Music is my life

“Tina im Kirchturm”—in English: “Tina in the church tower”: this is the name of a series that has been running on YouTube since January 2021. There, a budding music teacher from the Hannover South congregation in Germany posts music videos for children, to which they can sing and dance along.

The screen flickers in the Meyer family’s living room. Five-year-old Robin and eight-year-old Mia are watching intently. Bells ring and a church comes into focus. The snail Esmeralda Mozzarella, a hand puppet, appears—but she is not alone. Together with Tina, she invites the children in her audience to dance and sing along in an interactive video.

Tina Stephan is originally from Naumburg-an-der-Saale (Saxony-Anhalt). She has been living in Hanover (Lower Saxony) for about five years where she studies elementary music and choral education. Both her parents and her older brother played an instrument and sang in the congregation’s choir. It is no surprise that she started taking recorder lessons at the age of six and also sang along in the children’s choir.

“After school, my favourite thing was to go to the music school to rehearse there,” she says. Tina began taking bassoon lessons at the age of twelve, which regularly involved a 43-kilometre trip by public transport. Another instrument she learned was the saxophone. Singing lessons followed soon after. Tina was happy to engage her skills in the congregation, as well as in the orchestra of the Naumburg Music School and in a big band group.

From teaching assistant to teacher

After completing school, Tina Stephan began studying school music at the university in Halle an der Saale. But the music school did not let go of her even then. This was because her recorder teacher asked her if she could take over as her maternity leave replacement. “This is how I started working as a recorder teacher, and later also became involved with early musical education.”

Our sister was also involved with music in the Church. Among other things, she led the youth choir of the Halle district and helped out as a conductor in the congregation’s choir. She put her heart and soul into this practical work, and invested a great deal of time in it, which meant that her studies—as she had to admit—eventually faded ever further into the background.

At that point in time, the management of the music school happened to mention the subject of Elementary Music and Vocal Pedagogy. “This led me to realign and reapply,” says Tina enthusiastically. It was then that she moved to Hanover. “This was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. Not only from the perspective of my studies, but also for the congregation.”

Not only active on a local level

And she was not only involved in the children’s choir. In 2019, for example, she was active at the International Youth Convention (IYC) in Düsseldorf. There she organised a devotional together with some young people from her home district, namely Marco Irrgang and Rebekka Siemionek. As a member of the Gospel Project, Tina also took part in the two concerts in which the ensemble played at the IYC.

When the churches had to close due to the pandemic, Tina Stephan did not remain idle either. “We now have a chance to do something different and to change things!” So it was that she called the IYC’s devotional team back to life. Together they campaigned for living room devotionals to be organised between March and June of last year. In the time since, ten living room devotionals have been organised and executed.

In addition to her studies, Tina Stephan also assumed the direction of the children’s choir in Hameln in 2017. This is an evangelical music community led by a full-time church musician.

Movement in front of the screen

When it was no longer possible to sing together as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tina kept on thinking about ideas that would allow her to continue pursuing music somehow. Her ideas eventually became a reality thanks to the technical support of Marcel Felde—and next thing they knew, the interactive music series on YouTube known as “Tina in the church tower” was born.

“At first I had some reservations because I didn’t want to encourage the children to sit in front of the screen all the time. But on the other hand, it offered an opportunity to learn new songs with Christian themes and move around,” says Tina before going on to add: “We wanted to provide the children with some good and meaningful activity during the lockdown.”

More episodes of the children’s series are now being created in a small, self-designed studio in the Odenwald. Tina’s seven-year-old niece Hannah now lends her voice to the snail Esmeralda Mozzarella. The series has been well received, not only by the children, but also by their parents and grandparents—a good reason for Tina and Marcel to carry on. And the Meyers’ children, Robin and Mia, can keep looking forward to new songs in their living room.

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Tatjana Fröhlich, Dinara Ganzer
Doctrinal instruction, Music