Salem Creative Arts

Welcome Michael Carlson as our new Coordinator of Music Ministry  

Rev. Michael Carlson is an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a versatile professional musician.  He studied music theory, composition, popular music and voice as an undergraduate student at Chapman University in Orange, California, and as a graduate student at University of California, Santa Barbara.   He attended seminary in Indianapolis at Christian Theological Seminary.

He has led workshops and conferences on church music, has served as music director and song-leader for countless events, and has consulted with many congregations regarding development of their worship life.  He has led workshops and retreats on song-writing and music production with youth in church and secular settings.

He has directed music at churches of mainline denominations over the years, with responsibilities for various styles of worship services and music programs, including jazz vespers.  Some of his own published worship music and choral anthems can be heard in congregations across the country.  He produces music projects for clients, and arranges vocals for studio recording and performance.  Michael's own singer-songwriter CD "Fruit of the Vine" was released in December of 2002.  He has performed in many musical theater productions in church and community theaters, and as a vocal  looping artist.

Michael’s partner, Rev. Molly Carlson, is the Conference Minister for the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ.  They have two children, Sierra (20), and Adam (17).  They all live in Dekalb with their two dogs, Charlotte and Charlie.

He is very excited about the music ministry at Salem Lutheran Church, and looks forward to getting to know the members of the congregation.  His beginning date is July 7 and he will play his first worship service for the Saturday service on July 17.

Creative Arts Salem Creative Arts/Music

Salem Creative Arts/ Music Ministry offers a wide variety of worship support ensembles. Gifts of music and praise enrich and enhance services as people of all ages work together to share music as their gift to God, the congregation, and community.

Adult and Children's Vocal Choirs and Intergenerational Handbell and Puppet Teams participate in worship on a rotating basis and rehearse weekly during the school year on Wednesday or Thursday evenings. See the Creative Arts Calendar for the schedule.

Seasonal groups include Brass, Flute, Praise-style, or Vocal Ensembles and a Festival of Carols at Christmas. Salem Children's Choir shares an annual Spring Musical.   Individual gifts of music are most welcome as well.


Salem Vocal Choirs gather groups of children and adults to teach the faith in song and celebrate God's love and grace in worship. There's a place for singers as young as 4 years of age. Please consider exploring the gift of music God has given you or your child. Visit a choir, handbell, or puppet practice between mid-September through mid-May to see if it's a good fit and feel. Offer to share music on an instrument or sing a solo.


Salem Children's Choir

Children’s Choir is for singers 4 yrs. old through 5th grade who learn about Jesus' life and teachings as they practice songs of faith to share in worship. Rehearsals are from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the choir room Wednesdays September 11 - May. Children’s Choir sings for the 10:30 a.m. service about twice a month and for occasional festival services. The children also participate in the Advent Festival of Carols and prepare an annual Spring Musical Drama.
adult choir performing

Celebration Voices

Celebration Voices is an active choir for adults who enjoy singing songs of faith in harmony [SATB]. They lead regular and festival services 2 or 3 times a month at either 8:00 or 10:30 a.m. worship and rehearse Wednesdays from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the choir room September 11 - May. All ability levels are welcome – come whenever you can – sing for a month or two if you cannot commit to the whole season!
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Puppet Praise

Salem Puppet Praise Team brings smiles as adorable people, animal, and creature puppets come to life to share faith stories and songs for worship services and outreach programs. Learn to be a puppeteer Thursdays from 6:15-7:15 p.m. in the Choir Room, September 12 - May, and let your inner child shine through! Youth and adults, grade 5 and up, make a great intergenerational team ministry. Salem Puppets share in worship about once a month and prepare longer programs of faith or history about three times a year for care centers, community venues, or other churches.

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Sounds of Grace Handbell Choir

Sounds of Grace Bells is for middle school and older, youth and adults who enjoy the teamwork of a handbell choir and the blessing of songs of faith. Each ringer plays 2 to 4 bells and learns to ring them with various techniques as indicated in the score. The ability to read music is preferred; others can learn. Ringers work with a 3-octave set of Malmark handbells and play for worship once or twice a month and for Festival services. Rehearsals are from 7:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays in the Balcony
September 12 - May.

Please contact Ron Vanatta at 815.895.9171 or if you have questions or wish to participate.

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Children's Musicals

Each spring Salem children and youth prepare a fun themed musical drama for Salem worship services, and often share it as an outreach for a local care center. Rehearsals are held according to the children's availability about 8-10 weeks prior to the presentation date. Children are given a songbook and rehearsal CD to learn the speaking parts and songs at home, and work on choreography and staging at the rehearsals. Adults and older youth help with set construction, costumes, choreography, sound, snacks, etc..

Besides being a lot of fun, musicals help kids memorize scripture and faith stories, build musical skill, stage presence and confidence, and give the kids time to build new relationships.

These pictures are from the 2019 musical "Star Factor" taken by Steve Daskal

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Festival of Carols or Cantatas at Salem

Adult and youth singers come together once or twice a year to prepare special Christmas or Lenten programs, extended works of narration, and songs. Instrumentalists or soloists are often featured in these worship presentations. Rehearsals are held on scheduled Sunday and Wednesday evenings prior to the presentation and all singers are welcome.

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Brass Ensembles

Easter and Christmas Brass Ensembles lend to the Festive atmosphere of these special services. Rehearsals are scheduled at the convenience of those participating. Please consider sharing your gift! Watch the Events pages for upcoming dates.

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Individual Gifts of Praise

Solos, ensembles, and instrumental musicians are all encouraged to enhance Salem worship. Please contact Carla or Ron Vanatta, Salem Music Directors, for scheduling and assistance in choosing music or accompanying.

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Singing & Ringing Memorials

Financial support for Salem Creative Arts is always welcome and appreciated. Choral or handbell anthems, musicals, or cantatas may be sponsored in honor or in memory of someone.

Gifts are acknowledged in the bulletin the first time the music is shared and are cataloged as Singing or Ringing Memorials in a permanent file. Amounts of $25-$30 sponsors a handbell anthem, $40-$50 sponsors a choral anthem, and $400-$500 gift sponsors a musical or cantata. Several smaller gifts may also be combined to sponsor any of these categories.

The generosity of Salem congregation and friends has enabled Salem Creative Arts to build a good choral library with a wide variety of traditional, historic, and contemporary hymn and song arrangements for worship.

Gifts to Salem Puppet Praise Ministry in any amount are also welcomed to purchase puppets or equipment. Our puppet inventory has grown to about 75 puppets from small bugs to full-sized people and animal puppets through special gifts and memorials.

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We are grateful for all involved and extend a warm welcome to others interested. Stop in for a rehearsal and see if the group feels like something you'd enjoy!

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