Jolie Roat, 17, has been involved in the music ministry at St. Patrick’s Parish in Macedon since she was in fourth grade. Over the summer, she honed her skills during Music Ministry Alive! a weeklong camp for high-school and college students involved in music ministry.
Jolie, who recently began her senior year at Palmyra-Macedon High School, began singing in the children’s choir when she was in fourth grade. When she outgrew the children’s choir, she joined the parish’s bell choir, which she participated in until the director of the parish’s adult choir asked her to occasionally provide flute accompaniment. Two years ago, she was asked to become a full-fledged member of the adult choir, and she has been the parish’s flutist-in-residence ever since.
On July 27, 150 students from all over the country descended on the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., for Music Ministry Alive! which wrapped up on Aug. 1. David Haas, director of the Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry, led the annual program, the theme of which was “Build Us a Table.” Haas — who himself is a composer, author, teacher, youth minister and liturgical musician — was assisted by a team of fellow musicians, youth ministers and teachers.
Suzanne Portland, who recently retired after seven years as music director for St. Patrick’s, heard about Music Ministry Alive! at a national music convention and passed the word along to Jolie and several other teens involved in the parish’s music ministry. Jolie prepared an audition tape and was consequently accepted into the program, Portland said.
“Jolie happens to be a very, very responsible young musician. It was perfect for her. I was thrilled that she was able to go,” Portland said.
Jolie, who began playing the flute when she was 10 years old, usually attends one flute camp each summer. Music Ministry Alive! was different from all of the other camps she’d attended because of its focus on the church and ministry, she said. Throughout the week, participants attended workshops dealing with the role of music in the church and in their lives, Jolie added.
Each day Jolie participated in a group flute lesson, learning how to improvise and put her own unique stamp on the music she plays. She also learned how to take church music that may not be written for a flute and translate it into something she can play. Each day of the camp began with morning prayer, and each of the campers was assigned to a peer-ministry group.
Jolie also learned about the dynamics of playing in a church, learning, for example, that the collective voice of the congregation should actually be louder than that of the choir and instrumentalists. In another workshop, she was able to play along with other instrumentalists and try her hand at the saxophone, guitar and drums, which she’s played before but not in a church setting.
On the last night of the camp, all 150 campers assembled to present a concert, called Festival Sing! Jolie sang 14 songs along with her fellow campers and was able to provide flute accompaniment for one song. Jolie’s family attended the concert and got a glimpse of what she had been doing all week long.
“I think they were impressed with the number of kids and how well we sounded,” Jolie said.
Jolie came back to Macedon armed with new skills, full of ideas for improving her ministry, and eager to put those new ideas and skills to the test. Those skills and ideas weren’t the only things she gained from the camp, however.
“I realized how lucky I am to be in the Rochester area and specifically at St. Patrick’s,” Jolie said, noting that many of her fellow campers were surprised to hear that she became involved in the music ministry in fourth grade. “They weren’t allowed to play because their pastors didn’t allow the youth to participate in the music ministry.”
Portland agreed that St. Patrick’s has been blessed with a number of talented teens eager to become involved in music ministry.
“It’s a small church, but we’ve always been very lucky to have them participate,” she said.