All in the Family: for some, A Cappella Choir is a family tradition that spans generations

Published by Amy Crawford 2 months ago on Wed, Mar 6, 2024 10:31 AM
Concordia's University A Cappella Choir in practice
Concordia's University A Cappella Choir in practice

Founded in 1938, the audition-based Concordia University, Nebraska A Cappella Choir has a far-reaching legacy of memorable performances. But in addition to its Christ-centered focus, the thing that makes the choir special is its people. And one trend that has emerged over the years is that children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and cousins of A Cappella Choir members are also becoming members of the distinguished ensemble.  

“Making music is a way to artistically express deep feelings and beliefs. While our chief purpose in doing so is to honor God and proclaim the clear Gospel message, we become bonded in a unique way that most others won’t experience when the effort is solely artistic,” said A Cappella Choir conductor and Concordia Nebraska Music Department Chair, Dr. Kurt von Kampen. “Add to all that the knowledge that you are doing the exact same thing your siblings did a few years earlier, or your grandparents did decades ago in the same choir, sometimes even singing the same music, and it becomes something that is truly soul enriching and eternal.” 

Many current choir members are carrying on family legacies of serving as an A Cappella Choir member. Over a dozen current choir members are part of a decades-long family tradition of participating in the group, including: 

Lydia Armbrecht

Lydia’s brother Isaiah ’19 and sister-in-law Audrey ‘20, cousin Hannah Davis ’19, and parents Andy ‘89 and Donna (Spomer) Armbrecht ’91 are all previous A Cappella Choir members. A junior majoring in preK-12 vocal music education, Lydia has been in the choir for three years. Not only has she formed close bonds with her fellow choristers, she said she has befriended many others who have choral family connections spanning years.  

“It’s really fun because many of our parents were in college together, so we feel like we are carrying on a legacy, and we know that it is a good legacy to participate in and continue,” she said. “I am fed spiritually every single day. Music is truly a gift from God. Every day I hear beautiful scripture texts or general Christian texts that speak the truth of the Gospel through the expressive vehicle of music. For that privilege, I could never repay this choir and Dr. von Kampen. I am so blessed.”  

Lydia said her family encouraged her to continue the family tradition of attending the university. Following many family trips to Christmas at Concordia concerts, she said she tried to fight the “family pull” but the quality of education and music programming offered at the university won her over.  

Abigail (Kieser) Merritt

Abigail’s brother Nathan Kieser ‘23 was in the choir until the year before Abigail joined. A junior, Abigail has the opportunity to participate in the choir this year with her husband, John.  

“I never got the privilege of singing in the choir with my brother since he graduated before I joined, but it has been such a fun time singing with my husband John,” she said. “We get to drive or walk together to choir every day and practice the songs with each other at home. It’s fun to listen to recordings of our music together and sing along, since we both know the music. It’s been such a blessing!”  

She said her brother spoke very highly about being able to participate in such a dedicated and devoted choir.  

“He passed on his enthusiasm and love for A Cappella to me, and I know everyone with family connections in the choir have that same love and dedication for this choir. There is so much excitement passed on in families, and it brings life to the choir,” she said. “I love the challenge of learning a diverse set of music, and I love that Christ is the center of everything that we do. Through our music, we can proclaim Christ and His gifts and love for His people.”  

Jenna Potratz

A senior, Jenna has participated in the choir for the past two years. Both her father Kevin Potratz ’93 and her aunt Kerri (Potratz) Martinsen ‘95 were in the group.  

“Growing up, my dad often talked about the memories he had from the many tours he went on during his time in the A Cappella Choir, which included two tours to Germany. Hearing my dad tell stories about the memories he made while being in the choir definitely had a big role in my decision to audition.”  

Jenna has participated in choirs since high school. When she auditioned for the choir and made it, her father gave her the cross necklace that he wore with his choir robe during his time in the group.  

“The necklace is very special to me, and I have it displayed in my bedroom where I can see it every time I leave the room,” she said. “My favorite part of this choir is the fact that our main goal is to proclaim the Gospel. While we work very hard to have great musicianship, the most important part of choir has always been to proclaim Christ to everyone we sing to.”  

Calvin Rohde

The Lutheran world is small, and the A Cappella choir is just one example of that fact. With his cousin Morgan Rohde and brother Grant currently singing alongside him in the choir, senior Calvin Rohde said the experience of being a member of the choir is unmatched. His aunt Molly (Rohde) Helmreich CO '07 GR '15, also sang in the choir.  

“Having an aunt previously in the choir helped build some anticipation before my freshman year,” he explained. “It has also created a shared experience. Something that strikes me is how the mission of the choir has not changed at all over the years. Having my brother in the choir is fun, especially as we returned to Michigan on tour last year. It was also meaningful having my brother and cousin performing in the choir with me at Christmas at Concordia this last year.”  

Calvin said the choir is special because of its many family connections, lasting impact and ministry focus.  

“It’s not often that we get to be a part of a group that is truly good at what they do,” he added. “This choir is one of those rare opportunities. At the same time, we are focused on sharing the love of Christ to people through the music we make.”  


1966 A Cappella Choir.jpeg
The 1966 A Cappella Choir featuring Stan Obermueller '68 and Elizabeth (Stork) Obermueller HS '65 CO '67.

Micah Willweber

Senior Micah Willweber’s family has a long history with the A Cappella Choir. His parents Davis ‘92 and Marie (Obermueller) Willweber ‘94 were in the choir, as well as cousins Stephanie (Nordling) Brandt ‘89 and Philip Nordling ‘94, grandparents Stan ‘68 and Elizabeth (Stork) Obermueller HS ’63 CO ‘67, aunts Tasha (Obermueller) Fingerlin ‘97 and Megan Obermueller ‘00, great-aunt Annetta Stork HS ’65 CO ’69 GR ‘77 and great-grandfather Martin Stork HS ’38 CO ‘42.  

“It’s a special dynamic that many choir members have family either in the choir currently or who have been members in previous years or decades,” he said. “All of us who make up the current A Cappella Choir get to perpetuate the shared purpose and legacy of the group that has been built by previous members and directors.”  

Micah’s favorite part about being in the choir is singing beautiful, worshipful music together with the group each day, an experience he describes as “a gift and a joy.”  

“A Cappella is a pretty big part of my family tree. I likely would not exist if it were not for the group!” he said. “It would be special to be a member of A Cappella even if I didn’t have any relatives who were past choir members, but my participation in A Cappella certainly is a neat connecting point for me with all of these family members. While I obviously never saw any of them perform with the group, several of them have been able to come to A Cappella performances so far this year, which has been a blessing to them and me!”  

“A new choir can sound exactly as good, but it can’t have that history and legacy that builds the deeper experience,” said von Kampen. “It is a great feeling to know that when I look out at my singers, I’m seeing the same family [that former directors] Paul Rosel or Edmund Martens saw when they were caretakers of the A Cappella Choir. And decades from now that will still be true for the next conductor. A blessing from God to be sure!” 

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