‘Challenges, miracles and opportunities’
New music director starts at Greenfield Methodist church
GREENFIELD — A new music director is bringing a contemporary touch to Sunday morning services in the town’s oldest church.
“We’re using drums, bass and guitar to bring a little more pop/rock sound to church,” said Daniel Scharmer, music director for the First United Methodist Church of Greenfield.
“I’m bringing in a lot of newer stuff, like (music from Christian rockers) David Crowder, and Casting Crowns,” he explained. “I also like to take traditional hymns, and contemporize them, with more instrumentation.”
It took the congregation of about 100 a little time to get used to a new spin on their favorite hymns, Scharmer said, but he thinks they’ve found the groove.
“People weren’t quite used to it at first,” especially the older ones, he said. “They’re stepping out of their comfort zone, and responding really well.”
“Young people really respond to it,” he continued. “The message (of the hymns) is still relevant, but the music’s not. I’m a very firm believer in being relevant to culture. There is something to be said for preserving tradition, but you can only do it so much before people start to lose touch.”
He finds that contemporizing traditional church music helps bridge a gap between the church and those without deep-seated religious upbringings.
Before Scharmer came on board in August, Pastor Kenneth Mantler had begun to revamp the church’s mission.
“(The pastor) is a great visionary,” said Scharmer. “He’s the best thing to happen to this church in a long time.”
“We’re a church on the edge of trying to do something new,” explained Scharmer. “We’d like to take a lot of the ministry that’s happening here, and reach into the surrounding community.”
He said that includes providing meals for the needy, and giving groups like Narcotics Anonymous and others a place to meet.
“For me to come into a church that already had a drum set being used was big for me,” said Scharmer. “Often, it’s hard to get something like that by a congregation. The fact that they had one shows me their thirst and hunger. They want to be a church of action.”
That drum kit backs Scharmer on piano (he brought his own), as well as bass and electric guitarists.
Though the church holds a single weekly service every Sunday, Scharmer’s work doesn’t stop there. He also leads the church’s choir, as well as its 15- to 20-member musical worship team “Hearts ’n Praise.”
And he’d like to do even more.
“I’d love to see our worship team do some community concerts,” he said, adding that the Energy Park seems like a good venue. “I’d also like to have a youth music worship group.”
Scharmer, 38, says he has been making music since he was 6 or 7 years old, first picking up the guitar, then gravitating toward the trumpet. Though it wouldn’t become a career until later, his first gigs were in church.
“I remember doing guitar solos in church” while growing up on the North Shore, he said. “When I started playing the trumpet is when I really started getting involved.”
Though he was still learning, and a little rough around the edges, he found an outlet, and lots of encouragement, in church.
“Even though I was really bad at first, people kept coming up to me and saying ‘Keep at it, Dan.’”
He would go on to hone his skills, eventually studying the French horn at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, where he met his wife, who was studying opera.
Scharmer left college for an opportunity to become a store manager for Hallmark Cards, and moved to New Hampshire. He later relocated to Pennsylvania to manage a music and art store.
“Ten years ago, in Pennsylvania, was when I really felt called to ministry,” he said.
He found peace working as music director for the Lancaster Church of the Brethren.
A head injury sustained while working as a high school ice hockey official has rendered him unable to work full-time since 2007. Later, after his wife lost her job, the two decided to move back to Massachusetts.
They now live in New Salem, and his wife has found work in the area.
Scharmer said the atmosphere and mission of First Church is more in line with his own principles. The congregation is encouraged to practice Jesus’ teachings in the world.
“The spirit of the people here is what really magnetized me toward it,” he explained. “They’re so earnest about loving people, and doing what the Bible says.”
“Other churches I considered were more about their Sunday service than anything else. I didn’t see the underlying love for God’s people that I do here.”
When he was called to come in for an interview, Scharmer didn’t expect to end up with a job. He’d been in talks with a handful of other churches, and thought he’d take a job in Brattleboro.
It’s been a long, winding path for Scharmer, but he feels like he’s where he’s supposed to be.
“It’s been a whole string of challenges, miracles and opportunities that brought me here,” he said.
In New Salem, he lives with his wife and their four children. His older two have started playing the trumpet and flute, the others are still too young, for instruments. With music on both sides of the family, chances are that they’ll grow into it.