Monday, November 3, 2014

The YOU in UUMN: Mark Allstrom

In a survey earlier this year, seventy UUMN members described themselves as composers. They were invited to submit a composer profile as part of a new series, "The YOU in UUMN."


Mark Allstrom
I was born in New York City and grew up in Westchester County where I went to Sunday School at the White Plains Community Unitarian Church. I studied philosophy and music at Beloit College in Wisconsin and began writing songs there.

At 25, I decided to enter the UU ministry and I enrolled at Meadville/Lombard Theological School and the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. I was the summer assistant to the ministers at the Community Church of New York in 1982 and 1984 and I worked at the World Conference on Religion and Peace at UN Headquarters in the summer of 1982. I did a chaplaincy at the Texas Medical Center and an internship at May Memorial Unitarian Society (where I wrote my first hymn) and the University of Syracuse, NY. I graduated from the U of C in 1983 with a Masters in Religious Studies and M/L in 1985 with a Doctorate of Ministry. I also won both the John Haynes Holmes and the John Wolf preaching scholarships.

My first full-time ministry was at the Universalist Church of Little Falls, NY which was followed by one at the UU Fellowship of Columbia, SC and one at the Hopedale Unitarian Parish in Massachusetts. I was then placed at the Unitarian Church of South Australia where I also served a stint as President of the Australia New Zealand Unitarian Association and where I became a recognized minister in the British General Assembly of Unitarian Churches. Throughout my career I used my growing collection of hymns to augment worship in the churches I served.

In 2004, I returned to North America to serve interim ministries at Cedar Falls, IA, Toronto, ON and Ithaca, NY. In 2007, my wife and I returned to South Australia where I dedicated my time to learning how to write anthems and spiritual songs of various types, and helping my wife with our book and gift shop in the small beach town where we live. Since then, I received an Honorable Mention in the Jazz/New Age/Popular category in the 38th Annual Composition Contest of the Composers Guild, and two pieces of mine (Power of the Flame and We Are All Free) were accepted to be read at UUMN conferences. 

In 2014, Paraclete Press published a Christmas anthem of mine (SATB, piano and flute, though it can be rearranged easily to unison with piano) named Sleep Young Jesus. An audio sample is available off their website at www.paracletepress.com

Friday, July 11, 2014

The YOU in UUMN: Scott Roewe

Over the years, many UUMN members have said "YES" when asked to serve in a leadership position within the organization. In advance of the summer conference, we want you to meet some of our current leaders. Please look for them in San Diego and let them know how you'd like to be involved!

Scott Roewe, Director of Publications 
Scott Roewe

I grew up attending a the First Unitarian Universalist church of Wilmington, Delaware until I was about 16. I got involved with the church again in in my mid 30's singing in the choir at the UU church in Santa Monica, Ca. After hearing me perform some of my music, a visiting minister, Reverend Rick Hoyt, asked me to serve a music director in Santa Clarita, CA where I have been music director for ten years. I joined the UUMN to "up my game" and become a better music director.

I was asked to serve as Director of Publications as I have some experience with music rights and music publishing as a result of working in Los Angeles, CA writing music for film and televison, and having been signed to Geffen Records as a recording artist with the band the Wild Colonials during the 1990's. I feel we can do better in providing a music resource for our congregations. There are many issues that if we worked them out would allow us to have more transformational worship in our churches.

My being involved with the UUMN has significantly impacted my abilities as a music director in a positive manner. The spirit of the people I meet in the UUMN inspires me. I would like to see more support and nourishment in the creation of original music and new arrangements of pre-existing music. I also feel the most important part of being a quality musician, or a quality person, is to be a good listener first, then be a good player, or speaker - skills I am still working on.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The YOU in UUMN: Elizabeth Norton

Over the years, many UUMN members have said "YES" when asked to serve in a leadership position within the organization. In advance of the summer conference, we want you to meet some of our current leaders. Please look for them in San Diego and let them know how you'd like to be involved!

Elizabth Norton, Good Offices Co-Chair 

This year marks my 20th serving as Music Director to this large New England UU congregation.I came to Concord and to Unitarian Universalism after a decade of teaching music in independent schools and performing as a singer, conductor and violinist. I was raised as a Presbyterian, but had also attended and led music in other mainline denominations. Music ministry is definitely my calling.

Elizabeth Norton
My first UUMN conference was in 1996 in Santa Monica, California. I guess I said “yes” to leadership pretty early because I was elected to the Board as a member at large at that very first conference. Total immersion! Since then, I have accepted many other fulfilling leadership roles. I helped organize the first UU Children’s Choir at the Nashville GA in 2000 and was a member of the Professional Leadership Development Group that laid the foundation for the UUA’s Music Leadership Certification Program. I have served as President of the UUMN and am currently Co-Director of our Good Offices program. I have represented UUMN and served the wider association as a member of the Council on Church Staff Finances, the Council for Cross Cultural Engagement and as the Chair of the Music Leader Credentialing Committee. I’ve also had the honor of leading choirs at several General Assemblies over the years. This year, I completed the Music Leadership Certification program on the Portfolio Path for seasoned music leaders.

Why do I say “yes” to leadership in UUMN? Because I believe in our mission to nurture, educate and inspire UU music leaders. UUMN has profoundly enriched my own ministry and I treasure the connection if offers to colleagues throughout our association. Over the last two decades, I have seen Unitarian Universalism be transformed by the presence and persistence of the UUMN. I believe we have helped this movement express its heart.   

Monday, June 16, 2014

The YOU in UUMN: Dana Decker


Over the years, many UUMN members have said "YES" when asked to serve in a leadership position within the organization. In advance of the summer conference, we want you to meet some of our current leaders. Please look for them in San Diego and let them know how you'd like to be involved!

