Meet Sarah (Press) Stolarczyk (’00), who started playing in the CUW Wind Ensemble “for fun” and grew to love it so much she made Music her minor.
- Name: Sarah (Press) Stolarczyk
- Hometown: Seymour, Indiana
- Now Resides: Port Charlotte, Florida
- Undergrad Major: Elementary Education with minors in Math and Music
- Primary Instruments: Flute/piccolo, organ, 2nd soprano
- CUW Ensembles: Wind Ensemble, Alleluia Ringers, Chorale
My first job after graduation was as a teacher and assistant music director at St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in LaGrange, Illinois. These days I’m a homeschool mom and fill-in organist/pianist at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Port Charlotte, Florida, where my husband is the pastor.
Who or what inspired me to pursue music:
So many people influenced me musically. As an elementary student, I had my first opportunity to play for worship services when my dad (a pastor) would take me along when he preached at the nursing home, and I would accompany the hymns. Soon after, I started playing the piano at our church (King of Kings in Mason, OH), where the music director, Debbie Billman, was always supportive and encouraging of me. My high school band director, Steve McGrew, and organ instructor, Ron Preloger, both helped me to grow as a musician. Of course, my instructors at CUW, especially Dr. Menchaca, Dr. Behnke, and Dr. Kosche, were hugely influential during my college years. And being the assistant music director under Jerry Kuker at St. John’s in LaGrange taught me so much about glorifying God through music.
But, probably the earliest influence on my interest in church music in particular was my elementary music teacher, Melody Turnquist. She provided me with my first experiences with both handbells and flute. I especially remember watching her play the organ for chapel and on Sundays when the school choir sang for church services and being in awe of the fact that she could play the hymns AND sing along with every single verse of every single hymn! This is something I aspire to do when I play, because it really helps me to focus on leading the congregation in worship through their singing.
Favorite CUW memory:
Do I have to pick one? 😊 I would say that band tours were definitely a highlight for me!
Favorite CUW Music memory:
During my final year at CUW, I decided to do a flute and organ recital even though it was not required for my music minor. I just thought it would be a wonderful culmination of my years of study on both instruments. As the recital got closer, I became increasingly stressed out, because I felt that the music wasn’t nearly as polished as I would have liked it to be. And then, about a month before the recital, I was playing in the powder puff flag football game for homecoming. I made a valiant dive to grab an opponent’s flag … and landed on my shoulder. It was dislocated, and all I could think was that I wouldn’t be able to do my recital.
Fortunately, the recovery was fairly quick and within a week, I was back to practicing. But now my preparations were different. I was able to enjoy the process and not stress if the music wasn’t perfect. God used that event to remind me of the gift that music is in my life. I am thankful for that gift and truly enjoy using my talents to glorify God.
What CUW Music has meant to me:
I am so grateful for my music experiences at CUW. When I came to Concordia as a freshman, my plan was to play in the band and take organ lessons and that was it. As I got to know the faculty and my fellow music students, my interest in other musical outlets grew. Besides playing in the Wind Ensemble and taking organ lessons for all five years, I also played in the Alleluia Ringers for a year and sang with the Chorale for several semesters. I took theory and music history classes. I studied flute and voice privately. At the time, I did it mostly “for fun.” I had no idea how invaluable those experiences would prove to be as I have had the opportunity to direct handbell choirs and children’s choirs in several of the congregations that I have been a part of, in addition to leading worship on the organ.
Perhaps as much as the musical skill and knowledge I gained at CUW, I am so thankful for the friendships that grew as a result of my involvement in the music program. From spending hours rehearsing the intricacies of a piece of music to leading congregations in glorifying God through worship to enjoying time together during band and handbell tours, we got to know and appreciate one another deeply. I am blessed to still be good friends with both students and faculty from my time there.
How you can help!
The CUW Music Department is currently raising funds to build a new, long-overdue music rehearsal space. The new building will devote 6,800 square feet to rehearsal and practice rooms for the 225-plus students at Concordia who are majoring in music programs or involved in one of CUW’s 12 music ensembles. If you’d like to help, click the link below to find out how to contribute.
Since 1881, Concordia University’s mission has been teaching and preparing students for careers and vocations that serve The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Music has always been an integral part of that mission. The music department contributes to the spiritual, cultural, artistic, academic and co-curricular aspects to University life on campus. As the campus has grown in scope and size the music department has become more integral to the University mission.