Around Our Town...Casper's Cool Kids
06/01/2005 - As Matt Kirkegaard and Chris Riedl graduate high school this year, Our Town Casper thanks them for the positive difference they have made in our community. We wish you well, guys, and know that you will go on to make the same positive difference wherever you go.
"Matt is someone you can always trust to keep his word and turn to when you need advice," says Chris of his close friend, "and he's about the best piano player I know."
Matt has lived in Casper for 17 of his 18 years. Many of our readers will recognize him, as he is such a personable young man, involved in our community, known and loved by many Casper residents.
Matt has served as a mentor for younger children, tutored elementary school math students at Verda James and played piano for nursing homes. He volunteers for the children's ministry at Highland Park Community Church where he also plays piano and keyboard on the worship team and participates in various service projects with the youth group. Matt has lead worship for junior and youth camps at Lone Tree Bible Camp where he serves as a counselor every summer. "Because I have no younger siblings, I love working with kids," he says.
Matt plans to major in commercial music and minor in biblical studies at Azusa Pacific University in southern California, where he received a President's Scholarship, Board of Trustees Candidate Scholarship, men's choir scholarship and jazz band scholarship for his piano skills. "My goal is to be a touring worship leader. I really look up to Michael W. Smith," Matt says. This goal is well within Matt's reach as he has studied piano since age seven, played in an ARTCORE concert with Janet Ahlquist, sang with the Kelly Walsh A Cappella choir in Carnegie Hall and in Seattle, Washington with the All-State choir.
He also writes songs. One song (The Strength of Me) which he co-wrote with a friend and competed before three judges, received a 47, 49 and 49 out of 50 score. "Music has always been the area of my life where I've had the most fun and received the most support. I love playing music with friends like Chris."
When asked why he decided to be a worship leader, Matt quotes Jeremiah 29:11,
" ' "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."' I want to be a worship leader because of my passion for God. My faith in Jesus Christ is what drives me. It's what I'm about. It's who I am. I will always cherish the people who supported me in that and helped me grow."
Matt also enjoys acting, all kinds of sports for fun and hanging out with friends.
"There is so much to say about Chris," was Matt's response when we asked him for a quote about his friend. "He's always been one of my best friends. I really respect him...he's one of the people I respect most out of all the people I've come in contact with. I love him. He's my brother."
Chris is also a talented musician and sang in the Kelly Walsh A Cappella choir at Carnegie Hall last year. "That was the opportunity of a lifetime. It was too good to be true. We were there, singing where all the greats had sung. It was an incredible experience!" says Chris.
Chris plays the bass guitar, guitar, drums, trombone and piano. He has been a member of the All-State choir for four years, was named 2005 Wyoming Outstanding Choral Student, Kelly Walsh's Outstanding Choral Musician for 2005 and has sung in the All-Northwest choir (a choir with the best singers from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) for two years. He says, "All-State and All-Northwest taught me a lot about who I am and where I need to be – not just musically, but as a person. The conductors were great. They really taught us how to live the music."
Chris also played the role of Captain Von Trapp in the Kelly Walsh production of "The Sound of Music".
Chris is attending Casper College next year and plans to major in music education and minor in performance. His goal is to either be a music minister or a youth minister. He helps lead worship at Highland Park Community Church, volunteers with the youth group and is the Student Ministries Praise and Worship Leader. When asked why he ministers to youth, Chris told us, "I love working with youth. I can see the impact it has on them to know that someone cares. Some of them might not get that love at home. If they need someone to talk to, or a place of shelter, I want to be that person. I want to be that place."
In addition to music, Chris is very athletic and earned varsity letters in football and track, finishing fourth in the state in shot put.
Chris went on three mission trips. One to Tennessee, one to Mexico and one to the Bahamas. "It made me realize how good my life is. Some people have it so much worse. Sometimes I will complain, but it gave me a deeper appreciation for what we have."
Chris also received the Sons of the American Revolution Citizenship Award and the Silent Leader Award.
We asked Chris if there was anything else he would like to communicate, and he gave us one of his favorite quotes, "You can't live your life in fear. When God lays something in front of you, you just have to pick it up and run with it."