The average teenage girl can only dream about issuing directions to a group of adults twice her age — and having those adults follow them. Kara Aymerich, however, recently lived that experience, but it wasn’t necessarily a dream come true at first.
"It was nerve-wracking," said Aymerich, an 18-year-old member of St. Januarius Church in Naples, which is part of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community.
Two years ago Aymerich became the director of her church’s newly formed adult choir. Christine Wensel, the parish’s pastoral associate and faith-formation director, said she asked Aymerich to direct the choir because she knew the teen was a gifted singer. She was a little uncertain, however, about the then-16-year-old’s ability to be an effective director.
"The choir was all adults, and they were not in their 20s and 30s. They were in their 40s and up, mostly up," Wensel said. "I was really concerned at the beginning about her being able to command their respect."
At the same time, however, Wensel said she knew Aymerich was disciplined, responsible and very mature for her age, and her faith in Aymerich soon paid off.
"She handled herself very well. She took control, listened to what they had to say and was very supportive of them, but was also able to handle it as a mature adult director," Wensel said.
And although the new role at first was intimidating to Aymerich, she soon became very comfortable in it.
"I think it was just a process for me to get used to giving instructions to adults," she said. "I’m an introvert, so getting up in front of people was a little difficult, but it just came to me after like a month."
Aymerich said initially she also was intimidated by the task of choosing liturgically appropriate song selections for weekend liturgies. She frequently went to Wensel, the choir members and Our Lady of the Lakes’ pastor, Father Robert Ring, with questions, and all were very willing to help, she said.
The St. Januarius Choir is a tight-knit group, and the members often pray together out loud, Aymerich said. Prayer had always been a private matter for Aymerich, but gradually she became more comfortable vocalizing her prayers and feelings about her faith within the safe haven of choir practices.
"It’s kind of like a whole new outlook (on prayer)," she remarked.
The choir members took to Aymerich as quickly as she grew comfortable with them, said member Jackie Leysath. They were as impressed by her ability to start a choir from scratch as they were by her crystal-clear soprano singing voice, Leysath said.
"We really respected her talent, which a lot of us didn’t have," Leysath quipped. "She took a bunch of us old folks and whipped us into shape, and she did a beautiful job."
As a matter of fact, the members of the St. Januarius Choir were so impressed by Aymerich’s leadership that they nominated her for the diocesan Hands of Christ recognition. This award is given each year to high-school seniors who have actively served others in parishes, homes, schools and communities. Aymerich is one of approximately 800 seniors who received the award from Bishop Matthew H. Clark in March.
"We all strongly feel she deserves this honor," the choir members wrote in their letter nominating Aymerich for the award. "Although our choir members are significantly older than her, and with varying degrees of musical background, Kara has guided and inspired us. The St. Januarius choir will continue as her legacy when she heads off to college in the fall."
Aymerich will attend Roberts Wesleyan College in North Chili and plans to study music education. She eventually wants to either become an opera singer or start a program through which she could teach music to children and adults who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn about it.
Music has always been a constant in Aymerich’s life, and in seventh grade she enrolled in voice lessons and began to consider pursuing a career in music.
"(Music) is just something I love to do. It’s something that’s always around me," Aymerich said. "It calms me down, it gets me excited. It’s just something that I have to do because that’s me."
Directing the St. Januarius Choir helped reinforce Aymerich’s desire to pursue music as a career. She recently passed the choir’s reins to another member, since she will be leaving for college soon. While she still sings with the choir, she said she misses her director’s responsibilities.
The choir members will miss Aymerich as well, but they’ll always be grateful to her for giving them the opportunity to sing together.
"We are so grateful to have a choir to sing in, and now because of her … it will go forward," Leysath said. "She’s done a great job. She brought something to life where there was none."