Dr. Michael Pohlenz
Director of Music Ministries – Staff Member since 2003
Why did you choose to pursue a career in music?
As a student in junior high, I played the trumpet and sang in school ensembles. I enjoyed those activities very much, and I excelled at them more than anything else I did. (As a short-stop, I was no Troy Tulowitzki, but I did take home the game ball one night.) At church camp, I dedicated my talents to ministry.
While the path to ministry was indirect in some respects, I never wavered far from church work. Perhaps I chose to pursue a career in music, but I feel that God first chose me.
Tell us a little bit about your musical background.
Outside of educational pursuits and prior to coming to Denver, I’ve worked as a:
- Director of high school vocal and instrumental music,
- Director of college choral and vocal studies,
- Director of music ministries for two major churches and several smaller churches,
- Founding Music Director and Conductor Emeritus of The Wichita Chamber Chorale, an auditioned, adult community choir.
I also have been privileged to guest conduct several community groups. I am presently Assistant Conductor of Kantorei, Denver’s distinguished, auditioned community choir under the direction of Richard Larson.
What is the greatest thing about the music ministries at Wellshire?
The heritage of former music directors and pastors that fostered such a deep-seated love for good music in worship. This history has gradually attracted vocal and instrumental musicians of the highest quality to our various ensembles. Fine sacred music thrives within the “Culture of Excellence” found in Wellshire’s worship services and special programs.
How do you select music for worship?
Text is the key element in selecting music for worship. The quality of the musical composition is next, followed by the ability of the ensemble to prepare it in a reasonable amount of time and present it in worship. Only a very small percentage of all the music I review meets these three criteria.
What is the most memorable worship musical experience you’ve ever had?
I could perhaps recount some highlights, but I can’t cite one above all others.
Routinely, I am blessed by our All Saints service (the Duruflé Requiem comes to mind), our Festival of Carols and Christmas Eve services (O Holy Night or Jesu Bambino leading into Silent Night, with candles raised), our Good Friday Tenebrae and Easter Sunday celebrations, and major choral and orchestral works such as Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem.
I loved presenting Rachmaninoff’s Blessed Art Thou, O Lord from his All-Night Vigil in Easter worship (a dream of mine for many, many years), as well as Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs.
Where do you find inspiration?
What makes these experiences I just described so inspiring and meaningful to me is having the opportunity to worship through some of the most powerful choral music ever written. Performing it on stage is one thing, but sharing it in worship as a statement of faith is something else. I affirm the latter.
What are the things that make you happiest?
Celebrating a holiday or a birthday with my wife and daughters... They always make me laugh.
When you’re not at Wellshire, where are you likely to be?
Knee deep in the South Platte…
What is one thing that very few people know about you?
I haven’t actually read all of the books in my office.