Many pastors seem to agree that at the same time churches are recognizing the growing need for organists, choir directors and music ministers, fewer qualified musicians from within the congregation are willing or able to dedicate themselves to the job.
Lindenwood College is responding to the need with a new academic venture it calls the Sacred Music Institute. The program offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in classical sacred music, literature and performance.
Those not interested in a degree can work toward professional certificates of advanced study. The program is open to professionals who want to pursue a degree as well as church volunteers who might wish to brush up on their skills or learn new ones. Contemporary Christian music study is also offered. In an effort to familiarize pastors with the new program, Lindenwood played host to a sacred music symposium this week at the college's Sibley Hall chapel. Approximately 100 people attended. They included pastors, music ministers, choral directors and prospective students. Lindenwood President Dennis Spellmann and members of the fine arts faculty addressed the group, and Lindenwood faculty members and students presented a short vocal and organ recital. In addition to Sibley Chapel, Lindenwood has at its disposal three other concert venues. They are the Lindenwood Cultural Center (formerly First Baptist Church on Kingshighway), the new Performing Arts Center on the back campus and Jelkyl Auditorium in Roemer Hall. The college boasts of a faculty with strong professional music credentials and modern instruments, including the new Wicks organ in Sibley Chapel; a Conn organ that came with the former Baptist Church; an Allen organ recently bequeathed to Lindenwood by a late alumna, Mildred Denning; and a 9-foot concert Steinway piano. Marsha Parker, dean of performing and fine arts at Lindenwood, pointed out that all of the above figured prominently in the college's decision to organize the Sacred Music Institute. The most important catalyst, according to Parker, was community interest. "We were getting dozens of calls throughout the year from desperate church personnel looking for individuals to play the organ or keyboard and to help with musical and vocal direction at their churches," Parker said. The Sacred Music Institute was coordinated by organist and music faculty member Ann Shields. Shields is the music director for Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Louis County. She explained that the program will give an opportunity to volunteers in small congregations to brush up on their keyboard skill. "We want to encourage those people to take some basic organ courses. …