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Xavier Magazine | August 20, 2017

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Extra Credit: Tom Merrill

Extra Credit: Tom Merrill

Tom Merrill joined the University’s music faculty in 2002 and stepped comfortably into the service mission. This summer, from June 10-16, he’s leading the Xavier Mission Choir on a trip to Mission Honduras, an orphanage for Honduran children and a home for single mothers. Along with its work at the mission, the choir is performing three concerts, including one in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.

Why did you choose a life in music? When I went to college, I really had no plans. I kept doing other things, but I kept coming back to the music. I couldn’t let it go. It’s a powerful thing for me—a powerful medium. It’s one of the best ways I know to express human emotion and human thought.

What’s the connection between music and service? When you sing, you unite voices, and when you do mission work, you unite minds and hearts and hands. When a choir performs, it ought to affect an audience on several levels. On the immediate level, they should get the pure beauty of the sound. On an intellectual level, they should understand the relationship between the text and the music. And for me, there’s a third level, a spiritual level where their souls are touched by the music.

What’s the goal of this summer’s mission? Firstly, I hope that we are genuinely helpful to the children in Honduras. That’s our primary reason for going. Each of us is going to take an extra duffel bag full of children’s clothes, because they just have nothing. They have very basic needs. And of course, we’ll be doing whatever duties they assign to us. And I can only think that when we sing, it will add another dimension to the whole mission aspect.

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