In Harmony with His Talents

Kristian C. Kohler ’13 uses his musical gifts to teach children and inspire troubled adults.
Thursday, May 9, 2013

After completing one last tour with the Westminster Bell Choir, Kristian C. Kohler ’13 will head to Yale Divinity School to pursue a master’s degree in Religion. He then plans to teach sacred music or worship and theology at a university and to conduct and perform at a church.

The Reading, Pa., native describes Westminster Choir College as an intense musical experience. A member of the Baccalaureate Honors Program, Kohler—a double major in Music Education and Sacred Music—has relished the connection his classes made between music and other subjects.

“Each day, we study together and perform together in the Bell Choir and the Symphonic Choir,” he said.

A recipient of the President’s Award and an Andrew J. Rider Scholar, for which he has been chosen three times, Kohler will give the student address at this spring’s Westminster awards ceremony.

Kohler is assistant director of music at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in East Windsor, N.J., a job that began as an internship and turned into a paid position. He directs the children’s choir and bell choir, assists with the adult choir, and plays the organ during services. Voice and piano are his main instruments.

Kohler is driven to succeed by his parents, who believe everyone has special gifts they should pursue, and by his faith.

“Everyone has unique abilities for a reason,” Kohler said. “At Rider, I’ve seen how music can make a difference in people’s lives, so I know I’m on the right path.”

As a Prison Choir program volunteer during his sophomore year, Kohler saw the impact music education could have. “The program’s goal wasn’t to rehearse for a performance,” he explained. “It was for the prisoners to learn and grow as individuals and community members. In the end, they taught me as much as I taught them, if not more.”

Dr. Frank Abrahams, professor of Music Education and associate dean for the arts, asked Kohler and program founder Miranda Rowland ’13 to collaborate with him on an article about the Prison Choir program. The article was accepted for publication in the Music Educators Journal and the trio was invited to present at the 2012 International Society for Music Education World Conference.

“Westminster is a high-paced, performance-focused school and, yet, there is a support and sense of community that I’ve never seen before,” Kohler said. “The last four years have inspired me to know this is something I want to recreate no matter where I end up.”

Kristian C. Kohler ’13