The Sound of Music: Catholic Campus Ministry interns fuel the growth of the music ministry

Catholic Campus Ministry's music interns Becca Kimock '21 and Taylor Stephens '21 reflect on how they helped grow CCM's music ministry, even through the challenges of the pandemic.

It’s often said that, “Those who sing pray twice!” Music plays such an important role in our lives, and it is no more evident than in the celebration of Mass. Music and song add an incredible dimension to the experience of worship, allowing our voices and hearts to praise God in unison.

However, in the fall of 2018, Catholic Campus Ministry’s music ministry needed a jump start. It was several years since there had last been a student to lead the ministry, and while there were still students who loved to sing, CCM needed a better way to bring them together. Father Peter Tremblay, associate chaplain for Catholic Life, imagined a music internship program where a team of students could work together and completely run the ministry while gaining real life work experience in liturgical planning and musical worship.

Catholic Campus Ministry’s choir rehearses before the Easter Mass in the Schar Center.

Becca Kimock ‘21 applied and was accepted as one of CCM’s first music interns. She is an arts administration major at Elon, and before coming to the university, she sang in a national choir as well as her school’s chamber choir. Kimock desired to combine her administrative skill set along with her passion for singing and felt that CCM’s Music Internship came along at just the right time during her sophomore year. Now a senior, she has been amazed at how the ministry has grown:

“It’s been an incredible experience to see and be a part of the growing music ministry at CCM!” Kimock said. “When we first became interns in the fall of 2018, the choir was not the most organized, and the responsorial psalm at Mass wasn’t even being sung. Throughout our three years, the other interns and I worked together to find an organization system that works and coordinated to build up the program. We started creating a cantor schedule which helped to implement singing the psalms, we built up a database via Google Drive, and we coordinated with our musicians to make sure there’s music offered at each Mass. I am so proud of everyone involved in the music ministry for their passion and dedication, and I’m excited to see it continue to grow in the future!”

Likewise, Taylor Stephens ‘21 also became a music intern her sophomore year. Stephens had just received her First Communion and Confirmation during her first year at Elon and was excited to find an opportunity to give back to the Catholic community at Elon. She had been fascinated by the “beauty, design, and lyrics” of liturgical music, and, along with her skills learned as a Music Production and Recording Arts major, felt she had a lot to bring to the table. As Stephens prepares to graduate, she looks back fondly on how far the music ministry has come.

“I can recall a time when it was hard to get even two or three singers to sing with us at Masses,” Stephens said, “and now to know we have students asking to play electric bass, flute, trumpet, and sing harmonies at Mass on top of having a cantor, guitarist, and pianist warms my heart. I’ve also seen the quality of music at Mass grow tremendously. When I began, we came a little bit before Mass to warm up and sing maybe one hymn in preparation. Now to see a full, hour-long rehearsal process, a structure of schedules so we know who is helping out with music, and the incredible participation from our team, our sound has become even more angelic!”

Along with Music Intern Sam Davidson ‘22, Kimock and Stephens were presented with additional challenges this past year as the university put forth their pandemic guidelines. Not only was overall attendance at Mass limited due to social distancing parameters, but singing was discouraged among Mass attendees, and choir members who did sing had to remain 16 feet apart and wear face masks or shields to avoid the spread of respiratory droplets. It would have been a reasonable decision to not offer music at Mass at all this year, but the Music Interns knew the impact of the music. They believed that during a year of unusual circumstances, offering music at Mass would make things feel more normal for students.

Kimock, Stephens and Davidson proceeded to create sign-up opportunities for students to sing at Mass so that all choir members had a chance to sing. They continued to recruit students to join the choir, and everyone practiced singing while still wearing their face masks. At the beginning of the year, when CCM added an additional Mass time, they coordinated a virtual choir, so music could be offered even when the interns were unavailable. Throughout the year, CCM heard from students and others who tuned into the livestream how appreciative they were that CCM’s Masses still offered music.

“This past year, it’s been incredible to see the music ministry continue to grow in size, even through a pandemic,” Kimock said.

Other highlights of the year for the music ministry include creating a musical video Christmas card of “Joy to the World,” singing in the Schar Center for Easter Mass, and interviewing five students who applied to be CCM Music Interns next year. Davidson will continue on in the role, but Kimock and Stephens will wrap up three years each in the position as they graduate.

“I’ve learned so much from this position!” shared Kimock. “I’ve gained and improved valuable skills such as communication, reliability, and organization among many others that will transfer into my future career as an Arts Administrator. Also, I now have a better understanding of how music relates to the Mass. It is an essential part of the Liturgy, and I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for each of the different parts of the Mass. Lastly, and most importantly to me, is that I’ve grown deeper in my faith. Coming to college, I was at a very low point in my faith journey, and I’m so grateful that God used my passion for music to grant me this opportunity.”

Kimock said that the internship has allowed her to learn how to use music as a powerful source of prayer and to lift up her voice as a way to serve God. The most rewarding part for her is knowing that this position has not only helped her grow as a Christian and a musician, but that she’s also been part of the music ministry’s growth as well.

“As an intern, I’ve learned a lot about the power music holds for members of the congregation and how important music is at deepening our faith,” Stephens added.  “I know my own faith has grown tremendously through my connection to the hymns we sing, and I want to continue helping people connect to their faith through music. The most rewarding part for me has been seeing other members of the choir grow into a loving, caring community. Regardless of what year or major members are, I’ve loved being able to watch them connect over their faith and how music helps them grow deeper.”