Music is an integral part of the worship experience at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Our faithful and dedicated singers lead the 10:30 am worship while our handbell choir rings on 3 octaves of handbells. Children are welcome in our music and are encouraged to join the K - 5 children’s choir, youth choir, or the newly formed youth handbell choir. We host guests and special concerts throughout the year, creating a wide and diverse array of musical offerings as we express our faith through music.
Grades K-5 learn vocal and choral skills through singing songs that teach faith concepts and the story of God’s people. Singers bring their music to Sunday worship about once a month, fostering their development as worship leaders.
Rehearsal begins Sunday, September 6th
Grade K-2: Wednesdays @ 4:30 - 5pm | Grade 3-5: Wednesdays @ 5:15 - 6pm
Grades 6 -12 learn singing and music skills in conjunction with Sunday afternoon youth group. Music builds on the themes and stories they are studying and allows them to develop skills as worship leaders. This group sings once a quarter following four weeks of rehearsal.
Fall Rehearsal begins August 27th
August 27 @ 12-12:30pm; September 3 @ 1-1:30pm; September 10 @ 1-1:30pm &
September 17 @ 12-12:30pm
Winter Rehearsals begins January 7th
Sundays @ 1-1:30pm
January 7; January 14; January 21; January 28; February 4 & February 11
Grades 3-12 and invited for the inaugural year of a youth bell choir where they will develop musical and worship leadership skills in this "ensemble sport!" No musical experience necessary.
Rehearsal begins Sunday, September 6th
Wednesdays @ 6:30 - 7:30pm
New and experienced ringers, come together to ring approximately 5 times a year. Previous experience is not required!
Rehearsals: Sundays, 12:00 - 12:45pm
Our all volunteer choir leads Sunday morning worship music weekly for the 10:30 AM service, and some services in the summer.
Rehearsals: Sundays, 9:00 - 10:00am
Solo instrumentalists and small ensembles often bring music to our worship and other events. If you are interested in sharing your talent with the congregation, please be in touch with Ben.
Interested in learning more?
For more information, please email our music director, Cambria Van de Vaarst
St. John’s Music Director Hits All the Right Notes
Choir rehearsal starts with a stretch and a series of claps. There is singing, but also games. “We’re going to get the wiggles out,” announces Cambria Van de Vaarst. She’s Director of Music Ministries at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Olney. It’s a warm Wednesday afternoon, and a group of six children follow along as she plays notes on the piano; they skip and dance to the music, and freeze mid-stride when she stops. "Cambria is an excellent teacher who has dedicated so much time to making these groups fun and inclusive. There is an opportunity for even the most hesitant kid" says Carolyn Schopp, whose three children are enrolled in the children's choir and bells.
Van de Vaarst came to St. John’s in October of 2021 upon completing her Masters’ degree in Harp Performance at the University of Maryland. Previously she worked as the assistant music director at Westminster Presbyterian in Alexandria. Working at St. John’s has been a blessing, she says. “I tend to get quite invested in things I care about, and I love seeing other people who are passionate as well.”
She currently directs in-person choir and bell choir rehearsals for both children and adults, but says flexibility is a priority. “I try to offer as many at-home learning tools as possible. These include digital scores (when permitted) and music recordings, as well as weekly emails and schedules to keep everyone up to date.” She adds that the most rewarding part of her job is giving people the chance to express themselves musically. “With so much of the world devoted to commercializing and monetizing, it’s hard to find spaces for people who simply want to make music.”
The Texas native moved to Germany as a toddler, and spent much of her childhood in the northwestern town of Wegburg before returning to the States at the age of nine. Her music career began when she was 15, with her first job as a church accompanist. Since then, she’s worked in other churches, as well as jobs as an organ technician, rock-climbing instructor, and as a harpist for weddings and other events. “I’m only slightly crazy,” she jokes. “I love to explore and learn. I feel like the world is full of potential.”
Van de Vaarst has explored that potential in a variety of ways. After college, she traveled the world and spent a year living in her van, working at various climbing gyms along the east coast. She’s rock climbed in the United States, as well as New Zealand, Spain, and Mexico. Not surprisingly, she is musically gifted. She plays the harp, piano, and organ professionally, along with the guitar and penny whistle. “I also played the viola and violin in middle school, and so far I haven’t met an instrument I can’t get a sound out of.” In addition to her eclectic hobbies, she also enjoys knitting, and playing with her Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Zwei.
One common thread in Van de Vaarst’s life is her desire for community – whether it takes place at the top of a 1,200-foot cliff, or in the undercroft of an almost 200-year-old church. “The people at St. John’s really care about their church, the community, and the ministries they create, and that caring is infectious and simply wonderful to witness.”