FAIRMONT - Local wunderkind Matt Gerhardt has returned from 10 months studying abroad in time to give a concert at Grace Lutheran in support of the Home of Kinship.
Gerhardt, who holds a degree from Concordia University in parish music, has given several concerts to raise funds for the organization.
The annual event began years ago. While in college, Gerhardt was required to give recitals as part of his degree program. During the course of planning for the events, it was suggested he turn the recital into a concert, collecting a free-will offering whose proceeds would benefit the local mentoring program.
Matt Gerhardt plays the organ at Grace Lutheran Church in Fairmont, where he will give a concert on Sunday.
Kinship is close to the Gerhardt's hearts.
"Kinship is an organization my grandpa helps out a lot with," Gerhardt said of why he chose Kinship to be the recipient of the donation.
After completing his university degree in May 2012, Gerhardt and his wife, Rachel, moved to Germany, where Gerhardt studied at the Hochshule fir Kirchenmusik - literally translated University of Church Music.
There he studied organ music under Herr Stefan Kagl, an instructor who also taught Gerhardt's professor at Concordia.
Gerhardt said the organ lessons took place in different churches in the area.
"It was a great experience," he said. "It gave me a new perspective on life in a foreign country."
The couple returned to the United States one week ago, and will remain until leaving for Oberlin, Ohio, where he will pursue the artist diploma at Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
Gerhardt said his love of church music and the organ began as a young child, sitting in the pews at Grace and watching the organist.
By the age of 12, he had sufficiently "made it obvious" to his parents he wanted to learn the instrument, and he began taking lessons. He took to it immediately.
"Sacred music is a passion of mine," he said. "I love leading people in song."
Gerhardt can lead a choir, but the organ is where his focus lies.
"I love the sound," he said. "It is unique. In some ways it is an orchestra at your fingertips. You are in control."
Sunday's concert will feature music spanning the time period from the 16th century to modern times, including a hymn and a duet with a violin, played by Rachel Gerhardt, Matt's wife.
The concert begins 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Grace Lutheran Church in Fairmont. Money collected through the free-will donation will be used for painting and roof repair at the Home of Kinship. Refreshments will be served.