Arts & Culture

‘I was a baby there’: Village Presbyterian music director found his calling at church

Will Breytspraak grew up at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village.
Will Breytspraak grew up at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village. Village Presbyterian Church

Will Breytspraak has discovered that you can go home again.

Growing up at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Breytspraak was deeply involved in the musical life of the church. The congregation, which has a strong musical program, encouraged Breytspraak to pursue a career in music.

He went on to earn a bachelor of music in piano performance from St. Olaf College and a master of music in choral conducting from Westminster Choir College.

So when the director of music ministry position opened at Village Presbyterian in 2017, the likable, enthusiastic Breytspraak was the perfect choice.

“I was a baby there, I was baptized there,” said Breytspraak. “I sang in the children’s choirs, children’s musicals, and eventually in the seventh grade, I sang in a choir they had called the New Spirit Singers, and we toured to Santa Fe, New Mexico and Canada.

“And that’s when the wider world of music started to open up to me. I saw what it was like to take the show on the road and impact people beyond your community.”

“There’s something very special about making music in a place where relationships are always first,” Will Breytspraak said of Village Presbyterian Church. “And I think you hear that in the Village choirs in concert. You hear a love that is shared.” Village Presbyterian Church

While Breytspraak was at St. Olaf, William Baker became music director of Village Presbyterian. Breystspraak recalls receiving special encouragement from Baker, who made Breytspraak his first summer intern for the church’s music ministry.

“I was dying to conduct,” Breytspraak said.

During the internship, Baker sometimes let Breytspraak conduct on Sundays. Baker also allowed Breytspraak to conduct two pieces for Bill’s Summer Singers.

Now that Breytspraak, 40, is back, he’s enjoying the mundane aspects of his job as much as the conducting.

“We are more about ministry than music,” Breytspraak said. “And at Village Church that might mean someone just needs extra help to get to the choir loft that morning.

“There’s something very special about making music in a place where relationships are always first. And I think you hear that in the Village choirs in concert. You hear a love that is shared.”

Village Presbyterian has a well-earned reputation as a friend of the arts in Kansas City.

In addition to the concerts provided by the church’s choirs and its staff of principal organist Elisa Bickers and associate director of music ministry Matthew Christopher Shepard, Village Presbyterian also sponsors concerts by Arts Alliance, which includes the Kansas City Wind Symphony, Te Deum Chamber Choir and the Kansas City Baroque Consortium.

Village Presbyterian recently announced its 2018 Music Ministry Concert Season, which will begin on Nov. 5 with a program Breytspraak is calling “The Peacemakers.” The concert will benefit Frontera de Cristo.

“It helps with a myriad of social services for migrants,” Breytspraak said of Frontera de Cristo. “The second half of the concert is Missa Latina, a very new work. It’s a joyful setting of the Latin Mass with an incredible orchestral force of accordion, piano, violin, three percussionists, soloists and beautiful choir parts. It’s like tango meets the Mass.”

Village Presbyterian Music Ministry Season

Nov. 4 at 3 p.m: The Peacemakers — Music by Will Todd and Patrick Hawes and the Missa Latina by Bobbi Fischer. Free will offering for the Frontera de Cristo Border Ministry of the Presbyterian Church.

Dec. 16 at 3 and 6 p.m.: Tidings of Joy

April 7, 2019 at 3 p.m.: In Paradisum — Fauré’s Requiem and Poulenc’s Organ Concerto

For more information, including a complete listing of 2nd Thursday Recitals and Arts Alliance concerts, visit

Pianist George Li

The 23-year-old Chinese-American pianist George Li will be the soloist for one of most popular piano concertos ever written when he joins Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony Oct. 5 to Oct. 7 at Helzberg Hall.

George Li Kansas City Symphony

Li will perform Grieg’s panoramic Piano Concerto, a work that evokes images of Norway’s windswept fjords.

It’s been plaudits and accolades for Li since he won first prize in the Massachusetts Music Teachers Association state competitions when he was 6 and 7 years old.

In 2015, he tied for second prize at the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, and in 2016, he received the prestigious Avery Fischer Career Grant.

The other work on the program is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

When it was first performed in 1813, it was on a program that included Beethoven’s “Wellington’s Victory.” The audience ate up both works, and Beethoven’s friends arranged a repeat performance that helped saved the composer from financial ruin.

8 p.m. Oct. 5 and 6 and 2 p.m. Oct. 7. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $25-$90. 816-471-0400 or

Wylliams/Henry new season

The Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company is beginning its new season with an ambitious program at White Recital Hall Oct. 5 and Oct. 6. Among the works to be performed include the new “Fragment” by Christian Denice, which recently received its world premiere at New Dance Partners.

The program will also feature “Twisted Metal,” with choreography by Gregory Dawson. It was Wylliams/Henry’s rendition of this work that earned the ensemble an invitation to this year’s Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts.

7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 and Oct. 6. White Recital Hall, 4949 Cherry St. $18-24. 816-235-6222 or

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