A Call to Worship

Isabel Alsum’s view of what it means to be a church musician has grown significantly during her time at Dordt University. She used to see it as “I have to learn all these hymns; I have to pick out service music.”

But things have changed.

“Making music for the glory of God and for the benefit of a congregation is, for me, the highest calling. Being a church musician is a big responsibility: you have a hand in carrying all these souls to worship because your music is what affects them, it’s what they hear and what accompanies them in corporate worship and song.”

Now, when selecting church music, she considers what would be most fitting for the sermon topic, the scripture reading, and for the season within the liturgical year.

“I want to make the whole worship service a more rounded, cohesive experience,” she says. “I want to elevate the mind of the congregation and help them to sing and worship with all their hearts. The pastor’s role is to care for the souls of the congregation. And as a church musician, I want to care for the congregation’s hearts.”

To become a more well-rounded musician, Alsum plans to earn a master’s degree in organ and sacred music at the University of Kansas after she graduates from Dordt. She chose to attend Dordt in part because of the university’s Casavant organ and Associate Professor of Music Dr. Carrie Groenewold.

“Dr. Groenewold is a great teacher, and she has been my role model in many ways. She is passionate about the organ and is a wonderful example of a godly musician and person.”

Some might say that studying music performance is an impractical major, adds Alsum, but the positive impact Groenewold has had on Alsum as a professor has shown Alsum that even what might be seen as an impractical major can still make a difference in people’s lives.

And Alsum has had many opportunities while studying music at Dordt: she participated in the Netherlands organ study tour, where she was able to play historic, renowned organs at cathedrals and churches. She was part of the concert choir, which took her all over the country for choir tour. Alsum has also been able to interact with world-famous organists who come to visit Dordt through the Joan Ringerwole Organ Recital Series.

“Being a musician is how I live out my faith,” she says. “It’s deeply meaningful to me and helps me to glorify God.”

After earning a graduate degree, Alsum plans to work as a church musician. She looks forward to continuing to advocate for the organ as a church musician and firmly believes that the organ has a never-ending legacy within the church.

“The music department at Dordt has expanded my world. Since taking classes here and getting to study with Dr. Groenewold, I have found my sense of direction. I no longer feel like music performance isn’t a practical degree, because it’s practical for me as a musician and as a future church musician.”