SJBC Kicks Off Season 43 In True Collaborative Fashion

On October 13, the St. John’s Boys’ Choir kicked off its 43rd performance season in true collaborative fashion: with a concert for choir and guitar. This year’s featured instrumentalist was Finn Pehl, a first-year guitar major at Saint John’s University.

The Junior Varsity Choir rehearses Draw the Circle Wide, arranged by Mark Miller, in their final soundcheck at the Great Hall, Saint John’s University on Sunday, October 15, 2023. Photo by Matt Kiminski

“It’s such a great way to start the season,” artistic director Aaron Carpenter said. “We bring the boys together with artists from the community to showcase music that’s often not in the spotlight. This concert included an arrangement (by Minnesota composer Kyle Pederson) of the traditional hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God accompanied by electric guitar, a rousing rendition of the folk song The Fox, and chorister favorite Nox Noctis – also with electric guitar, but totally different from A Mighty Fortress.”

A concert with this specific focus of repertoire can actually be quite challenging to program. “We still need variety to keep our audience engaged, but the instrumentation we’re looking for is pretty narrow. That makes finding the right combination of songs a fun challenge,” Carpenter said.

Because the SJBC works as a collaborative team, Carpenter leaned on associate artistic directors Cynthia Hogenson and Matt Kiminski to help refine the program. Kiminski first learned about one song in the concert, The Little Creek, from Sartell Middle School choir director Leah Mockenhaupt in their master’s conducting class this summer, and he was excited to make the connection between master’s-level learning, a local music educator, and the SJBC choristers.

“We have such a rich musical and artistic community in Central Minnesota. At the SJBC, we’re always working to bring this community together. We’re stronger when we support each other, and our Collaborations Concert is just one way that we get to reach out and collaborate with other musicians,” Kiminski said of the organization. “Throughout the rest of this season, we’ll join forces with our alumni choir, the SJBC orchestra, the choirs at CSB/SJU, the Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota, and YCCM Cantabile, to name a few. We rarely perform by ourselves – that’s how we like it.”

Sean Jacobson accompanies the combined choirs on Friday, October 13 at First United Methodist Church in Sartell. Photo by Matt Kiminski

Adding to the collaborative process was the choice of venue; Friday evening’s concert took place at First United Methodist Church in Sartell, while Sunday afternoon’s concert was held in the Great Hall at Saint John’s. The staff at FUMC was glad to host the SJBC, and the SJBC was grateful for the opportunity. “We all have something to share in this process; First United has a beautiful space that’s perfect for concerts, and the SJBC has a unique offering for our audiences – a well-trained boychoir representing communities from all over the region,” SJBC Development Director Sarah Maloney noted. “We’re so thankful for the FUMC staff for making this concert possible for our choristers and our audience!”

Guitarist Finn Pehl was honored to be part of the process. In his first year at Saint John’s, he didn’t imagine he’d be a featured instrumentalist with the SJBC. “Working with the St. John’s Boys Choir was really a great experience, and something I’m really glad I was able to take part in. It was both my very first performance in college, and also my first ever paid performance, and I would say it set a great example for both.”

Carpenter was also honored to be part of Pehl’s education: “As a way of giving back to the Abbey and University that we call home, it’s important that we offer learning opportunities for our college students, whether through student employment (the SJBC employs seven SJU students through the work-study program) or one-time performance opportunities like this.”

Also featured in the concert were Jennifer Wildeson, fiddle, and Michael Talbott, bass guitar. Wildeson is an active violinist in the St. Cloud area, and Talbott teaches lessons out of his home studio in Monticello. Both perform regularly in local ensembles.

To learn more about the SJBC’s upcoming concerts, auditions, and outreach events, visit, email, or call (320) 363-2558.

The St. John’s Boys’ Choir introduces new mentorship program for boys in grades 3-5

In their 42nd season, The St. John’s Boys’ Choir has introduced a brand-new mentorship program for boys in grades 3-5 who audition and are accepted into the choir. The goal of the mentorship program is to promote leadership opportunities for the eighth-grade choristers and to provide the newest boys with role models that will demonstrate what it means to be a St. John’s choirboy.

“The SJBC has been built upon the boys that have gone before the current roster of singers,” said Aaron Carpenter, the organization’s artistic director. “It is important that our newest choirboys understand this history by connecting through the mentorship program with boys who have already been where they are today.”

The mentorship program instantly connects the newest choristers with older boys in the program and offers them a sense of belonging on day one. In addition, this program gives an opportunity for the eighth graders to put into practice their leadership skills, which have been developed through The SJBC Leadership Camp, held each summer for second year Junior Varsity boys and eighth and ninth graders.

The Mentorship Program is led by Matt Kiminski, who started with the SJBC in 2016 as a student staff member, accompanied the JV choir from 2017 to 2021, and moved into the associate artistic director role in 2022.

“Under the leadership of Mr. Kiminski, this program will continue to develop because of his unique position of working with both the Nova Voce eighth graders in rehearsal and as choirboys for the past several years and the new Training Choir boys. He understands the importance of handing down traditions and expectations of the SJBC,” Carpenter said.

Kiminski feels that the mentorship program will strengthen the SJBC as a whole by providing a more synthesized boys’ choir culture.

“It creates connections across our choirs that will bolster the experiences of all boys and keep the organization moving forward with a unified mission and vision,” Kiminski said.

Brad and Ana Miller of Sartell have two sons in the Training Choir who are part of the Mentorship Program.

“We had been planting the seed, so to speak, about the SJBC with our sons ever since we moved to the area in the summer of 2021. After KidsSing last winter and Sing in the Summer, they were really excited to join,” the Millers said. “For us, the focus on teaching life skills through music is such a key component of the program. One can clearly see the intention behind the development of character. Our boys really enjoy their mentors. Being able to interact with the older boys has been very positive and helped deepen their commitment to the SJBC. They see where they are headed and are excited about it.”

Kiminski has seen an elevated sense of commitment and collegiality among the youngest boys.

“Our Training Choir is excited about working together, helping each other grow, and doing their best work,” Kiminski said. “Additionally, our eighth-grade mentors are excited about sharing our traditions and culture with others, which gives us great momentum as we continue to share our organization with the community post-pandemic.

“My hope for the mentorship program is that it continues to grow and flourish so that our mentors adopt a sense of independence and enthusiasm,” Kiminski added. “Since the program is so new, the staff has had a lot of direct involvement in developing the program and the activities that happen during rehearsal, but I anticipate our eighth graders taking the reins more and more moving forward.”

Carpenter agrees.

“It has been wonderful to see the pride the mentors take in the boys they have in their group and to see the pride the Training Choir boys in telling me who their mentor is. For example, when the Training Choir had a performance recently, several boys came with their ties already tied (something they learn from their mentor). When asked who their mentor was, they beamed and were excited to tell me who it was. This is what the mentorship program is all about – building relationships from the very beginning.”

Auditions for boys grades 3-5 are being held January 27-28. To learn more, visit