Lauren Koesterer can't help tooting her horn about the Young Catholic Musicians.
She has played trumpet with the talented young instrumentalists and musicians for about six years.
"It's a great sense of community," Lauren said. "We're all doing something we love — singing or playing an instrument. It's a way to come together to share our talents."
Being part of the music at Mass is a way of glorifying God with those talents, she added.
Playing the trumpet runs in the family — her dad and brother also play the instrument, and they provide music on Sundays at Mass at their parish, St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville, Ill. She also plays in the orchestra at Cor Jesu Academy, where she is entering her junior year.
The Young Catholic Musicians brings people from across Missouri and Illinois to play music.
Lauren praises the music director at Young Catholic Musicians, Father Bruce Forman, and her music educator at her school, Carol Bauer, for their role in improving her skills and enjoyment of music. Lauren, who also plays piano, is on the softball and lacrosse teams at Cor Jesu.
She looks forward to practices as well as performances with the Young Catholic Musicians. Her high level of attendance led to a $300 scholarship toward tuition at Cor Jesu.
"It's a way to get away from everything else and to see my friends. While we're playing we also have a lot of fun," Lauren said.
Ben Huhman, who is in the chorus, received a $400 scholarship, which he'll apply to his senior year at Trinity Catholic High School. He appreciates visits to churches around the archdiocese and how much people enjoy the music.
The Young Catholic Musicians "bring people together," he said. "I enjoy hearing the stories of people who hadn't been to church in a couple years but started going again because of our music in church. It just changes the way people think about church."
He joined the Young Catholic Musicians about a year ago. He also sings in a choir at school, where he's on the engineering, swimming and track teams. His plans include studying engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla.
A member of St. Martin DePorres Parish in Hazelwood, Ben followed two siblings who also sang with the Young Catholic Musicians. His mom, Julie Huhman, said the group "is like a second family. They have the opportunity to use their voices to share the Good News."
Ben's parents noticed that his older brother, Mark, had a talent for singing. Joining the Young Catholic Musicians in the fourth grade was a good fit for him. "He sang at Arlington National Cemetery, Disneyworld, he's been all over," his mom said. "It's just a great community there."
Father Forman said the scholarships have amounted to thousands of dollars in 30-plus years. They are funded from dividends from contributors or from annual contributions from families who set up the scholarships. Recipients are chosen by their attendance, which represents their commitment to the ministry.
Mary Smith, director of the organization, said in the 40-plus years 1,700 young people have been members of the Young Catholic Musicians. "It gives young people a reason to feel they belong to the Catholic Church. They become leaders in their own parish in music, some even go on to college and become leaders in music ministry."
The relationships that are formed often last a lifetime, she said.