The Shoes of the
Please tell our
CatholicMom.com readers about your background with the Catholic Church and
about your music ministry work.
I am a ďcradleĒ
Catholic from a devout family, and was educated primarily in Catholic
schools (before college). We moved around a lot -I went to 3 high schools! I
had a hard time making friends, and was lonely. I started making music when
my mother bought me a guitar for my 16th birthday. She thought
that it would be a good outlet for me, and she was so right. It was one of
the best things ever to happen to me. I started playing for Masses at high
school, and have played at Mass since then (that was 1975, so itís been 28
years and I feel like Iím just starting). For many years, I served as a
choir director at a wonderful parish in Chicago (St. Gregory the Great), but
since moving to the suburbs I am happy to serve as a parish musician under
the leadership of a dear friend. I am proud to have been singing and playing
at Mass for all these years, and look forward to leading Godís people in
song for many years to come.
selections on your cd are all your own compositions. What is the
inspiration behind your lyrics and how do you select the themes for your
When I began writing
music in 1978, I tried to write ďsecularĒ music. It didnít occur to me that
it was God-centered, but in a jam session another musician asked me,
ďHavenít you ever written anything without God in it?Ē I realized then that
I didnít really WANT to write music without God in it! As I look back and
think about it, the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother have been, are, and
will continue to be my inspiration.
Generally, I select
themes based on the readings and prayers used for whatever season the Church
is going through. Our Catholic Church is set up so beautifully to go through
the seasons on yearly reading cycles (A, B, and C). That gives you so much
to choose from Ė virtually ALL of Scripture! Specifically, I use Scripture,
prayers of the Saints, and prayers used in the Liturgy. I write my own
lyrics rarely (who can compete with Scripture, the Saints, and Mass?), but
when I do I use the life of the Blessed Mother as my inspiration. People
tell me that one of the most moving songs I have ever written and performed
is called ďThe Gentle Mother.Ē I tried to use my own emotional experience as
a parent to imagine how three moments in Maryís life must have felt to her:
Holding Christ on the night He was born; holding Him as a little boy; and
holding Him in the tomb. Who would NOT be moved, especially parents, when
you imagine feeling what she must have felt at those tender moments!
I noticed that there are many people involved in the cd, and also that your
family members play various roles in the project. Could you please tell us
more about your family?
I met my wife, Lori,
at St. Gregoryís 25 years ago. She was 16, I was 19. She had joined the
choir there the very week I started attending St. Gregoryís. Of course, I
joined immediately! Weíve been together for 25 years now, and have been
married since 1982. We still love to sing together. We have three children:
Erika (20), Emily (19), and Rick (16). Erika loves ballet, and studied it
for several years. There was no way to include her dancing on my CD, but Iíd
like her to choreograph some dance for our annual May Crowning. Emily
loves to sing, is already a lot better than I am, and is now studying voice
and music education at Illinois State University. Rick loves to play the
drums, and has for a few years now. I thought that including them would be a
great way to tie all of the loves of my life together: God, the Holy
Catholic Church, music, and family.
Please share the story behind the making of this CD...what
motivated you to record the CD and where the profits are used?
I have been writing
Catholic music for 25 years now, and over the years many people have asked
me for recordings of one song or another. The songs on this CD represent a
few of the more requested songs. We did record some songs back in 1983, but
it was very expensive to rent studio time, get musicians together, etc. I
was getting frustrated over the years because I had all this music gathering
dust, people were asking for it, and I couldnít afford the studio time. Lori
and I talked it over and decided that, slowly over the years, I could put
together enough recording equipment to record at home to the best of my
ability. It may not be the polished quality of a recording studio, but I can
spend many more hours on a song than at the studio, and there is no limit to
how much I can record.
Once upon a time, I
had dreams of being able to record my music and make a profit. Children and
married life have definitely made a realist out of me! I decided that it
wasnít my calling to make a living as a Catholic musician or composer. St.
Francis once said something like, ďWhat you are is Godís gift to you; what
you become is your gift to God.Ē Based on that, I decided that perhaps it
was my calling to make my music a gift to the Church. By giving away the
music, I can do three things at once: Give people a product definitely worth
a donation; raise money for the Catholic Church; and defray just a little of
the expense of doing it. Whatever I can raise over and above the 2 or 3
dollars per CD that it takes to actually duplicate them goes directly to the
Church or affiliated organizations. For example, the first pressing of 100
CDs primarily went to my current parish, Resurrection Catholic Church in
Woodstock, IL. We are small, our debts are big; I think most Catholics can
relate to that! Fortunately, I was able to raise $700 in donations, and
Father has put that money to very good use. For the next pressing, all
profit goes to FirstWay of McHenry County here in NW Illinois, a crisis
pregnancy center that supports Moms and families who might, in despair,
What future music projects do you have in the works?
