New Music Commission formed to unify diocesan talents, resources

Group will promote ways for parish music ministers to collaborate

By Emily Booker

The Diocese of Knoxville Music Commission held its inaugural meeting on Sept. 16 at the Chancery. Music directors representing parishes and schools across the diocese gathered to discuss how they can share their resources and talents with one another.

The Music Commission was established by Bishop Richard F. Stika to “act as a liaison between the diocese, the cathedral, and parish musicians.”

As stated in its mission statement, the Music Commission will aim to “promote the Gospel message of Jesus to the glory of God the Father through the mastery of musicianship in service to the Church, to protect the Church’s great repository of sacred music, to preserve the musical traditions of the Church, and those grown organically from them in full accordance with the Liturgy Documents, to support the New Evangelization by fostering respect and appreciation for sacred music in East Tennessee with the mind toward the ecumenical, and to support and enrich the activities pertaining to worship, education, and service of all Diocese of Knoxville music ministers.”

Bishop Stika appointed Glenn Kahler, director of music and liturgy for the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, as chair of the commission.

Mr. Kahler said the funeral Mass for Monsignor Xavier Mankel, who died June 21, was the catalyst for forming the commission.

“When I was making phone calls to look for participants for his funeral choir, it became abundantly clear that there is a real desire for unity in music ministry in the Catholic Church in East Tennessee,” he said.

“The directors of music ministry in East Tennessee had such a personal connection to Monsignor Mankel, both as a founding member of the Diocese of Knoxville, but also as an incredible supporter of sacred music in East Tennessee.”

Through the commission, music ministers across the diocese can share ideas, opportunities, and resources to strengthen the music ministries at the parish level. One way to do this is through the new website, Music ministers and musicians can collaborate through the forums on the site. It also provides calendars, opportunities, and resources.

Mr. Kahler hopes that by having a formal communication channel and being able to share resources, music ministers will have the support they need to grow their ministries at the parish level.

“This is a way to continually motivate our music ministers on a parish level, to unify from one music minister to another, so that one, it increases participation locally, and two, is an opportunity to evangelize and bring more members into the Church,” he said.

Another goal of the commission is to pool resources and talent from across the diocese to enrich diocesan-level events, such as ordinations or the Chrism Mass. The commission is forming three new choirs: the adult choir, the youth choir, and the handbell choir. The choirs will support diocesan liturgies and commission events all over the diocese. Auditions for the choirs will be held in each deanery. Details will be finalized and announced at a later date.

“Music is literally part of the culture here in East Tennessee. We have naturally God-given talent in our parishes,” Mr. Kahler said.

He hopes that the choirs will be able to utilize that talent for the glory of God. As the choirs program evolves, he also sees future opportunities for more specialized choirs or scholas.

Following the meeting, the music ministers took a tour of the new Cathedral

of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to view the latest construction progress and learn how sacred music will be utilized in the new space.

Mr. Kahler emphasized that the cathedral belongs to everyone in the diocese. As musicians from across the diocese gather in the choir loft to celebrate events together, they should all feel at home at the mother church.

That message struck a chord with William Lovelace, a professional musician who is the music teacher at St. Joseph School.

“No one individual can cultivate every talent necessary to be the ideal music minister. Some of us excel as vocalists or as instrumentalists. Some of us are great recruiters and great directors. Others excel at aligning our musical selections with liturgies, while others have specialized knowledge of repertoire, of historical context, or of important church documents,” Mr. Lovelace said.

“The new music commission, and in particular, its new music ministers’ website, promise to bring us all together to share our collective talents to ‘support and enrich’ our liturgies throughout East Tennessee. Belonging to the commission should help us all strive harder to attain the ideal.”

Marie-Jo Thum, music director of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Mountain City, enjoyed meeting with other music ministers from across the diocese and looks forward to working with them as the commission moves forward. She said it’s a good reminder to smaller parishes that even though they are small or far away, they are no less important.

She’s also excited to share what she learned with other parishioners at St. Anthony.

“I was thinking that as we toured the cathedral. This is their cathedral. I know it’s a haul for people to come, but it’s their space. I feel like I can go back and excite them about what I saw happening today,” she said.

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