Dana Decker

Dana Decker, UUMN Trustee at Large 


Dana Decker, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, began his professional career as an electric and acoustic bassist. In 2006 Dana began to focus on composition, specifically writing worship music for liberal faiths, and this writing eventually led to the release of Dana’s first worship album in 2008 entitled When We Sing. In September of 2008 Dana was hired as the first ever Contemporary Worship Associate at First UU Church of San Diego. In 2012 Dana became the Associate Director of Music at First Church and he has been using this experience to build a “model” for contemporary worship within the UU movement.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Day of Singing and Community Building in the DC Area

Sixteen DC-area music directors (in black above) gathered singers together on March 29. 
UUMN members in the DC area recently carried out our mission to "support and motivate one another in joyous and loving community." On March 29, almost 300 singers from sixteen UU churches gathered at All Souls Unitarian for a day of singing and community building. 

MUUSICA, the DC area music directors group, commissioned a new choral piece from renowned composer Jim Papoulis, who joined them for the event. The day culminated with a special worship service of music and readings; the mass choir presented six anthems and led hymn singing. A free will offering was collected to benefit Jim Papoulis’ Foundation for Small Voices. The organizers were thrilled to raise over $3,000 for that worthwhile organization.  

The sixteen participating directors (including 15 current UUMN members) were Tom Benjamin, David Chapman, Maureen Curtin, Bob Griffith, Clif Hardin, Annease Hastings, Jennifer Hayman, Nichole Hodges-Abbasi, Michael Holmes, Deborah IntVeldt, Jennifer Rodgers, Gerri Rollins, Henry Sgrecci, Mark Vogel, Bailey Whiteman, and Mark Zimmerman.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The YOU in UUMN: Tim Anderson

Over the years, many UUMN members have said "YES" when asked to serve in a leadership position within the organization. In advance of the summer conference, we want you to meet some of our current leaders. Please look for them in San Diego and let them know how you'd like to be involved!


Tim Anderson, UUMN President 


Tim Anderson, UUMN President
Like a lot of UUMN members, I spent the first part of my church music career working for other denominations. Upon returning to Rockford twenty years ago, I spent a year as organist at a small Episcopal church, two years as choir director/organist at a medium-sized Lutheran (ELCA) church, and seven years as Director of Music at a large Presbyterian (USA) church. During that time, I was invited occasionally to play at the Unitarian Universalist church, usually to accompany the larger musical undertakings of my predecessor, Kay Hotchkiss. I enjoyed making music with Kay and the Unicantors (the UU Rockford choir), and I especially enjoyed the liberal theology that informed the worship services in which I participated. After decades of working in churches where my beliefs didn’t match their theology, I found myself less and less engaged in the worship that I was supposed to be helping to lead. When Kay decided to give up the reins after over five decades of service, I jumped at the opportunity to be able finally to work at a church where I felt I could participate fully in worship. It’s been ten years now, and I’ve never looked back and couldn’t be happier!

I had to put off going to UUMN conferences for a couple of years because I was finishing up my degree at Middlebury College during the summers. My first conference was in St. Paul, where I will never forget the feeling of standing to be recognized with all the other first-timers as we all sang “Come and Go with Me” together. I guess I took that message to heart. When asked to serve on the newly-reconfigured Conference Planning Committee in 2008 along with several of my area colleagues, I gladly said yes. Work on that committee led to a request to serve on the Board of Trustees as Treasurer, which led to serving as your current President. I feel like I have learned a lot from all of you over the past several years. I look forward to learning even more over the next three years. Most of all, I look forward to greeting you all in San Diego in July – especially the first-timers, to whom I will extend the same invitation you all extended to me in song in St. Paul.

Ours is a blessed community of individuals committed to musical excellence and innovation in worship. I’m proud of the great things we do as an organization, and I’m excited as we look toward the future to see what great things are yet to come. See you in July!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The YOU in UUMN: Anne Watson Born

Over the years, many UUMN members have said "YES" when asked to serve in a leadership position within the organization. In advance of the summer conference, we want you to meet some of our current leaders. Please look for them in San Diego and let them know how you'd like to be involved!

Anne Watson Born, Director of Member Services 


Anne Watson Born
I am a classically-trained musician, primarily a choral conductor. I have worked as a conductor for (gulp) some 35 years and during that time I have worked for several different religious denominations. In 2007, I became the Director of Music Ministry at the First Unitarian Society in Newton and I have found my spiritual home in Unitarian Universalism. 

I joined UUMN right away in 2007 because a) my congregation encouraged me to do so and b) I needed help in planning worship services and choosing repertoire. UUMN has been a fantastic resource for me.


I have been a District Liaison (DL) for the Mass Bay District for several years and am currently the Director of Member Services. I said “yes” to the latter because the organization has helped me so much and I wanted to give back a bit to it. Being a DL is pretty much all fun – it’s great to be in touch with local colleagues and help plan local UU music events.


In 2012 I became a Credentialed Music Leader. The experience of attending the UUMN conferences and taking the courses over those three years was invigorating. What I learned in that program has been very helpful to my congregation: I am a better song leader, I know more about our faith, I have a deeper understanding of issues around multi-culturalism, anti-racism and privilege, and I know more about policy governance and management and how these contribute to the health of our music program. It has also been wonderful to meet so many excellent musicians and leaders who are active in UUMN.

I like what Robert Shaw said about worship: he wanted to create each Sunday morning "out of worthy things, a wholeness of beauty and truth, an integrity of sound and sight and reason, which shall be its own reason for being here."