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Arranging Music for UUSIC

One of the joys of my work at UUSIC has been arranging music specifically for our congregation and our wonderful musicians. Last Sunday, Feb. 25 “The Inward Journey”, UUS Strings, Hsin-Hui, the congregation, and I debuted “There’s an Island of Peace Within My Soul” which I wrote and orchestrated just for us. On Feb. 4, we meditated on “May I Feel Love” with words by Rev. Darrick Jackson, which I set to music and arranged for UUS Strings, piano, and voice. You may have also heard the UUS Singers sing my arrangement of “One Foot / Lead With Love” by Unitarian Universalist songwriter Melanie DeMore and “Hashiveinu” for violin, 2 voices, and piano. Last, but not least, I’ve arranged instrumental parts for the most experienced member of our Children’s Choir to accompany the others.

Growing up Lutheran in a church with a robust music program was such a gift to me. I maintain that I learned to read music before I learned to read the English language because I was always following along in hymnals during services, looking forward to the day I could be in the bell choir. My Swedish/American church choir director taught me to read rhythm and sing in canon, how to rehearse and respect my fellow musicians.

In college I started writing songs, which led me to The Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, hosted by Northwestern University in Chicago, where I spent a week honing my craft with Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamiliton, In the Heights), Craig Cornelia (Working, Sweet Smell of Success), and Lari White (7 Studio Albums, Nashville producer), along with twelve other incredible songwriters from around the world.

One of my main goals since I began in September of 2023 has been incorporating diverse voices and traditions into our worship, using the wonderful musicians and ensembles we have available to us. I have successfully included Hebrew prayers, folk tunes, BIPOC originated meditations, and African American songs into my arrangements in my time here. The UUS Singers and UUS Strings have been amazingly open to my works as I experiment with new genres and “decolonizing” practices. (To learn more about decolonizing the music space, click here.)

I treasure being able to put my songwriting and composition skills to use here where music means so much to us, and I can’t wait for my next project. Thank you all for trying new things with me and for singing “When the Spirit says Sing!” (Hymn #1024)

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