. I take great care to approach music students in a challenging but encouraging manner. I believe we all benefit when high expectations are set and the slow process of reaching them is supported by the teacher or director.

Practically speaking, everyone has different strengths and ways of learning. Whether teaching privately or in a group, I incorporate many learning styles and push the limits of how we learn. In order to be a better educator, I try to learn music in as many ways as I can: visually, aurally, through movement, and through various other interdisciplinary studies. All of my students will find themselves engaging in musical studies in these ways and more.

As a church musician, I see my biggest role as that of educator: making music more accessible so that congregations can focus on worship rather than how and what to sing or play. As choral director, I help the choir to lead and support the congregation just as my accompaniments also serve that purpose. I don't believe in top-down leadership of music ministry because congregational song is the time for everyone to glorify God. I hope to instead lift up the offering so that all feel invited to participate.

Lastly, I believe that by exploring new genres of worship music and teaching new songs, congregations are encouraged to explore the full range of human experiences of the Divine, and with that experience comes a greater appreciation for the theology and purpose of worship. While I realize that statement may first evoke “contemporary” new music, we often forget the vast repertoire of old “new” music, a particular favorite of mine.