In 2004, I will be
recording many more songs that I have written. I like to combine old and new
material, so this CD will feature several more songs people have been asking
for, and a few new songs, 2 of which also are about and dedicated to the
Blessed Mother. I donít try too hard to write them, I let them come under
inspiration, and lately the inspiration has directed me toward our Blessed
Mother. Of the two songs I plan to include about her, I think ďHerself A
Rose/Ave Maria,Ē is one of the best pieces I have ever written. Iím really
looking forward to recording it.
Are you a full time
No, Iím strictly an
amateur. Iím actually a psychologist by training. I had a few guitar and
voice lessons when I was 16, but in my 16-year-old arrogance, I quit after
just a few. I dearly wish now I had seriously taken lessons.
advice would you give Catholic parents looking to help their families make
musical selections? How can we help support Catholic recording artists?
Please donít be afraid
that you are ďcensoringĒ what your kids listen to if you find it
objectionable and donít want them playing it. Look at it this way: You
provide them with nutritious food for their bodies, challenging education
for their minds, and rich Catholic doctrine for their souls. Think about the
impact of music, then: Music is consumed by their hearts, minds, and souls!
As a father and as a psychologist, I can tell you: Kids need discipline;
they need boundaries; they need to know what the rules are and to see them
clearly, compassionately, and consistently applied. They need to know by
your behavior that you care about what comes into the house and into their
heads. Most likely, you have in the past protected them from TV shows,
movies, and video games that you find objectionable. Why then treat music
any differently? If anything, itís even more pervasive.
Music is a public, not
a private, art. Do not let them sit in the solitude of their room and play
whatever they want, whenever they want, as often as they want. Thatís not
freedom, thatís license, and itís decidedly unhelpful to them. So, hereís a
litmus test: Your kids should be able to play whatever CD they own right in
front of the family; if they cannot recite the words publicly without shame
or embarrassment, then thereís a problem.
I didnít realize any
of this myself until my oldest kid was about 13. I heard what she was
playing in her room, so I went in, picked up the CD jacket, and read the
lyrics out loud. WHOA. This stuff couldnít have been more full of despair or
more anti-woman! I let Lori listen to it, too, and that was it; that stuff
had to go. The first step was my wife and I spending time with all 3 kids,
pointing out exactly what the music was saying to them, and how it was
saying it in plain English. They honestly hadnít seen the problem; having
them read the words out loud to us, and explain their themes, did the trick
The second step was
that we exposed them to Christian music on the radio, in the stores and on
the Internet. If you want to find Christian artists out there who play rock,
rap, hip-hop, etc., but do so to the words of Scripture, then tune in the
local Christian radio station, and make it a point to listen to it regularly
in the car and at home. Thereís a ton of Christian music out there for kids,
and they will start picking up what they like. If your kids go to a Catholic
school, then you should insist that hired DJs play some of this music at
The end result for our
family was that gradually (none of this happens overnight), the kids started
asking for, playing, and humming stuff by Steven Curtis Chapman, dcTalk, and
4Him, for example. Thatís not all they listen to, of course, but I can see
by their CD collections that they have become much more discerning
consumers, and see for themselves the difference between music thatís
uplifting and music thatís degrading.
If youíre looking for
artists who are explicitly Catholic, then youíll have to start nosing around
the Internet at Catholic web sites (search for Catholic music; many sites
can be found). John Michael Talbot is a wonderful first choice for many
people, although my kids think his music tends to be aimed at a more mature
audience. In my opinion, the Catholic music market is still in its infancy.
Thatís good news! Itís maturing as we speak, and you can help to shape it.
Check the internet for Catholic recording artists who are marketing
themselves to kids. Theyíre out there. There may even be something at a
Catholic book store near you. Explore the alternatives together with the
kids. Thatís the best way to support the new Catholic market Ė get out
there, explore it, listen to the demos, buy what you like and what the kids
like, and buy it for your local Catholic Youth Group as a donation.
Who are some of your favorite musicians?
My favorite Catholic composers are, by far, Michael
Joncas and John Foley. On the Christian music side, I like 4Him, dcTalk, and
Steven Curtis Chapman. In secular music, a few of my favorites are Cat
Stevens, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Ian Anderson, and the Irish group
Altan (my last name would never tell you this, but Iím half Irish and I LOVE
Irish music to death).
there any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our
One comment. I would
like to say thank you to all the mothers, grandmothers, and godmothers out
there, on behalf of sons (like me) who never really figured out how to just
say ĎThank you,í without a Hallmark card, or never acted like we were
grateful. We are MUCH more than grateful. We are who we are in some way
because of you and what you provided for us. You are made in the image of
the dear Blessed Mother Mary, and our very existence is owed to your loving
ďBe it done,Ē whispered from your soul to the mind of God at our conception.
Thank you, and may God abundantly bless you, and Mary keep you.