by Susan Bailey
As a long-time musician, and as the wife of a soon-to-be-ordained deacon, I recently came to the conclusion that music ministry as a vocation has many parallels to a vocation to the religious life. As the Spirit is wont to do, I found myself talking about this out of the blue one day when a fellow musician who was just getting started in ministry called me up for some tips. In speaking through me, the Spirit planted the desire to explore the idea of music ministry as a vocation equal in part to a religious vocation; thus He led me to Matthew Baute, a full time music missionary who clearly sees this ministry as his vocation.
“I can certainly see parallels between a vocation to music ministry and a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated religious life,” he says. “Just last week I was singing at a Mass at which three priests were concelebrating, and a deacon was also serving. There I was, a non-ordained lay person, offering my gift of music alongside these ordained ministers who have undergone years of study and preparation. If I have the honor of being placed in such a position, then I need to prepare well and develop my gifts. I need to develop a deep prayer life and love for Scripture that nurtures a living relationship with Jesus, something critical to the effectiveness of any ministry–priesthood or music ministry. I need to learn about and appreciate our musical heritage and the impact of those who have gone before me. At the same time, I also need to allow room for the Holy Spirit to move in my heart and to inspire me in new ways, leading me on the journey.”
As many who have experienced a vocational calling will tell you, the road to that calling is often winding and long. Matthew’s story is no different. Although he recognized his talent in and love of music as a child, and a deeper love for his faith as a young adult, Matthew had to test many paths before he received confirmation that music ministry was indeed his call. The road began with many musical endeavors and wove through a marriage that ended in annulment. Time was spent in a monastery after the pain of that event, discerning a call, but the call wasn’t there. He worked for several years in the corporate world as a software engineer but felt isolated from his faith. He then tested the waters of music therapy, but didn’t feel called to be a clinician.
However, as Matthew devoted more time to composition and singing for prayer services, the vocation of music ministry became clearer to him. This revelation culminated in his first CD, Love Wins All. Several songs from the CD received airplay on EWTN’s Global Catholic Radio Network, and Matthew took that as confirmation that he was headed in the right direction at last.
Now, three years later, Matthew is involved in full time music ministry, traveling throughout the United States and the world, sharing his prayerful music in parishes, festivals and missions. He was signed on as a World Library Publications (WLP) artist and subsequently released his second CD, Hold Me Lord. Matthew also hired Alyson Bleistine of ALBIE Entertainment to teach him how to manage the practical and business elements of his ministry. He also teams up regularly with fellow recording artist and mentor Annie Karto. As Matthew’s ministry continued to grow and bear fruit, so did his support system. He understood clearly from the beginning that following his vocation required that he not work in isolation but reach out for help.
The year 2009 saw the release of River of Grace, perhaps the project closest to Matthew’s heart. “I’m very happy with River of Grace,” he says, “and I certainly feel that it’s my best project yet, in both the songwriting and the production. WLP connected me with a fantastic producer, Warren Kahn, who has worked with [Catholic recording artist] Michael John Poirier for many years. Warren brought the desire to create something meaningful and beautiful right from the start.”
Vocations call for hard work and discipline, and the recording of an album is no exception. After going over the compositions with his producer and the editing team from WLP, Matthew spent a few weeks in the studio recording vocals and guitar parts, and then reviewed tracks sent to him by Warren via the internet.
“Warren hired the other players–violinist, cellist, percussionist, bassist, and oboist–to add their parts afterwards. I wasn’t there for the tracking of these instruments, but I would get a rough mix via the Internet either that evening or the next day to hear what he was capturing. The convenience of technology these days certainly has changed the way music is produced.”
River of Grace has already been well received and has spawned a couple of music videos which Matthew produced himself. One such video, “One,” has been viewed nearly 4,000 times on Youtube. The song has become popular with Marriage Preparation (Pre-Cana), yet that was not the original purpose of the song.
Matthew explains: “The song ‘One’ was originally written about the personal relationship I have with God: “your love, my love / your heart, my heart / may they be / may they always be / as one.” But sometimes God reveals different meanings to people in completely different ways. Someone heard the song and described how it was a great song to include in wedding ceremonies. Another pointed out that it really represented the whole marriage journey, celebrating the perseverance of a committed relationship over time. This is one of the blessings of composing—after a song is finished and gets out there, it may take on a life of its own, based on how listeners are hearing it. We took this feedback and put together a video that depicts couples through their journeys of life together—with both the joys and the struggles. (Note: Video available at http://www.songsforprayer.com/video.asp). So although this song is for me a prayer of intimacy with God, it’s something else for other people.”
The work involved with producing recorded music and videos certainly doesn’t end with the producing. Matthew now had the task of getting out on the road and sharing this new music with listeners. God blessed this effort and Matthew’s calendar has been full with engagements.
The most meaningful venue for Matthew is singing in front of the Blessed Sacrament. He is passionate about showing his love for the Eucharist and the impact he feels when playing before the monstrance.
“Jesus is the focus here,” he says. “Not me. Not my music. Not my ministry. In my musical prayer services when the priest places Jesus in the monstrance on the altar, I simply go off to the side and sing, hoping the music helps open hearts, helps those in attendance be more receptive to the work of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus himself is present, what do I need to say other than a few words of encouragement to give him permission to come into our hearts and do what he will?”
Such blessings as these keep Matthew strong in his vocation. He describes his life as a full time music minister in these words: “I’ve been making my way as a full-time ‘music missionary’ (a term I borrowed from Danielle Rose) for nearly three years. I remember calling my friend John Grassadonia when I was discerning this path. He told me that based on his own experience, God does indeed bless our “yes” when we step out in faith, but at the same time it’s never going to be an easy road. I’ve found that to be true. The deep joy that I feel in using my gifts to help nourish other people’s faith lives is immense! What a privilege that is. But there are certainly struggles as well, times when I’m not as busy, times when I also need to be faithful to the business side, promoting my music and ministry to get the word out. That’s certainly not as much fun as singing, but it’s important to keep things going.”
He continues, “I know that I couldn’t put forth the same will and effort if I had a full-time job at the same time. So, I have to learn to live with less—a more humble lifestyle. But this enables me to devote more time to prayer, to daily Mass and Scripture study. This way of living also allows me to pick up and go on the road for ministry whenever I’m asked. Being able to be flexible for the sake of others is important to me.”
Remaining connected to a community is something that Matthew knows is vital as he perseveres in his vocation. “Although I end up traveling a good bit, I’ve come to understand that staying connected to my parish is vital to keeping balanced. I really enjoy the fellowship of my church community when I’m home. My parish is home base; it’s my faith family. Seeing God at work in the lives of my fellow parishioners renews me, and inspires me to go back out to serve God’s larger family.”
Prayer, study, service, fellowship, an austere lifestyle, the sharing of his talents in a spirit of love of God and His family – this is how Matthew Baute is living out his vocation as a music minister.
You can learn more about Matthew Baute, listen and purchase his music, and watch his videos at his website, www.songsforprayer.com.