Four college kids are the only music for St. Armands Key Lutheran Church during the pandemic.
If not for four college students, St. Armands Key Lutheran Church would be choir-less these days. Luckily for the church and its congregants, director of music Michael Bodnyk began the Choral Scholars program in 2019.
It’s a team of four University of Tampa music majors who devote Saturdays to rehearsal and Sundays to service. Last year, the scholars helped supplement the choir, Bodnyk said, but this year it’s a little different — they are the choir, because volunteer members have to stay home during the pandemic. Some churches hire professional musicians to supplement the choir and lead the voice sections, but at SAKLC, it’s all undergraduate students who haven’t taken the step of leading in such a way before.
“I’ve been so impressed with them in COVID times,” Bodnyk said. “I sat them down and said, ‘I’m counting on you to take care of your health for this congregation.’ The congregation just loves them.”
It’s stressful at times for the students — Nina Vannucci, Kelly Collins, Bronson Byerley and Kevin Moroney — but it’s also expanding their repertoire and boosting their confidence. Even though the students don’t have anyone backing them up, they're singing the same pieces as they would with a much larger gathering.
“The piece we’re doing, it should be sung by a 30 to 40-person choir,” Bodnyk said. “There’s no hiding.”
But Bodnyk doesn’t intend for them to struggle. He has a teaching background and wants to strike a balance between low-key and challenging, to bring along their music education as they keep the church musical.
Rehearsals are full of gentle yet exacting edits to the volume and pitch of the students, who are always ready to try again. They’ve become a tight group, chatting and laughing during downtime. Bodnyk hopes it stays that way.
“When you find the right voices and the right attitudes, you want to keep them on as long as possible,” Bodnyk said. “Everyone has been supportive. It just fits.”