Meet Thomas Heidenreich, AAM Gerre Hancock Fellowship Recipient

I first knew that I would have a career as a musician when my piano teacher gave me a bust of Bach. In that moment, standing in front of my fellow piano students and their families after playing for my tenth spring studio recital, I felt like I had accomplished something, that I was onto something big.

Unexpectedly, my teacher brought forward a large bag for me to open. Within was a large plaster bust of my favorite composer, J. S. Bach. Despite my teacher’s whispered clarification that he had talked the salesperson into a good price for the bust, something about those moments clarified that music would always be central to my life.  This revealed to me that my work as a musician was meaningful. Even my teacher, who heard all the mistakes and continued to push me to work diligently, seemed moved. I believe that my musical skills and talents are something God has given me and I want to be a musician because through them I can serve others.

Music has always been a central part of my life. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, a city known for its arts and culture. Symphony concerts, choral concerts, and recitals have been staples in my family’s life.

The summer before kindergarten I began taking piano lessons and in seventh grade I added organ lessons. I was initially drawn to the organ after hearing it at church every Sunday. I received two degrees from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, majoring in organ performance and studying with Alan Morrison. I completed my Bachelors of Music in 2016 and my Masters of Music in August of 2017. During my four years in Princeton, I also worked as organ scholar at Trinity Episcopal Church and for three of those years as director of music at the Episcopal Church at Princeton, a student ministry of Princeton University where I played for the Sunday evening services and directed the student choir.

I am excited to serve Trinity Cathedral this year as the AAM Gerre Hancock organ fellow and immerse myself in the church and its music full-time.

My career goal is to work in a church with a flourishing music program. I love the church and love the work in the church. The process of crafting liturgy and preparing music gives me great joy. Practicing is fun and the hours that I spend deciding how to word-paint stanzas of a hymn, preparing an anthem accompaniment to support the choir, and considering which stops will bring the music of a voluntary most to life are always enjoyable.

Following my time in Columbia, I want to work in another congregation where traditional music and liturgy are valued and where all music making, whether congregational hymns, choral anthems, or instrumental voluntaries, forms an integral part of the worship and mission of the congregation. I believe that this is where my skills and passions meet the needs of the world.

Music reaches deeper, probes farther, and better expresses the soul’s response. In church, music is a theological resource: words alone cannot completely express the story of God seeking us out, and his love for us. Music is one of the ways that reaches beyond. But music is not only a resource for theological inquiry. It also expresses our deepest emotions. Throughout the world and in all seasons of life, times of joy and times of sorrow, people turn to music. Music comforts, prods, and heals. It gives voice to our deepest yearnings when even words can’t. I love expressing the breath of human experience through music. I want to share this with others.

I am grateful for the opportunity to spend a year working in this beautiful cathedral and sharing in its worship and music with you. I am grateful to Dean Jones, Jared, Brent, Doak, the staff, choirs, and parish for welcoming me to this unique place. I look forward to getting to know all of you better during my remaining time here and I know that all of my experiences here will help me throughout my future career in church music.


AAM Gerre Hancock Fellowship
The Association of Anglican Musicians funded the Gerre Hancock Fellowship in 2015 to place a promising music student in a prominent Episcopal music program to receive a year of mentorship in preparation for a career in church music. Each year a different host institution is chosen by AAM. Previous host sites were Trinity Church, Boston; and Washington National Cathedral.  Next year's host church is St. Mark's, Philadelphia.  Thomas Heidenreich was chosen from a strong pool of applicants to come to Trinity Cathedral for 10 months.  He participates in all aspects of Cathedral musical life, and receives intentional mentoring in the musical and extra-musical aspects of church music. The Hancock Fellowship recognizes that church music is a calling, and that the infinity of skills required are best shared and developed through mentorship and experience.