Michael Shuman started in early June as Covenant’s Director of Music Ministry. Michael most recently served as Director of Music Ministries at First United Presbyterian Church (FUPC) in Fayetteville, Ark. He has also been an adjunct instructor at the University of Arkansas.
Michael sat down last week with our interim music director Louise Avant to answer some questions about himself and his journey to Covenant. Watch it online and/or read much of the conversation below.
Asked what excites him about Covenant, Michael replied, “What’s not exciting about Covenant? It’s a whole new set of people, of backgrounds, of tastes, of likes and dislikes.”
After being here for two Sundays, Michael said, “I’m excited about the musical possibility of the church -- not just the groups, but the congregation, too.”
Michael said he is eager to get up to speed. “The biggest challenge for me is just learning what Covenant is and who Covenant is and how we do things. I want to learn Covenant traditions – what’s going well here. I can continue those things and do things in an expected way that helps everyone understand that yes, things will continue and I’m not here to change every detail.”
In Arkansas, the FUPC choir averaged about 25 singers every week. “It might be 30-35 for the seasonal kind of singing. But 25, and that’s including four college interns that we had every year,” Michael said.
“So that (the size of the choir) is a bit of a change, but so is the church. You have more options. Rain or weather or a ball game or a college event, you can afford for more people that might make a different choice on a Sunday morning.”
Regardless of who is singing in the choir, Michael’s goal for music ministry is for all to participate. Whether singing in the pews, ringing bells, singing with children, or supporting the musical gifts of others, he encourages all to join in as their gifts allow.
More about Michael
Michael defines himself as a musical generalist. “I’m more classically trained than anything else, so my skillset leans toward that direction. I like classical music, I like sacred, I like contemporary, I like traditional. Those are very vague terms, so it doesn’t really tell you much. I like Broadway, rock of the 50s and 60s; it’s a wide range of things. I could probably listen to whatever station is on the radio when I’m in the car.”
Michael said Austin’s diverse musical community is appealing. “Whatever I’m in the mood to go listen to, I can probably go find it.”
Those who met Michael during the interview process not only admired his musical skills, but found him to have a warm and welcoming personality. "Michael is very engaging and personable, great sense of humor, energetic and excited about all kinds of music!" Jan Skaggs said.
Clark Weatherby echoed. “Michael is engaging and funny, has impeccable credentials, and has a love of music, worship and how they work together.”
Michael is married to Hannah; the couple has lots of local exploration to do. Hannah’s first trip to Austin was on their moving day, and Michael spent only 24 hours here during his interview process. Hannah is also musically trained and is currently working for Austin’s Suzuki Music School. The couple is excited to join the Austin community and looks forward to all the opportunities the people and surrounding area have to offer