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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Kelly Dobbs-Mickus

by Amy Rosenquist

Amy: How long have you played the organ? How and when did you decide to become a musician?

Kelly: I took piano lessons at age 6 (they were free with the Chicago Park District!) and had lessons on and off until I was 13 or so, when I began organ lessons. My piano teacher at that time was the children's choir director at St. Barbara Church in Brookfield, and I sang in that choir and also accompanied it on piano. She suggested I study organ, and after about a year or so I went from playing and occasional prelude or hymn to playing full Masses. As a high school senior, I played six Masses every weekend at St. Barb's.

Amy: What other roles have you had as a Catholic musician?

Kelly: I have served at four parishes before Mt. Carmel and had different roles at each, most often as organist and choir accompanist. At one church I accompanied and directed the contemporary choir. At another I was music director for a few years, which meant lots of organizational and planning work in addition to playing and conducting.

Amy: When and why did you start playing for OLMC parish?

Kelly: Paul French and I met for lunch in September of 2010. The reason for our meeting had to do with music publishing (both of us being involved in that field), but by the time lunch was over Paul had convinced me to consider playing at Mt. Carmel. I started a couple weeks after that. 

Amy: If you were suggesting to friends that they consider joining OLMC, what would be your top reasons?

Kelly: Mt. Carmel is a unique and wonderful parish. Because I'm involved in the music ministry, I'd put music at the top of the list. Paul is an exceptional music director—he gives his best and also inspires everyone involved in the music ministry to give theirs. I appreciate that liturgy is taken seriously—our worship truly feels like time set apart from the normal distractions and stresses of life. I also appreciate the diversity of the parish family—much different from the suburban churches I have served before. And we are blessed to have Fr. Pat as our pastor!

Amy: In addition to playing for mass, you have performed organ solos, directed the Contemporary Choir, and even sung with the choir. What would you say are some of the unique features or strengths of the OLMC music program?

Kelly: One thing that is notably different from other parishes I've served is how young lots of the choir members and cantors are. The Morning Choir is easily the best choir I've ever worked with, and the repertoire is top-notch. The Contemporary Choir does a much different repertoire, often with instrumentalists, that adds so much to the liturgy. The Junior and Treble Choirs are really blossoming, and I enjoy the connection to the Academy through them. I love when all the choirs come together for the annual Epiphany concert. Also, every week I remember how fortunate I am that there are two organs in the church! I believe that we all give our best to serve the sung prayer of the liturgy--the music always fits the liturgy so well. 

Amy: Tell us about your work on Worship, the parish hymnal. How were you involved, and what are some of its best features?

Kelly: I was the General Editor and Project Director for Worship, published by GIA Publications in Chicago. It takes years to put a hymnal together, and the work of many people. I was fortunate to work with a great committee on choosing the contents—all people with many years of experience serving Catholic churches as musicians. One of the best features is the inclusion of a hymn that relates to the Gospel for each Sunday of the church year. We use some of these at Mt. Carmel—they are often (but not always) a new text set to a familiar melody. The index section in the back of the hymnal is a good place to go for insight into its organization and some of its other features.

Amy: You now work for MorningStar Music Publishers, based in St. Louis. What is your role there?

Kelly: Shortly after Worship was published, I reached the 25-year mark with GIA Publications, and it seemed like a good time for a change. I was offered an opportunity to work part-time with another church music publisher, MorningStar Music in St. Louis. My work is focused on editions for Catholic parishes: editing music for publication, corresponding with composers and other editors, marketing work, representing the company at conferences, etc. I work from home or church, and once in a while I take Amtrak to St. Louis for a visit. I really enjoy publishing work.

Amy: When you're partaking in music or art created by someone else, what are your favorite genres or venues?

Kelly: My husband Jeff is a jazz musician, so I get to hear him and his quintet The Jazz Factory every couple of months, which is a lot of fun. I attend organ recitals when I can... We go to Civic Orchestra concerts at Symphony Center—considered the training orchestra for the CSO. It's really inspiring to hear that young group. I'm a big fan of the William Ferris Chorale.—even before I started working with Paul at Mt. Carmel. The Chorale has had some astounding performances in the past couple of years—they just keep getting better

Amy: How much do you practice, and what do you like to do when you're not practicing?

Kelly: I love practicing. I spent over twenty years working at GIA Publications full-time while also having a church job on weekends, and never had much time for practicing, so it still feels like a luxury to me. During the choir season I probably practice about 10 hours per week, maybe more. When I'm not practicing, I'm doing my publishing work. I'm also the secretary for the Chicago Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and a board member for the William Ferris Chorale.

Amy: You played for the recording of the Treble Choir in September last year, done as a fundraiser for a trip to Rome. What is recording work like? 

Kelly: I have many years of experience playing for recordings, mostly demo recordings for GIA. The Treble Choir recording was a lot of fun—I was impressed by how hard the boys and girls worked, and their hard work paid off. I get nervous when the tape is rolling, but there's always another take if I make a mistake. The problem being that all the other people have to do another take too! I'm sharing a a recording of a solo organ piece that I played in recital in 2012 at Madonna della Strada chapel of Loyola University.


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