Humans of the ISM | Kristian Kohler, M.Div. ’16

Student Life, Yale School of Music

I grew up singing in church choirs. In high school, I was in a community chorus, and the director was also the organist at our church, and he ended up becoming my voice, piano and organ teacher. He really encouraged me to stay involved in church music and sacred music, influencing my decision to study music in college. I majored in sacred music and music education, and really loved the combination of the two. Music was what kept me involved in the church, but there were more things I wanted to explore theologically such as religious history and preaching, which is why I enrolled in divinity school. I then felt the call to be a pastor, which is something I had sensed earlier in my life but kind of ignored.

My spirituality is that of both a musician and a future pastor, which shapes how I think about pastoral ministry. While singing in a choir, you have to listen louder than you sing, and listen deeply. I see parallels between that and compassionate listening in pastoral theology. So I think it continues to be a place transcendent for worship, but also a neat intersection of spirituality.

My experience in the ISM has been great!  I¹ve sung in Marquand, in recital chorus, and in repertory chorus, so I¹ve had the opportunity to perform and hone my musical skills. I¹ve taken organ lessons, a hymnology course, and am taking a songwriting course with Maggi Dawn now which is awesome. I¹ve taken Prophetic Preaching with Nora Tisdale, which is an upper level preaching course. The opportunity to be with other musicians and artists, as well as people pursuing academics and pastoral ministry has been great.

Kristian Kohler is in his final year of the Masters of Divinity program at the ISM and YDS. Originally from Redding, Pennsylvania, he serves as 2015-16’s Liturgical Coordinator for the University Church at Yale, and is pursuing ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  


Interview and Photo by Tara Jamali, M.A.R. ’17