There’s a story about a prostitute who couldn’t enter a church even after she converted to Christianity because of her profession. Not to be deterred from prayer, she tied knots in a blanket and offered each act up to God.
Her physical acts of prayer inspired sophomore Luke Woltanski, a Koon resident assistant, to play music in the lobby every Saturday.
“The difference is I’m not a prostitute,” he said.
“Kooncerts” are weekly concerts in the men’s dorm, offering students a brief respite from their labors. Every Saturday, a few residents gather in the lobby to play music for anyone who pays the dorm a visit. The idea started as a play on the dorm’s name, but as a Catholic outreach minister, Woltanski made it a reality.
One Saturday in November, Woltanski wore ripped jeans and slip-ons and sat on a couch with a harmonica mounted on his acoustic guitar. After passing around a notebook in which audience members can write prayer intentions — which Woltanski refuses to read out of respect — the musicians launched into a five-song set.
“It’s going off of the principle that you can offer up work that you do, you can offer up music that you play, or homework you do, to God,” Woltanski said.
He played alongside sophomore Dalton Sala, with freshman Noel Schroeder joining them on tambourine for numbers like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” They insisted the audience join in the chorus, while Schroeder pulled up the lyrics on his phone.
“Do you want to do a solo on the tambourine?” Woltanski asked Schroeder.
“That’s not a thing.”
“We could make it a thing.”
Rather than preparing a set, the musicians asked the audience for song suggestions, usually gospel and folk music, and closed with “Man of Constant Sorrow” from “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” Woltanski said that in previous performances they had sometimes picked a key to play in and improvised music and lyrics to it.
“I think music made with people on the spot is the purest form of music, because it’s something that you hear once and never hear the same way again,” Sala said.
The three musicians only had an audience of four, but after the fifth song they explained the little Koon lobby could be packed with 15 people. The event spread by word of mouth and could become a central element of the dorm’s community, according to Sala.
“We have a lot of really passionate music people, and I think that could be part of our culture in the future,” he said.
The dorm’s small yet open environment has played a key role in drawing residents to the event, according to the audience members. Most keep their doors open all day, making it difficult to avoid Woltanski’s harmonica.
“I wanted to get closer to the guys in the dorm because there aren’t a lot of us here,” freshman Kenneth Skoug said. “Getting to hear some of the guys I live with play music is pretty fun.”