For Kristen Schutte, music has been a lifelong endeavor. She started playing piano at age 6 and has participated in music at church for most of her life. When she was in high school, she began accompanying singers with the piano.
“Music has been my whole life,” Kristen says. “If I’m ever struggling, music is where I go. If I’m in need of energy, I put on music. If I’m gone on vacation, the first thing I do when I’m back is to sit at the piano and play/sing. I particularly love Christian music because it can be so uplifting every day.”
Kristen is the second oldest of seven children, and her family is very musical. At Christmastime, each family member performs a musical act of some kind before opening gifts.
“It can be as simple as playing our favorite instrument or singing, but now that we are all older, we have gotten more creative,” she says. “Opening presents takes about three or four hours because of these performances. They are the best!”
Kristen’s mother has been a church musician for Kristen’s whole life, and Kristen decided around age 5 that she wanted to follow the same path.
“Growing up, my siblings and I always helped with singing in church,” she says.
Now, Kristen serves as Music Director and Coordinator for St. Leo’s and St. Mary’s Cathedral. Having been in this role for five years, she plays and sings for weekend Masses, creates schedules for the other musicians, leads rehearsals, and finds new music for Mass. Kristen also plays and sings for Abide Adoration, as well as services such as weddings and funerals.
“I joined St. Leo’s at the time I began working here,” Kristen says. “I live in Hastings, so I didn’t travel to Grand Island to church until I started working here. I love St. Leo’s parishioners. It really feels like home.”
Music brings us together in song and prayer, encouraging fellowship among the congregation. As Kristen emphasizes, music truly enhances the liturgy.
“Liturgical and sacred music is another form of prayer that uses words that we may not know how to say ourselves,” she says. “Music helps unite us as a body of Christ by praising God and expressing and deepening our faith through song.”
Through the various liturgical seasons, music also sets the tone for the appropriate celebrations.
“For example, during Lent, we really focus on repenting our sins and praying more deeply,” Kristen says. “The music during this time tends to reflect that with the lyrics, melody, and tempo. Once we get to Easter, the music is so joyful and uplifting.”
As she shares her gifts with the parish community, Kristen engages in the work of stewardship, giving of her time and talent to God and the parish each Mass. But it has also helped Kristen to grow in her spiritual life.
“In using the gifts God has given me, I have really grown in my prayer life and my faith has deepened through the use of sacred, liturgical, and Christian music,” she says. “Music has more emotion than speaking does, so when you set a prayer to song, it allows you to strengthen your connection with God.
“Helping in the Music Ministry has really allowed me to become closer to God,” she adds. “But also, being in a church environment every day has allowed me to grow spiritually. I’m always learning and growing and striving to become who God created me to be.”