From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[UMNS-ALL-NEWS] UMNS# 315-Teen musician steps up to lead church choir
Wed, 23 Jul 2008 17:45:48 -0500
>Teen musician steps up to lead church choir
>Jul. 23, 2008
NOTE: Photographs and a video story are available at
>By John Gordon*
MOUNT GRETNA, Pa. (UMNS)-Many members of the choir he leads are old
enough to be his grandparents.
But 15-year-old Ryan Brunkhurst is more than the choir director and
organist at Mount Gretna United Methodist Church. He also shows members
of the Pennsylvania congregation how youth can make valuable
contributions to the church.
"I love hymns," he says. "I love taking a hymn and just putting my own
style into it and just playing the way I like to play."
Ryan volunteered for the job last year when the church needed to find a
"We did not have a choir director, and there might not be music, special
music, anthems and such for Christmas, (so he decided) that he had to do
something because he loves Christmas," says the Rev. Janet Steger,
pastor of Mount Gretna. "And so he came to me and he said, 'You know,
that's not acceptable to me, so I will lead the choir.'"
Ryan first played the organ at the church when he was 11-and barely able
to reach the pedals. His first introduction to music came when he was 3.
"My grandma taught me how to just play some of the basic things," he
says. "She was the organist at her church at 12."
He's now taking organ lessons from a college instructor.
Ryan says he feels comfortable around church members who are often
several times his age. "I don't get along with most people that are my
age too well," he says. "I get along with a lot-older people."
Tracie Brunkhurst encouraged her son to pursue the choir director's
"He takes it upon himself to do these things and he looks forward to it,
and he really puts all his efforts into it," says Mrs. Brunkhurst. "We
often say that he's a 60-year-old man trapped in a 15-year-old's body."
Ryan does not neglect his homework while he plays for the choir. He's at
the top of his class with a perfect grade-point average.
>Age not a barrier
Ryan held a benefit recital at the church that raised $2,000 for
sanctuary renovations. Steger says he's also involved in mission work
and other programs at the church.
"Because he is so talented, the adults in this church treat him with a
lot of respect," she says. "And I don't know that we always treat and
honor our children and our youth with a lot of respect."
Sarah Ellis, a member of the Mount Gretna choir since the time Ryan was
born, says the age difference is no barrier when the choir rehearses and
performs. "I forget that he's only 15, I truly do," says Ellis. "I know
when I was his age, I don't think that anything like that would have
even been on my radar."
Choir member Ron Jones, 54, calls Ryan "very gifted" and predicts he
will go far in his future endeavors.
"The hour that we spend together every Tuesday night (rehearsing) is, I
would say, about half serious and about half bantering back and forth
between choir members. And I think that's part of our identity and that
existed before Ryan, but it continues now," Jones says.
But there is one reminder of Ryan's young age. Choir members offer to
take him home after practice, since he is not yet old enough to get a
>Using God's gifts
Ryan hopes to continue his musical pursuit after high school. He wants
to get a doctoral degree in music, play for a church and perform.
Based on what they've seen so far, members of his congregation have
little doubt he will succeed.
"If I wasn't the organist here and if I didn't use my talents in a good
way, I just can't imagine that," he says. "I mean, when God gives you
something like that, it's just, how can you not use it."
*Gordon is a freelance producer in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470
United Methodist News Service Photos and stories also available at: http://umns.umc.org
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