Dr. Kenneth T. Kosche, born in 1947, holds a DMA in choral music and served on the faculty in the music department at Concordia University Wisconsin from 1978 to 2009. In those 31 years, Kosche conducted the school’s two choirs and taught classes in composition, conducting, and choral literature.
Kosche also conducted the Lutheran A Cappella Choir of Milwaukee for nine years, from 1979 to 1988, and has been a parish musician since before he began teaching at Concordia. Kosche now lives in Billings, Montana, where he is organist at Trinity Lutheran Church.
Musical Influence on the LCMS
Kosche’s musical influence in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has been prominent for decades. He wrote the tune “In Paradisum” that is set to Paul Gerhardt’s Christmas hymn “O Jesus Christ, Thy Manger Is” (#372 in Lutheran Service Book) and the setting of “Restoration” that accompanies the hymn “All for Christ I Have Forsaken” (#753 in Lutheran Service Book).
At Concordia Publishing House, Kosche has composed dozens of choral scores and organ and piano literature, most recently an SATB setting of “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful,” commissioned for the 50th anniversary of Christ the King Lutheran Chapel in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
Shifting from University to Parish Music
Kosche has the unique experience of conducting and teaching at the university level while also being steeped in parish music for years. Not only has he trained and worked with generations of musical leaders in the Church, but he’s also worked with parishioners and volunteers at local congregations.
“There’s a tremendous difference. It’s a really big shift, but you also have to have some expectations,” Kosche said of shifting from the university to the parish. “It takes time and encouraging and the attitude that ‘We’re going to do this.’ But if you have some expectations, people will come through.”
Kosche said he’s often composed two-part settings for parish choirs as a way to introduce hymns, psalms, and other liturgical songs. Doing so would help create a regular culture of singing and musical literacy, he said.
“You can’t despair of singing simple things. Simple doesn’t have to be simple-minded,” Kosche said. “Take a simple tune or a hymn and sing the hymn and have the choir sing some stanzas so that they’re singing together.”
Kosche also said that planning ahead as a parish musician helps both the organizer of music and the volunteer musicians to have a sense of intentionality and routine.
“There’s nothing like planning ahead. If you simply go from week to week, people don’t know what you’re doing,” Kosche said. “You have to look ahead and talk to folks ahead of time. To have some flexibility and be able to work with people really matters, because they’re not doing it for you. They’re doing it for the Church.”
Even after retiring from Concordia, Kosche has continued to serve the Church musically at his local parish, and continues to teach students organ lessons and reach musicians across the country with his compositions and insight.
“The Lord has always made a way,” Kosche said. “If you’ve got the gifts and the attitude that can serve, God will never say no. You have to have a servant heart and also recognize it when you see it in somebody else.”
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