The Importance of Mentorship

by Chris Cherwien

Who is the first person who comes to your mind when you think of an extraordinary mentor? What is the value in taking time to think about this question?

Several years ago, I was sitting in a breakout session at an ALCM conference listening to someone whom I consider an amazing mentor. He was dropping pearls of wisdom for those of us fortunate enough to hear. As I looked around the room, I saw many people engaged and, from the outside, some who seemed not to be. It struck me that it is easy to overlook opportunities to learn from a truly great musician.

Each year we lose wise, talented, and faithful servants of God. We will never again, in this lifetime, hear their voices, but the gifts that they have given us live on.

Helen Kemp is another person who comes to mind when I think of an extraordinary mentor. I learned from Helen to really see the children that I am privileged to work with. Her loving spirit made each child feel like they were important and special. Her gentleness and incredible musical gifts flowed out of her with ease. I remember how masterfully she conducted a gymnasium filled with energetic children. Not with a raised voice, but with a quiet, inviting sound. The last time I was with Helen was at a children’s festival in celebration of her 90th birthday. My choristers loved every minute and I soaked in the experience and the knowledge that she imparted.

Who has gifted you and shaped your music ministry?

Each year the National Lutheran Choir hosts a Choral Workshop for church choirs in the area and their directors. I look forward to this day for several reasons. The first is that it is a delight to sing in a sanctuary filled with dedicated church choir members. I can’t even imagine the joy we will feel next January when we can be singing together in the same space! The second reason is that it is a privilege to learn from a guest conductor. I have my pencil in hand and take copious notes. Once again, pearls dropping into my conductor’s bag! Some of our past clinicians include Anton Armstrong, Greg Aune, David Cherwien, René Clausen, Michael Culloton, Andrew Last, and Lee Nelson. Each one gifted and shaped by their mentors.

So, what is the value in taking the time to consider the people who have shaped you as a musician and a person? When I do this practice, I am filled with gratitude for the gifted people who have shared their love of music and God. I am also reminded that it is a joy and a responsibility to pass these gifts on to future generations.

Thank God for your mentors and pass their pearls of wisdom on!

Posted on Mar 3, 2021 11:44:44 AM
Filed Under: Music Ministry,

Chris Cherwien

Written by Chris Cherwien

Chris Cherwien has been a church musician for over 38 years serving congregations in Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia. In all three cities Chris founded/co-founded summer music and arts camps for children and youth. She is currently the Director of Worship and Music at Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and has been the alto section leader for the National Lutheran Choir since 2012. Chris and her husband Paul have three grown children and four grandchildren.