Saturday, February 18, 2012

Young Lutheran Artists Spotting!!!

Last week I asked, "Where are the artists?" and particularly wondered where and if young artists were emerging in our church(es). This post garnered some particularly lively discussion which you can follow here.

Here's what I learned. First, it really is true that it is hard to find young creatives in our church. Some are leaving for other denominations or non-denoms that fund and foster younger creativity more than we do. Others are simply quietly doing work in their congregations, and aren't necessarily putting out albums or publishing.

By and large, I think my initial thesis still stands. We aren't fostering creativity. Anyone reading this with the wherewithal and the resources, here's my best advice: we need to start spending money on creatives. We need to hire them, fund them, create places and spaces for them to flourish. Anyone game?

Finally, I did want to give a shout out to all the young creatives you all linked to in your responses. So below is a list of names readers offered up as examples of young Lutheran artists. Although here's the funny thing. Not all of them are young, and not all of them are Lutheran.

No matter. I feel good about giving them a shout out here. Most are links so you can go listen for yourself. One disclaimer: this is not intended to be exhaustive, it's just folks y'all told me about.

Tay Wilson

Dan Schwandt

Paul Friesen-Carper

Eric Engblade

Nathan Schleicher

The Northern Skies

Tim Jahn

Gretchen Weller Mertes

Chris Tripolino

Peter Schwich

Other arts:

Emily Bouvier (photography)

A few folks pointed out that my aim was too narrow in focusing exclusively on young Lutheran rockers. You're right, that's a narrow topic, but honestly, I needed some way to focus. However, if you know great Lutheran artists working in other media, list them here in the comments!


  1. Great post, Clint. And an interesting conversation, as well.

    I was given great opportunities to share my musical gifts at my home church in Minnesota, where we had a contemporary service that did some CCM music, and at the same time our contemporary worship director was Ray Makeever. In that sense, I had great mentors to help me become a leader in worship.

    However, the idea to take it to the next level-- to become a Lutheran musician? If it ever occurred to me (and I don't think it ever did, even with Makeever and other Lutheran music legends as mentors), the idea would have been quickly squashed by a sense of "you need to study Lutheran liturgy and hymnology before you can succeed".

    I love the Lutheran church, though, and still play my music many times a week as a youth director-- at confirmation and high school youth group, with preschool chapel, at summer camp, and at any given weekend retreat.

    Hey Tay-- wanna start a band? I've got bass or guitar covered...!

    1. "You need to study Lutheran liturgy..." = "You're too young, and you need to go to seminary first".

      I had actually been told that, while in my late teens. For me, that was probably the most discouraging sensibility within my network of church people at the time.

    2. I'm always down for a jam session : )

  2. Jonathan Rundman started doing his liturgically informed music when he was still in college. Most great rock musicians start really young and they certainly don't go to graduate school. I say go for it, Ian!

  3. Heatherlyn is an up and coming artist that shouldn't be overlooked. Thanks for your thoughts, Clint.

    1. Heatherlyn is fantastic!

  4. Once upon a time, I had a band, made up more or less of Lutherans. We played at Lutheran (and non-Lutheran) churches, camps, conferences, and events around Southern California. We played at bars and clubs in Hollywood. We led worship (some original, and some not) and played original music (some worship, some not). We sold somewhere between 500-1000 cds.

    We had a lot of fun, but we spent more money than we made, so alas, careers and families called our names. We also found that talent seems to be somewhat less important than having the right connections.

    You can still find each of us leading worship (as pastor or musician) on Sunday mornings somewhere in the world.

  5. It's difficult to find and/or see nurtured any artists (young or old) in just about any denomination.

    I write this as someone who was raised as and trained to be a visual artist, starting art lessons at age 7 (also started music at that time) and tracked that way through college -- until I had a meltdown and crawled away from the arts.

    Skipping over a lot of bio info and fast forward decades until I'm involved with church. As part of my (forgive me the cliche) journey, I'm reintegrating art and music into my life and discovering the dearth of support, even though the arts have always been a gateway to faith. (Note: One out-of-print book that made a huge impression on me is Franky Schaeffer's compelling screed, Addicted to Mediocrity: 20th Century Christians and the Arts).

    Another decade has passes and I cannot help but notice how very generally speaking local churches and judicatories do not nurture the connection between faith and creative expression.

    That said/written, the Church (writ large and broad) does support "superstar" artists. I'm thinking about the work of Jan Richardson (UMC), Bro. Mickey O'Neill McGrath (Catholic). Fr. Peter Pearson (Episcopal), Bro. Robert Lentz (Catholic) and a numerous contemporary iconographers. Meanwhile, on here on the Earth plane, new unknown artists are struggling for support.

    Support artists!