Lyle Stutzman began his musical career as a small child in Kansas, conducting recordings of the Kansas Mennonite Men’s Chorus and Handel’s Messiah using a crochet hook. He sang with his high school and youth choirs and eventually conducted the youth choir. A few years after graduating from high school, he disrupted his career as a welder of trikes and chicken tractors to take a music theory class at the local community college. Next thing he knew, he was taking classes full time as a music major. While attending the Kansas Music Educators Association state convention as a student, he fell in love with a fellow music major, though he did not pursue that relationship for a couple years.
Lyle wrote his first choral work, “Prayer for Strength,” for a scholarship at Hutchinson Community College. He graduated from HCC with an Associate of Arts, then headed for Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where he experienced the pure joy of singing with the Concordia Choir under the direction of Dr. René Clausen. He studied choral conducting and arranging with Dr. Clausen, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education.
Two weeks after graduation, he married Maria Schmucker, the music major from his hometown. They divided the next three years between Kansas and Indiana, with Lyle teaching music and choir at the Elnora Bible Institute in Elnora, Indiana, and both of them teaching music at Pilgrim Schools in Hutchinson, Kansas. In 2006, Lyle was one of the instructors and conductors at the Shenandoah Christian Music Camp’s first year, and he has taught at SCMC all but one year since. Lyle and Maria started a studio for piano and voice lessons, and Lyle conducted several choirs in the area, including a men’s choir in which men who were incarcerated sang with volunteers from the outside. With several other musicians, Lyle and Maria helped to found Anabaptist Orchestra Camp, a weekend which gives Anabaptist instrumentalists the opportunity to make music with other believers. Besides the administrative work of running the camp, Lyle is one of the conductors, and Maria plays alto saxophone. Orchestra camp continues to be a deeply rewarding experience for them and a highlight of every year. Lyle began arranging songs for his grade school and high school choirs and formed the Pilgrim Choral Series to make the pieces available to other music educators. Lyle started an e-mail list to send teachers and choir directors the new choral works of composers who teach at SCMC. The Stutzmans became parents through foster care, with several long-term placements and dozens of respite placements.
In 2013, Lyle and Maria moved to Elnora so Lyle could teach for the full school year at EBI. Through God’s intervention, they were able to take Scott, their son through foster care, with them, with his adoption finalized over a year later. Their daughter Ivana was born in 2013, Megan in 2016, and Levi in 2018. Lyle is a much-loved daddy. He especially enjoys playing board games and snuggling on the couch with his children, reading books such as the Little House series aloud. Their family’s desire is to see God’s Kingdom come in their home, their town, and throughout the world.
Although much of his time is spent doing music in various forms, Lyle enjoys cooking, an occasional basketball game with his students, and spending time with his wife. Lyle continues to arrange and compose choral works, including commissioned pieces for various choirs. He started the Daviess County Community Chorus and teaches music during summer terms at Faith Builders Educational Programs. Starting in the fall of 2019, he will begin building a music program at Mt. Olive Christian School in Montgomery, Indiana, and do freelance work from home. Lyle feels called to lead the people of God in worship, and he is gifted in making quality music doable and enjoyable for ordinary people who have little or no training in music.