Couple in sync in marriage and music
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
The Catholic Telegraph
It was Bonnie and Skip Ekhart’s love for liturgical music that first brought them together, and for more than 20 years, the couple has been sharing their gifts at Precious Blood Parish in Dayton. Bonnie serves as the director of music and liturgy there and Skip is the parish life coordinator.
Music has been part of Bonnie’s life since she began taking piano lessons as a child. Originally from Wisconsin, her family moved frequently due to her father’s work. She made her debut on the organ in a small Catholic church in Missouri. “I was awful,” she admitted, “but I gradually got better and better. Once I started playing, I couldn’t stop.”
In high school, she recalls playing for $1 a Mass. “It was wonderful,” Bonnie said. “Some people babysat. I played the organ.”
She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music theory and a master’s in music history, both from Morehead State University. After teaching school in Maysville, Ky., for a time, she moved to Dayton in 1973 and began working at Our Lady of Mercy Parish. Bonnie and Skip met when he joined the choir there.
“I was directing the choir at that point and we were so in sync on tempos, that I asked Skip if he would direct because it was hard for me to do that and play at the same time. He has a wonderful, wonderful voice,” said Bonnie.
“We were friends first,” said Skip. “Our love of music and for the church brought us together.”
Skip’s love for both also goes back to his childhood. A native of the Dayton area, he was raised in the Lutheran church, but found himself “seeking out Catholic Mass. That’s what seemed like home,” he said.
Although he didn’t convert to Catholicism until adulthood, Skip was involved in various choirs while in school and played in a band. He plays the clarinet and sings tenor, although he said, “The older I get, the more I think I’m becoming a baritone.”
When Bonnie decided to make the move to Precious Blood Parish, Skip supported her and became her “right hand person.” In addition to his involvement in music ministry, Skip’s role as parish life coordinator keeps him busy, whether he’s overseeing a committee or training new servers.
Both Bonnie and Skip feel their ministry is not a job, but a vocation. “I just love what I’m doing,” said Bonnie. “You have to be dedicated to sign on for a career that involves working every weekend and every holiday, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love it when the liturgy comes together, when it flows so beautifully,” Bonnie said. “What we sing and how we sing it effects others in the congregation. We could make a difference in someone choosing to return to the church. It’s a big responsibility. “
Planning and playing at funeral liturgies has been meaningful for Bonnie, especially after her daughter, Laurie, a young wife and mother, lost her battle with leukemia five years ago.
“It’s such a wonderful ministry to be involved in, “ Bonnie said. “The music at a funeral Mass touches peoples’ hearts in a special way and you’re connected to those people forever.”
Those special connections, their love for the church and for each other continues to keep the couple in sync. “We think a like and we act alike,” said Skip. “We love what we do and enjoy working with each other.”
“We’re together a lot,” Bonnie admitted, “but we get along so well. The way it works out is that I make the decisions and Skip carries them out. Neither of us would want to be doing anything else. “
This article, part of a special section on pastoral music, originally appeared in the July 2014 print edition ofThe Catholic Telegraph.