A place in the arts for all


Kirsten Halker-Kratz '96
Branch director, Settlement Music School, Philadelphia, Pa.
Majors: Music and Chemistry


Polar-opposite interests Kirsten Halker-Kratz
Not many would attempt to combine loves that fall on the opposite ends of a spectrum, but that's exactly why Kirsten Halker-Kratz came to Bluffton. "Bluffton was willing to let me double major in music and chemistry unlike other places I applied that said the majors were too diverse," she says.

"Do what you love" 
A conversation with a job recruiter during her senior year at Bluffton steered Kirsten toward a musical career. "I remember the woman saying, 'You have all the goods to do well in chemistry, but it s clear this isn't really what you love, and if there's any advice I can give you, it's to do what you love.'"

Inspired at age 3
Kirsten says her true musical inspiration was her great-grandmother, who played for silent movies to make ends meet. "I can remember as a three-year-old, standing in her living room, listening to her play classics from the 1920s and 30s. I begged my parents from that point forward to play piano." She began formal lessons at age 6, and has been playing ever since. Kirsten went on to earn a master's degree in piano pedagogy and organ performance from Bowling Green State University (BGSU).

Everyone has a place in the arts
Through her connections at BGSU, Kirsten heard about Settlement Music School (SMS) in Philadelphia, Pa., the largest community music school in the United States. With no openings for a piano teacher, Kirsten applied for and accepted an executive assistant position. "I really wanted to get involved with this organization," she said. "At SMS, everyone has a place in the arts regardless of age, race, creed or ability to pay. I really wanted to be a part of a place that provides music to everyone." After two years, she was promoted to assistant branch director. In 2003, she was again promoted, this time to branch director.

A need for nonprofit leaders 
Kirsten is one of 14 nonprofit executives in Philadelphia participating in The Leadership Project, a two year- long Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative that is funded by Pew Charitable Trusts. Last year, she was immersed in all aspects of Philadelphia and nonprofit organizations. This year, she will be paired with a nonprofit leader who will serve as a mentor, sharing the ins and outs of running a nonprofit organization. "Coming up in 2010, there's going to be a big turnover for nonprofit organizations, as many founders who have held executive roles for the past 30 years are going to be retiring," says Kirsten. "There's a concern that many nonprofit groups will go under because there are few people ready to take over."

In-between chords 
In addition to her role at SMS, Kirsten is director of music ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church in Havertown, Pa. She plans all music and conducts two choirs. Additionally, she and her husband, composer Girard Kratz, have two daughters, Caroline and Charlotte.