Kathy Binsfeld's passion for music came at an early age.
Every Sunday growing up, Binsfeld and her grandfather, Clem Stromwall, would play music for two or three hours. She said he could play any instrument even though he couldn't read music.
"He kept saying, 'Make it up, make it up,'" Binsfeld said.
It's that musical proclivity and ability to improvise that moved Binsfeld into a musical career and brought the 47-year-old Brainerd resident to St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Brainerd, where for the past eight years she has been music coordinator. Binsfeld also directs the Spirit Choir, a music group that performs during the St. Andrew's Mass twice each month -- including Sunday's Easter Mass. This choir is in the process of recording its second musical CD.
The Spirit Choir got its start eight years ago performing at youth retreats. The choir was started as a way for younger people to better relate and enjoy Christian music. Unlike most church choirs, the Sprit Choir performs standard hymns with a contemporary sound. Along with the chorus, the choir features drums and guitars as well brass and woodwind instruments. In all, there are 35 members of the choir.
"We like to take old hymns and jazz them up a bit," she said.
Binsfeld and her husband, Gary, have five children together, "Six if you count my daughter-in-law, whom I love very much."
Binsfeld, originally from Sartell, has been playing music and singing in church since she was 16 and it was through the church that she met her husband. She also is a former Miss Sauk Rapids and competed in the Miss Minnesota pageant. She went to College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph for a degree in music performance, but instead decided to pursue music liturgy.
When she's not working as the music coordinator at St. Andrew's Catholic Church, she puts all her energy into her family.
"Like (Sunday), I so looked forward to making the Easter meal, playing games, shooting hoops with the boys," Binsfeld said.
Occupation: Music coordinator at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Brainerd.
Hobbies: Gardening, hiking, biking, music and arranging music.
CD listening to now: "There's two of them right now. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy from EWTN (Catholic television network) and a CD from the group Passion."
Most proud moment: "When I'm standing with my husband and my children."
Last movie watched in a theater: "Raising Helen."
A television show you'll stay home to watch: "I don't really watch TV, I just watch movies. I do watch 'SpongeBob (SquarePants)' with my son when we eat breakfast."
Favorite dinner: Chicken Alfredo.
Biggest phobias: Spiders and closed spaces.
Though the music coordinator is a part-time job, Binsfeld said she puts in full-time hours. The Spirit Choir rehearses every Thursday and an hour and-a-half before Mass, Binsfeld said, and she is at the church every day arranging music for the choir, up to 10 pieces for each Mass.
The Spirit Choir's goal, Binsfeld said, is to spread the word of God.
"Music moves our hearts," she said. "We all enjoy music so much, we look at it as a gift God has given us. That's what's so cool with this group, they have the heart of a servant."
The modern sound appeals to younger people, Binsfeld said, while the familiar lyrics allow for older generations to be able to sing along. She said the response to the choir has been positive.
"I enjoy it when someone comes up during the week and says, 'Wow, I've been singing that song all week long,'" Binsfeld said. "It makes everything we've done worth it."
Not only does she direct, but Binsfeld fills in on whatever instrument may be needed, just like her grandfather. Her musicians also are multitalented, which makes her job all that much easier, she said.
About three years ago the Spirit Choir recorded its first CD after people began requesting the choir's music, she said. Similar circumstances led to the recording of the group's second CD, but this time, the choir enlisted help from musicians at other area churches. Binsfeld said she expects the new CD to be available in May.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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