A Reflection on Dr. Carlos Messerli
It is with a heavy heart we share with you the news that our founding Executive Director Carlos Messerli passed away on Thursday, November 9. Fittingly, the LMP Board of Directors was meeting in Chicago at the same time and, being apprised of Dr. Messerli's condition, paused the meeting to enfold him in our prayers.
Carlos truly transformed the lives of countless people, families, and communities during his tenure as an educator and especially as the founding Executive Director of Lutheran Music Program. Gary and Allison (Tannis) Yee have taken time to reflect on their family's long relationship with Carlos.
Carlos Messerli has been part of our family’s life since Day One….that is to say, Day One of Lutheran Summer Music!
Allison (Tanis), participated as an LSM student in 1982 at St. Olaf College. She returned as a counselor in 1989 (Augustana-Sioux Falls), 1992 (St. Olaf College), and again in 1993 (Augustana-Sioux Falls). In 1992 and ’93 Gary also served as a counselor. In fact, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary at LSM! Although LSM didn’t benefit from a 2-for-1 discount, Carlos had indeed recruited a family unit. In time, this compact grew to involve our daughter, Evelyn, as a student in 2011 (Luther College) and our son, Matthew, who attended LSM 2017 (Valparaiso) and eagerly anticipates LSM 2018 next summer.
Over the years, our relationship with Carlos transitioned from LSM “boss” and church music/choral/liturgical mentor to family friend. Carlos was always a wealth of information just a phone call away, and his interest in people and furthering liturgical worship often resulted in great generosity of time and assistance.
When our congregation began its search for a new organ, Carlos assisted us with an introduction to Nebraskan organ builder, Gene Bedient. With Carlos’ years of experience in church music, he offered helpful insights and could pose all of the hard questions for our committee to consider. During our visit to the Lincoln area, he assisted Allison and a musical colleague further by arranging for them to play and compare organs in the practice rooms of Concordia University-Seward. The trip was most productive! Our congregation in California eventually ordered a beautiful tracker instrument from the Bedient Organ Company which was installed by Gene himself.
Another gesture of hospitality was extended while Allison and Evelyn were touring colleges in the Chicago area, specifically Concordia University. By this time Carlos and Susan had moved to Oak Park, and he was more than pleased that Evelyn was considering his alma mater for college! Carlos, ever thoughtful, arranged particular meetings at the college during our campus visit and insisted upon playing chauffeur after their evening at the Lyric Opera production, Showboat. He did not want the girls to take a late train from downtown. He and Susan also kindly transported them to O’Hare after church to return home. Carlos claimed, “I do not want Chicago’s frightfully cold weather this week to unduly influence Evelyn’s college decision.” Indeed, it did not; Evelyn graduated from CUC this past spring. During her four years at CUC and over our many trips to Chicago, visits with Carlos and Susan have been a delightful part of the trip. We would all look forward to worshipping together at Grace and enjoying brunch afterwards. We will always remember Carlos’ intense interest in our activities at the school we served as educators, Matthew’s musical and educational activities, and of course, the worship life of our home congregation. As musicians in our home congregation, we must attribute much of our liturgical practice to our experiences at LSM and the vision Carlos put into motion all of those years ago.
Thanks to an interview for “Profiles in American Lutheran Music” (2015) we can still see the quiet twinkle in Carlos’ eye as he speaks about LSM, the Lincoln Choir, liturgy and music. We can hear the call to musical excellence and be reminded of the powerful effect that music and music teachers have on students. During the interview, Carlos describes his musical upbringing, which clearly impacted him and his life’s work.
“I was raised in a musical family. My father was a Lutheran pastor, musician, violinist. My mother was a music teacher. Everybody in our home did something in music and practiced a lot. There was always this word of excellence – try to do the best you can.”
Thank you, Carlos, for bequeathing us a legacy of musical excellence through the establishment of Lutheran Summer Music. We will strive to do the best we can.
Gary and Allison Yee