Photo by Samuel Sianipar on Unsplash

Initially, navigating the ways of graduate school can feel like an independent quest, siloed off on a mission to hone and perfect our skills and research alone. For me, those feelings were short lived thanks to the collaborative nature of music, my church, and even the basic kindness from employees and customers at Waco’s stores and restaurants.

As a music major deeply involved in the School of Music, the collaborative nature of ensembles and classes present numerous opportunities to organically build community. Few forces can unite individuals like music does. While the School of Music at Baylor strives for excellence, students are able to participate and collaborate as colleagues rather than competitors. This provides a healthy dynamic that promotes growth and establishes each student as a worthy, contributing member.

In ensembles, we all come from various backgrounds and a diverse range of beliefs. By setting aside our differences, we can unite with a common goal of achieving musical excellence and are bound together to create and share transcendent beauty in an uncertain and turbulent world. Choral and instrumental ensembles have enabled me to connect with students and faculty within and outside of the School of Music that I would have otherwise never encountered. As a Graduate Associate working with the Concert Choir under the direction of Dr. Lynne Gackle, Director of Choral Activities, I have witnessed the power of science and math majors with music and humanities majors, from undergraduate to graduate students, joining together to learn, perform, and inspire audiences and each other. Music challenges us from a technical standpoint, but also from a place of vulnerability to open ourselves to communicating what is on the printed page, and bringing it to life with our hearts, minds, and united voices.

Outside of Baylor, I am fortunate to be the Assistant Organist at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church here in Waco. Today, few places are left that foster and encourage intergenerational life together as the church does. Where else can you go to absorb the wisdom of the elderly, be energized by the laughter of children, and mingle with others who are trying to navigate day to day life? For me, the church is one of the few places that is equipped and willing to share good news. Time and time again we fall short or do wrong. Yet we come together to pray, sing hymns, and hear the good news of grace. When we gather around the table to share the Eucharist, we do so together as a forgiven people. Most churches preach on grace and its goodness, but St. Alban’s has given it clarity for me– grace no longer seems like an abstract concept to me. It is both undeserved yet freely given, and if you keep your eyes out, you can see it at work all around.

Working for the church can make it difficult to find time to rest and observe the sabbath! However, as the pandemic has subsided and in-person ministries have resumed, I have been fortunate to find meaningful connections within my small group and the young adult group at St. Alban’s. These groups have provided an outlet to remember all that life has to offer outside the academy and maintain a steadfast trust in God. Fellowship and discussions at Pinewood, serve as an outlet to remember our belovedness and hear how grace is powerfully at work in each other’s lives. At Baylor and in Waco, I have been so fortunate and thankful to come across these circles of friends that add depth and meaning to my life and vocation. What a wonderful thing to have such a support network during some of my most formative years yet!

Holden Miller is a native of East Tennessee. Since earning his Bachelor of Music at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, he has been pursuing his Master of Music degree in organ performance at Baylor University. He also serves as the Assistant Organist at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Waco, Texas, and is the accompanist for the Youth Chorus of Central Texas. He loves traveling, hiking, and walking his dog, Hazel.